Family is usually an important and supportive part of your life, but not every family is healthy; some can be downright toxic. Signs that your family members may be doing you more harm than good include their abusing power, crossing emotional boundaries and attempting to manipulate, explains psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter, Ph.D., in the "Psychology Today" publication "Toxic Relationships: A Health Hazard." These are all good reasons to consider ending a bad relationship with parents or grown siblings, though having justification doesn't make the effort any easier. Remaining calm and firm in breaking off ties with family is the best approach for your peace of mind.
Express your feelings about the relationship with the individuals who are involved. While the conversation may prove difficult, it's important for you to express how the behaviors demonstrated by your parents and siblings affect you. Avoid blaming them or inferring reasons for their behavior, which can make your parents or siblings become defensive. Avoid anticipating a change after you've explained your point of view. Instead, focus on the benefits of expressing your feelings.
Notify your parents and grown siblings that you will not respond to communication from them. Send communication to each involved party that as of a specific date, you will no longer respond to their emails, texts or phone calls. Although you could simply discontinue communication, your parents and siblings may increase their attempts to contact you if they do not receive notification ahead of time. Since you've already provided your parents and siblings with an explanation of the specific behaviors and how they make you feel, you don't need to provide an additional explanation. Instead, in your final communication, explain that you will no longer be in contact for the reasons you have previously discussed.
Discontinue all forms of communication with your parents and grown siblings. Bad relationships, particularly those that last for extended periods of time, aren't likely to change significantly. You, your parents and siblings have fallen into a pattern in which they behave badly, and you have grown to accept that behavior. Continued bad behavior is best addressed by disconnecting, explains Carter. Change contact information, such as your email address and phone number, or simply don't respond to their calls, texts or emails.
Strengthen your existing support system or build a new one. You may have lost some of your sources of support, and having support is important for your emotional and psychological well-being. Regularly spend time with other family members, friends and coworkers. Social supports provide a variety of benefits including a sense of being a part of a family, even if you aren't related, explains the Mayo Clinic in their online publication "Combat Stress With a Strong Social Support Network." Additionally, social supports encourage higher levels of self-esteem and an improved feeling of security.
- University of Washington: Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships
- Psychology Today: Controlling Angry People; John R. "Jack" Schafer, Ph.D.
- Mayo Clinic: Combat Stress With a Strong Social Support Network
- Psychology Today: Toxic Relationships: A Health Hazard; Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Experiencing and Expressing Emotions