Wellness Wednesday: Dealing with Difficult Family Situations

Family Issues

This post is part of an ongoing blog series from Trevecca’s SWEET (Student Wellness Education and Engagement at Trevecca) team. Every other Wednesday for the next few months, they’ll be offering up wellness tips to help our students navigate life in a COVID-19 world.

Spending time with our families can be comforting, safe and even fun. At the same time, being with our families can be complicated, confusing and downright stressful. These days, however, things at home might be even more challenging. With a global crisis that has flipped our lives upside down, what seemed like annoying, pesky issues at home before may now feel heavy and unbearable. 

Here are five tips to help you navigate those difficult moments that are bound to come up as we all spend more time with our families. 

  1. Watch for provoking topics.
    This can be a difficult task sometimes, but if you know from previous experiences that a topic leads to nonproductive arguments, then it might be better to move on. This is not to say avoid important discussions permanently. However, if discussing these topics cause you unnecessary stress, then you might want to reevaluate whether the conversation is worth the trouble.

  2. Remember to breathe.
    In times of stress or conflict, many of us will either fight, flight or freeze—and none of those really help us process what is happening. We want to respond, not react. If we can just take a moment right when we feel things winding up and take some deep, long, slow breaths, it really helps our bodies to slow down and may help us avoid the fight-flight-freeze response. This may mean you need to physically walk away from the situation and practice a few deep breaths before trying to talk again.

  3. Try active listening.
    When our defenses are really turned up, our bodies and minds can't really focus on what the other person is saying. As a result, instead of listening while the other person is speaking, we’re usually busy thinking of the next thing we want to say to help prove our point. In these moments, focus on really processing what the other person is saying to you, then repeat back to him or her what you heard using that person’s exact words. Oftentimes, just making the other person feel heard can quickly diffuse a heated argument.

  4. Don't try to "fix" the other person.
    It is a natural feeling to want to help someone we care about, especially when it comes to our family members. However, the majority of the time, trying to change someone we are close to usually brings even more trouble. Instead, start fully accepting this person as he or she is. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with your family member about everything. Instead, accept the fact that he or she isn’t going to change—at least for now. By resetting our expectations, we free ourselves from the responsibility (and the stress) of trying to take on that person's problems!

  5. Put your well-being first.
    While we want to make sure others feel respected and heard, this does not mean we have to put ourselves through painful situations just to make others feel better. It is never healthy to allow any personal relationship to ruin your sense of well-being. Lay down your boundaries physically and emotionally—clearly and firmly—creating a protective space between you and the other person. No one is allowed into that space unless invited. Creating these boundaries will help keep you at peace and communicate to the other person what you are and aren't OK with. 



At Trevecca, we support students—no matter what you’re walking through—through the work of the Center for Student Development and the Trevecca Counseling Center.