Dealing with Difficult Family Members

Growing up in our families there will always be those who teach us by example, and then those who we learn from by their mistakes – we learn what not to do. Those family members, often narcissists, can be very difficult to manage. Like weddings, they may “act up” around the time a new baby arrives. Here are 2 tips:

  1. Appoint someone other than yourself to share and respond to family updates so you don’t need to be the person communicating. Focus the communication on the single most important boundary to you. For example: If you don’t want visitors from some or all your family, make it known to everyone (including the difficult individuals) that no one should plan any visits and that you will let them know when you’re ready. It should be very that you won’t be able to accommodate any family visits, announced or unannounced.
  2. Remember what their behavior is really about: THEM (not you). This post describes a helpful metaphor, using “don’t rock the boat” in a different context than we typically hear the phrase used. Essentially this metaphor reminds us that narcissists want us to “steady” the boat and they want to be able to “rock” the boat however they want to meet their needs often at our detriment – they rock the boat and everyone reacts and gives them attention and rushes to fix, etc… it helps to take a step back and watch what’s happening and realize you don’t have to be the one to steady the boat all the time (so to speak!).
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