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  • 4 Ways to Handle Problematic Family Members as a Parent

    4 Ways to Handle Problematic Family Members as a Parent
    It truly takes a village to raise a child. We naturally rely on a sense of interdependence and community when we transition into parenthood. Although all family members will likely give unsolicited advice, they usually have good intentions and say the things they say out of love. However, sometimes certain boundaries need to be put in place, especially when parents and children are placed in emotionally or physically unsafe situations.

    Unsure about how to approach these boundaries? Here is a list of common situations and how to approach them with family members.

    1. Older family members say, “in my times, we did things this way….”

      This is a common complaint for parents in modern times. Every culture and generation has customs around parenthood. However, you need to parent for the current times. You were raised for different times and different expectations, and your children will be raised accordingly as well. Try placing boundaries by talking about what is recommended by research. If they become defensive or say they do not believe in what doctors or researchers say, you can state that you will stick to what is up-to-date. They may want to continue imposing their preferences, and you can validate their experiences while still maintaining boundaries and changing conversation topics or adding humor to the situation.

    2. Family members criticize or make backhanded comments on inconsequential topics

      These aggressive and passive- aggressive tactics are done to regain a sense of control and importance in their lives. People who are fulfilled in their lives do not frequently feel the need to criticize and meddle unless they see a significant problem that they believe needs to be pointed out. Comments made about irrelevant topics such as how you will dress the baby for a photoshoot, or whether your child is in karate vs. soccer, do not merit an argument. If these points of conflict over inconsequential issues are recurrent, you can deflect the conversation, avoid certain topics, or choose silence rather than going into details on things.

    3. Family members ignore or forget specific requests

      This issue starts to veer more into the territory of disrespect. When you have assertively stated your preferences and requests, and a family member deliberately does the opposite, then you may need to place stronger boundaries or request to take a break from that person in your life. If a family member is older or naturally forgetful, you can give them grace, and assertively remind them of the request that was made.

    4. Medical needs or special needs are not handled as you have instructed

      Children with specific medical and special needs have to be handled with care. There is a routine and a system in place to help keep things safe and regulated for everyone in a family system. If a family member does not have the capacity to understand how to follow these instructions, or if they choose not to give importance to the instructions, then withdrawing them from this task may be the wisest choice. Anytime we even accidentally put our children in the wrong hands, there is a huge risk involved. If the family member is well-intentioned but simply does not understand the instructions, then an open, honest conversation can be had. If they are deliberately engaging in unsafe ways with your child, then removing them from your life may unfortunately be the only option.

    Keep in mind that enforcing boundaries with problematic family members may create tension and disrupt whatever the established patterns are in a family system. As you can see in the list, many issues can be resolved with simple techniques or boundaries. However, once problematic family members start engaging in an unsafe way, then more intensive limits have to be placed.