As college students, we are gifted with the freedom of being away from our families. For some of us, that can be saddening, and for the rest of us, it can be a burden lifted off of our shoulders. For those of us that feel anxiety when a family member calls or dread going back home for the holidays, here are ways that I have found work for me when dealing with toxic family members (self-taught and advice from my therapist).
1. “Build a bubble”
Before interacting with family, you need to mentally prepare yourself. In therapy I was told to “build an imaginary bubble around myself” meaning I must keep my distance whether it’s physically or emotionally. It is a nice visual when you feel that a family member is trying to get under your skin by bombarding you with questions or rude comments. They cannot go past this bubble; it is a layer of protection.
2. Your phone is your friend.
The great thing about phones is that you can see who is calling you. You DO NOT have to answer. If anything, say that you are in a meeting or doing something important so that you don’t get in trouble.
3. Don’t expect change from them.
No matter how hard you try, there is no reasoning with toxic people. Be strong, take a stance and decide what is best for you. Be the better person and walk away from an argument if needed because they want you to get mad or cause a scene. You will feel 100 times better in the end than if you had engaged.
4. Make plans for holidays.
If you are like me, then make plans for the holidays that do not include your family. You could spend it with a significant other, have a “Friendsgiving” or pick up more hours at work. If you have understood the cycles by now and know that spending time with your whole family usually ends poorly, then do not give into the pressure.
5. Write a "letting go" letter.
This is pretty self-explanatory; you simply take an hour (or four in my case) and purge every little thing about this person that makes you upset, the wrongs they have committed towards you and how you or the other person could’ve fixed it. You can choose to send it or not to send it, and after all is done you will feel a huge sense of relief. After I wrote my 8-page letter to my mom, I did not read it to her or send it; but it felt as though I had told her everything and this has truly helped how I feel towards her.
6. Therapy & Self growth
After I turned 19, I removed myself from my toxic parents and moved over 600 miles away. When I got settled, I sought out a therapist who cost very little (between $20-$50). This is the person I could tell everything to and this is where my road to bettering myself began. Affordable/legit therapists that are willing to work with you on cost are out there, and you can pay without insurance being involved. Therapy and life coaches will help you build and practice self-control, create healthy boundaries, learn coping skills, and be emotionally resilient.
At the end of the day, you may not be able to get rid of a toxic person or toxic situation, but you CAN transform yourself and how you deal with these people. As you grow internally, you will start to change how you act towards and feel about these people. You will no longer seek their approval or their validation because you know what you have gone through and you know your worth. Those snide remarks that your mom makes will not bug you as much because you are above that. As you go about this road to internal growth, you might find you are more courageous to express who you truly are. So now when you go back home for holidays or birthdays, you are no longer a child stuck in the past but a transformed adult that can handle any situation.