How to deal with difficult family members during lockdown

(Getty images/Gallo images).
(Getty images/Gallo images).

The 21-day lockdown has forced many to move back home and be locked in with difficult family members.

In an ideal world, family members should get along and be close. But the sad reality is that some family members despise each other.

A psychologist from Mpumalanga, Judith Ramalepa, gives you tips on how to address the problem and cope if you are disliked by your family members. 


Being disliked by a family member can cause you immense stress. The manipulation, drama, criticism, jealousy and other negative elements can drain you emotionally and make you feel bad about yourself.

“The stress and anxiety can affect your health directly, and your negative state of mind can cause you to make decisions that can negatively affect your health in a big way,” she says. Judith says no matter what you do, these family members will say something to make you feel bad about yourself. “For instance, if you say ‘no’ to doing something for them, they will make you feel guilty and say things like, ‘you are not a good person or you are ungrateful’. A lot of times these comments won’t be directed to you, but they are meant to make you feel bad anyway. The bottom line is that you will often feel bad about yourself after talking to a toxic family member. They will always find a way to make you feel guilty, ashamed, hurt, regretful or just plain depressed,” she says. 


Judith says it’s too easy to conclude that people don’t like you without even looking at yourself first. Before coming to any conclusions, take a moment and consider if you are doing things that could potentially be offensive or insensitive. “This step is important in accepting that not everyone, including your own family will like you, and that is absolutely fine. Your job is not to convince them why they should, you just need to be polite but don’t stop being true to who you are. It’s helpful to remember that people have favourites. There are probably some people that you click with and others you don’t. While it may seem personal, it’s just human nature. Remembering this can make it sting less,” she says.  Life coach, Lifi Thlaki, adds that no matter how strong you think your clap-back game is, just don’t do it, it’s not worth it.

“One strategy that has always helped is to resist the urge to participate by redirecting the conversation. If you must talk to someone who doesn’t like you and you believe it’s headed in a negative direction, quickly redirect the conversation back to its origin,” says Lifi.


Dealing with toxic family members can be emotionally taxing if not properly addressed.  Lifi adds, “If you feel like your head is about to pop when you are around them and sometimes even when you are not around them, because of how they act, talk or behave, then they are toxic to your health. The people you love are supposed to be the ones that you can be yourself around. If you feel weird, as if you are someone completely different around them, then something is happening to make you feel as though you can’t be yourself.” Lifi says that even though dealing with these kinds of people can be quiet depressing, there are things that you can do to help you cope.

“There are techniques you can use to make these relationships more tolerable. These methods generally involve distancing yourself to a certain degree from the toxic person. However, in many cases, the best solution is to remove that toxic individual from your life completely. This is rarely easy and is often complicated and emotionally conflicting in the case of close family relationships, such as with a parent, but when the situation worsens to the point of making it impossible to live a happy and liberated life, this course of action is usually the best one to take,” says Lifi.


These are ways that can help you get peace on mind: 

Tell other family members about it:  Getting along as a family is very important. Tell the elders about your situation but do it in a way that won’t cause a fight within the family. Telling them might help you come up with a solution to your problem.

Be kind to them: Ugliness shouldn’t be always rewarded with evil. Being kind to someone who does not like you is the best way to handle the situation.

Give it a go: When you feel that you have tried  all that you can to get along with the family member and they are still giving you a hard time and you’ve reached a point where you can’t take it anymore, just go ahead and confront them.

Prove to them that you are better: The best way to get revenge is to focus on your own dreams and goals. This will help you take your mind off things and prove that you can do better. If you are studying, make sure that you excel in your studies and get top marks. If you are working, make sure that you give it your best and have a successful career.

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