You cannot choose your family, but you can choose how they influence your life. You’ll want to broaden your circle of friends and acquaintances if you want to live a happy life without the support of your family. Join local clubs and learn new activities to keep yourself busy. Spend less time with negative people in general, including your family, and establish boundaries for what behaviours you will and will not accept.
Creating a Supportive Social Circle
1. Put your faith in your friends. After being hurt by those close to you, it is critical to recognise that there are other people out there who have positive, good traits. Consider the times when people have come through for you. Perhaps write these down and revisit them to begin to rebuild trust in people. Then, seek out friends who share your common interests and will encourage you to achieve your life goals.
It’s fine to tell your friends that you’re wary of trusting people after you’ve gotten to know them a little. If your friends or significant other ask to meet your relatives, you could simply say, “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, and when we have more time, I’ll tell you why.”
Make plans to meet your friends elsewhere if you live at home with your family. This will also keep some distance between the two groups. You could also just chat with your friends online and let off some steam that way.
2. Make plans for nights out on the town. Go out and have a good time doing new things as a group. These experiences will strengthen your bonds and provide you with more topics to discuss in your spare time. If your friends are unavailable, feel free to treat yourself to dinner or a movie. It is also important to enjoy one’s own company.
If you come from a large family and are used to being surrounded by people, forcing yourself to do some activities alone may be a good idea. This will boost your self-esteem and show that you can handle almost anything on your own.
Plan some one-on-one or small-group activities as well, such as going for a walk with a friend or meeting a friend for coffee. These activities are more low-key and focused on conversation. This can help to build and strengthen relationships by encouraging sharing and assisting you in determining whether or not you can trust this person.
3. Take up invitations. Simply say yes if a friend invites you to participate in an activity or take a class with them. Showing that you are available for good times will make them more likely to confide in you when things get tough. Saying yes will also keep you on their radar as someone to contact when they want to hang out or do something fun. Saying yes reinforces their reaching out to you. If you are unable to attend, be sure to reschedule the activity (or another activity) in the same conversation to show that you are serious. This means you may be able to rely on them as a confidante as well as an emotional resource.
Make an effort to reciprocate. If you are invited out, try to find a way to extend the invitation to that person as well. Perhaps invite them to a new restaurant with you. Alternatively, you could go on a shopping trip together. Keeping yourself busy will take your mind off your family situation.
4. Join clubs that cater to your interests. Participating in clubs will give you an excuse to spend some positive time away from home if you live with your family and attend school. And, once you’ve graduated from high school, it’s up to you to find new ways to socialise and expand your social circle beyond your immediate family. Look for groups of people in your area who get together to pursue common interests or hobbies on the internet.
Consider joining a riding group at a local stable if you enjoy horses. Alternatively, inquire at your local recreation centre about adult intramural sports teams. These kinds of activities can fill the evening and weekend hours when you’re not working.
You can also seek additional assistance by joining a local church group. This also has the added benefit of providing a safe space for personal reflection.
5. Enroll in classes to learn something new. It has long been recognised that learning a new skill keeps your brain active and engaged. It does, however, improve your emotional well-being by increasing your confidence and problem-solving abilities. Look online for different adult or senior classes that are being offered in your area. Alternatively, if you are a young adult, consider taking recreation classes designed specifically for teenagers or youths.
Enrolling in an athletic class, such as yoga, has the additional benefit of assisting your body in remaining fit and active. Another way to broaden your social circle beyond family is to seek assistance from more experienced classmates.
Don’t tell your family if you don’t think they’ll support your new adventures. When you try something new, you are quite vulnerable, and you require positive, uplifting comments.
If you are young and live with your family, you may need to work part-time to cover the cost of some of these extra social experiences. This can actually be beneficial. A job can provide you with some space and time away from your family, as well as the opportunity to make friends with your coworkers!
6. Give your time as a volunteer. This will help you see that everyone, at some point in their lives, faces difficult circumstances. Volunteering may also lead to the discovery of a new hobby, such as cooking or painting. Search online for volunteer opportunities in your area, then contact the organisations directly for more information.
Be aware that volunteering with certain groups, such as those affected by family violence, may be too personal for you at this time. Instead, look for a volunteering opportunity that will lift your spirits while also allowing you to help others.
Breaking Away from the Cycle of Negativity
1. Make some space between yourself and your relatives. Avoid common areas, such as the living room, if you live with your family. If you live far away from your family, try to visit them less frequently. Your phone calls and text responses should be spaced out more and more. Make a physical separation from your family by not visiting or inviting them over. You only have so much energy to give, and compartmentalising the negative people in your life allows you to focus more on the positive ones.
If your relatives inquire about your growing distance, you could simply say, “I’ve just been really busy lately,” and leave it at that. Keep in mind that when people are accustomed to receiving a specific response from you and suddenly do not, it is normal for them to try harder before giving up. When you try to distance yourself, expect some pushback.
2. Remember to use the word “no.” Learning what you are and are not willing to do for certain people is a part of establishing boundaries. If you must maintain a relationship with someone, you should consider making your own plans. They occur on your terms, where you are at ease, and last only for a short period of time. If your family members ask you to do something that is detrimental to your well-being, simply say, “No.” Don’t feel obligated to explain yourself because your time is yours to spend as you see fit.
Of course, if you live with your parents, you are more likely to be subject to their rules and requests. So, when it comes to saying “no,” choose wisely, and your response will (hopefully) be taken seriously.
3. Take parenting classes. If you are concerned about the type of family life you will create as a parent, you can alleviate your concerns and educate yourself by enrolling in a childcare or parenting class. The instructors will demonstrate that a negative family cycle does not have to be repeated. They will also provide you with the tools you need to understand which parental actions are beneficial and which are harmful.
Contact your local hospital to find a parenting class. They will almost certainly provide classes on a variety of parenting topics. Many of these classes are also often free for soon-to-be parents.
4. Consult a therapist. If you are still in school, you can see the school counsellor, who is usually free of charge. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone who isn’t biassed listen to your concerns. Alternatively, if you are concerned about modelling your relationship after your parents’, you may want to look into relationship counselling. You can meet with a counsellor as infrequently or as frequently as you want. You can come alone or with a partner.
Speaking with a counsellor about your family history will show you that it is not your fault that you have negative or problematic relatives. You are only accountable for your decisions and actions.
There are also many excellent books on the subject that can teach you how to set and maintain boundaries, as well as how to have healthier relationships. You can also find help by joining a support group.
Caring for Your Emotional Well-Being
1. Keep yourself busy during the holidays. Special occasions and dates, such as anniversaries and holidays, can be difficult and emotional if you are separated from your family, either physically or emotionally. It may be beneficial to put in extra hours at work to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind during these times. Alternatively, keep a full calendar of social activities. Being busy will serve as a reminder to you that you are a productive person with a good life.
If your coworkers or friends find out you’ll be alone during the holidays, they may invite you to spend the time with their family. Consider your emotions carefully before accepting this offer, as it may elicit negative emotions in you, such as jealousy.
If you live with your family, you could plan to spend part of the holiday at a friend’s house, taking in their festivities. Make these plans well in advance, and if getting to your friend necessitates some travel and you can afford it, that’s even better.
2. Accept that some days will be difficult. When dealing with personal conflicts, some days will be better than others. Try to evaluate your mental state on a weekly, rather than daily, basis. Don’t berate yourself if you have a bad day. That day, honour your sadness by journaling about it, allowing yourself to cry, or talking to a trusted friend about it. This is a normal part of the recovery process. Then, think about how you can make the next day extra special. For example, go to your favourite restaurant.
It may also be beneficial to inform your friends if/when you are having a bad day. They may intervene to lift you out of your funk and provide a positive distraction. Make a point of returning the favour when the opportunity arises.
Keep a close eye on your participation grades (and grades in general) if you are in school during difficult times with your family. If you have a tendency to become quiet and focused on yourself, make it a point to speak up and get those points.
3. Take note of healthy ways of interacting. If you’ve spent your entire life surrounded by dysfunction and negativity, you may need to take some time to observe and understand positive and supportive ways of treating people. Pick up some books on healthy interpersonal relationships. Be patient with yourself, and expect to make a few mistakes along the way.
For example, you may want to determine when it is appropriate to say “thank you” and how to best express that sentiment. Do you send a full card or just a short test message? You’ll have to experiment to figure out what works best for you.
4. Find positive role models. If you are a young adult, look around for people you can respect and look up to. They could be someone with whom you already spend a lot of time, such as a teacher. They could also be someone you don’t know personally, such as a professional athlete.
Learn as much as you can about your role model, including why they make certain decisions. For example, if your favourite football player is constantly volunteering, you might want to emulate him.
5. On a daily basis, repeat positive mantras. Speak a simple, positive phrase to yourself when you first wake up each morning. “Today is going to be a good day,” you might say. Alternatively, “You’ll do fantastic today!” Simply keep it memorable and vary it when the phrase loses its punch or effectiveness. You can also take a moment to imagine your day going exceptionally well.
In the end, you are your own best cheerleader. Find a way to keep yourself positive, whether it’s by repeating mantras or practising deep breathing.
Journaling and reviewing positive affirmations can be beneficial, as can posting positive phrases in places you see frequently, such as on your mirror or computer monitor.
6. Concentrate on the future. You can’t change the past, but you can influence the future. Make a list of immediate and long-term goals for your personal and professional life. Post this list somewhere visible, such as on your room’s wall, and celebrate each time a line is crossed off.
One personal goal could be to go to the gym at least three times per week. Or maybe you want to watch one movie a week and enjoy your free time.
Break down your goals into small, manageable steps to increase the likelihood that they will be met. This will encourage you to continue your progress and keep you motivated.
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