Having a difficult cousin can be aggravating, especially if you have to spend a lot of time with them. You can make things easier on yourself by learning how to deal with disagreements with your cousin, communicating with them more effectively, and learning how to manage your emotions. You can’t change your cousin, but you can change how you react to them and make being around them more bearable. You may eventually find that you don’t notice their behaviour at all.
1. If your cousin is bothering you, take a few deep, calming breaths. If your cousin’s behaviour has made you stressed or angry, take a few deep, cleansing breaths to help you calm down before doing anything else. Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 5 seconds. Rep this deep breathing exercise until you feel at ease.
You might even want to leave the room for a few minutes or go for a walk around the block to relax.
Yoga and meditation are also effective stress-reduction techniques. To improve your mindset and stay calm, try doing 10 minutes of yoga or meditation every day.
2. Request that your cousin cease the annoying behaviour. If your cousin is teasing you or doing something you find irritating, let them know you’d like them to stop. Say it directly so there is no confusion about what you want them to do. When you ask them to stop, keep your voice calm and avoid yelling.
For example, you could say, “Joe, could you please stop making that sound?” It’s really starting to grate on my nerves.”
Alternatively, you could say, “Gina, stop teasing me about my braces.” Many people wear braces. It’s really not that big of a deal.”
3. If you can, laugh it off. If your cousin is teasing you and trying to get you to react, you may be able to stop them by laughing at what they’re saying. Don’t show that you’re bothered by what they’re saying. Instead, just laugh at their remarks.
For example, if your cousin comments on your new outfit, laugh and respond with something like, “Sure, okay, Charlotte.” Then go about your business as if their remark didn’t bother you.
This can be difficult at times, especially if their words have actually hurt your feelings. It’s okay to be upset, and if you can’t bring yourself to laugh because your feelings have been hurt, tell an adult what happened.
4. Inform an adult if your cousin continues to bother you. If your cousin continues to do what they are doing after you ask them to stop, you may need to involve an adult in the situation. Tell a parent or a guardian what’s going on and ask for their assistance. This is especially important if your cousin is causing you physical harm or threatening you.
For example, you could say, “Mom, Charlie keeps making fun of my hair, and I’ve politely asked him to stop.”
Alternatively, you could say, “Uncle Dave, could you please ask Juliet to stop tickling me?”
5. Remind yourself that their actions aren’t about you. If your cousin is being mean or teasing you, it may appear that they are frustrated by something you are doing. However, their behaviour is all about them. Remember this whenever they say or do something that irritates you.
For example, you could tell yourself, “Sarah’s teasing me is not the result of anything I did.” She’s being spiteful, and it’s not my fault.”
Remember that you are not to blame for anything your cousin says or does, even if they try to convince you otherwise.
Communicating with Your Cousin
1. To express yourself, use “I” statements. When you tell someone how you feel, “I” statements help to reduce the likelihood that they will become defensive. Instead of blaming your cousin by beginning a sentence with “you,” begin with “I.”
For example, you could say, “I get frustrated when you make comments about my size, so please don’t do that any longer.”
You could also say, “I get the impression you’re not listening when you keep interrupting me.”
2. Tell them you will not tolerate emotional manipulation. Set boundaries about what you will and will not do if your cousin uses guilt, threats, or other emotional manipulation techniques to get you to do things. Be clear and assertive about what you will not tolerate.
For example, you could say to your cousin, “Stop trying to guilt me into helping you with your homework.” I’ve already told you that I have plans after school, so I’m unable to assist you.”
If they threaten you, you could respond, “Threatening me won’t change my mind, so don’t bother.”
3. Accept your cousin’s point of view without passing judgement. You might also benefit from empathising with your cousin. This may assist you in viewing them with more compassion and understanding. Empathy does not obligate you to do whatever they want, but it may help you feel less frustrated by their behaviour if you can put yourself in their shoes.
For example, if your cousin continues to pester you to do their homework for them, they may be frustrated because they don’t understand it and don’t have anyone else who is willing to assist them.
If your cousin is physically abusive to you, it could be because of the way their parents or an older sibling treats them. It doesn’t make it right, but seeing it in this light may help you feel less upset about it.
Warning: If your cousin is physically abusing you, you should seek help. Inform an adult family member or another person you trust.
4. Include the phrase “because” in any requests you make. When the word “because” is added to a request, people are more likely to comply with it. If you frequently have difficulty persuading your cousin to assist you, try framing your requests with the word “because.”
Instead of saying to your cousin, “Can you please help me clean up the living room?” say something like, “We need to clean up the living room because my parents are coming home soon and have asked us to do so.”
Alternatively, rather than saying, “Can you stop playing that song over and over?” you could say, “I need you to stop playing that song on repeat because it’s very annoying.”
5. If they ask or say something that bothers you, change the subject. You are not required to continue a conversation or answer questions if doing so makes you uncomfortable. It is acceptable to change the subject or ignore questions or comments that irritate you.
If your cousin asks you a question that you don’t want to answer, you could smile and say something like, “So, how was your day?”
If they don’t get the hint and continue to ask, you may need to tell them directly, such as “I’m not comfortable answering that.”
Managing Your Emotions
1. Set low expectations to avoid being disappointed. Expecting too much from your interactions with your cousin can lead to disappointment. Lowering your expectations may help if you continue to be disappointed by how your cousin treats you. Set your expectations very low so that you’ll be surprised even if they’re a little pleasant to be around.
For example, if you have a cousin who frequently makes rude remarks or complains a lot, you can expect them to be at their worst. This way, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if your cousin only says a few rude things or is in a slightly better mood.
Tip: If your cousin frequently says hurtful things to you when you’re with them, expect them to do so whenever you see them. Expecting your cousin to tease you or say hurtful things can help to mitigate the blow.
2. Consider yourself to be surrounded by an impenetrable shield. Visualizing a shield around your body that nothing can penetrate may help you cope with any comments made by your cousin that would normally irritate you. Consider the words hitting the shield and bouncing off of it before reaching you.
Imagine the colour of the shield, its shape, and any special features on it, such as a design or spikes, to strengthen the visualisation.
It takes some practise, but you’ll get better and better at letting your cousin’s comments bounce off your shield over time.
3. Accept and recognise your cousin for who they are. Recognizing who your cousin is and what they are really like may also help you cope with their behaviour. Recognize their behaviour and how you feel in their presence. Then say or think to yourself, “Janice, you’re mean and you tease me a lot, and it hurts my feelings.” But I accept that this is who you are and that I will be upset from time to time when I am in your presence.”
When you’re having trouble being around your cousin, repeat this mantra to yourself.
4. If you become too frustrated, plan an escape route for yourself. You may need to get away from your cousin before saying or doing anything in retaliation. Make a plan ahead of time for whenever you will be spending time with them to ensure that this is always an option. Try not to put yourself in a situation where you can’t leave or have no way of getting a break.
For example, if you’re spending the day at home with your cousin, excuse yourself whenever you need to use the restroom.
5. Allow enough time for self-care. Self-care can range from eating well and getting enough sleep to pampering yourself with a relaxing bath, a new haircut, or a fun day with friends. Make your own needs a priority in order to be at your best when interacting with your cousin.
Eat a healthy meal or snack before spending time with your cousin, for example, to ensure that you are not hungry.
If you know you’re going to have a difficult time with your cousin, do something special for yourself, such as reading a chapter of your favourite book, watching an episode of your favourite TV show, or playing with your favourite toy.
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