Now is not the time to let your family frustrations boil over
An end to all of this now seems near, yet still so far. Here’s how to keep family frustrations at bay until Uncle Cyril finally gives us parole.
With South African families who live under the same roof still scheduled to spend the next few weeks in close proximity to each other, the chances of conflict remain high.
Not necessarily the domestic violence situations that so concern the authorities. We’re talking the simple squabbles that usually blow over quickly when people can go to work, the gym, or spend time hanging out with friends over coffee.
But those kinds of opportunities are still largely pipe dreams. And with our hopes for an end to lockdown now seemingly so near yet still so far after four weeks, family frustrations may be at an all-time high.
So how do you stop small-time bickering over who should be washing the tea cups from developing into a prolonged Cold War?
Understand your feelings of frustration and communicate them
Understand how you are feeling, advises Rakhi Beekrum, a counselling psychologist based in Durban North. Identify how you cope and whether your way of coping is helpful or harmful to family members around you. Then establish what you need to feel safe. Once you know, it’s easier to take steps to meet these needs, either by yourself or by communicating to others.
In a column published on Independent Online, Beekrum says communicating those feelings clearly to your family is vital.
Even those closest to you are not mind-readers, so don’t presume that how you’re feeling should be obvious. Be mindful of your tone when communicating. You are more likely to get what you want when you ask politely and explain why it’s important.
She emphasises that there is no easy escape just yet.
“So before a confrontation, be sure that it is [very] important. If it is, rather express your complaint as a wish. Instead of complaining about something, rather express your wish.”
Expressions of contempt are poisonous
Do not permit small expressions of contempt to take place, urges Eleanor Gordon-Smith, an Australian-born writer and academic.
“Anger, frustration, sadness [and] blame – yes, but never contempt,” she says. “Keep contempt out of your home and you’ll have a difference in the kind – not just degree – of fights [that you have] and the curdled sprawls that ruin families.”
Gordon-Smith advises that you shouldn’t take it in your stride when people speak to you in ways you don’t like. Instead, act surprised. Surprise, she explains, marks clear edges around what we expect of our relationships. So communicating that a particular situation isn’t normal is often an effective way of communicating that “it shouldn’t be like this”.
And talk, she stresses.
“We have to talk. If people can’t ask directly for what they need they’ll either manipulate it out of other people or silently resent that they’re not getting it. Practise honestly asking and honestly telling; do each other the service of hoping those conversations can be productive.”
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