4 Ways To Tackle Common Family Issues In The ‘New Normal’ Of COVID-19

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4 Ways To Tackle Common Family Issues In COVID-19

Everyone has family issues. Learning how to deal with family problems the right way is key to keeping the peace.

Right now, many families are really struggling with the complexities of being back under the same roof again.

It’s one thing to be together on holidays, school breaks, or vacations. But it's another thing altogether when adult children move back home with no job, no money, and, in some cases, no good prospects for when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

You may be facing uncertainty about your job if you're the parent.

Of course, as a parent, you want to help. You want be there for them and let them know that you believe in them. Just beware of your good intentions, especially if you have the urge to rescue them.

RELATED: 5 Tips On How To Deal With Toxic Family Members When You're Quarantined At Home

Transactional analysis says, "If you enter as the rescuer, you will exit as the victim or the scapegoat."

In other words, your best intentions may backfire and damage a relationship that is not only under pressure right now, but also very important to you.

As a parent, you become the victim if you start to feel taken advantage of, even when you unintentionally invited the behavior by falling into old patterns of doing too much for your child and expecting too little.

Likewise, you can become the scapegoat if you try to rescue them by recommending solutions to their problems that fail. Now, you have unintentionally set yourself up to be blamed.

There are ground rules for managing stress that can really help you avoid these and other pitfalls.

Here are 4 ways to tackle common family issues during COVID-19.

1. Establish boundaries and clearly state your expectations.

In other words, if you just let this all happen organically, you’ll be more likely to fall into old patterns. The assumption seems to be, "We lived together before, we can do it again. What’s the big deal?"

It’s a big deal.

Often, both the parents and the adult child have very different expectations. The parent expects the adult child to abide by a set of house rules, usually without stating the rules.

Whereas, the child expects to have the same freedoms they had living on their own, with the added benefit of having someone to do their laundry.

A patient of mine said she came home at 3 a.m. expecting everyone to be asleep, but her father was waiting up for her and asked her where she’d been.

She was astonished that he was up, but even more astonished that he thought he had a right to ask her that question. He, on the other hand, was astonished that she was out so late for "no apparent reason" and for not letting anyone know where she was or what time she’d be home.

Turned out, most of his anger was because his wife could not sleep since she was anxiously waiting for her daughter to be back home safe and sound. Somehow, it became his job to make that happen. This is yet another example of rescuing.

So, this is where stating the "house rules" can really help.

  • Let people know that you are going out and when you will be back. If that changes, let people know what your new ETA is.
  • Clean up after yourself — every time — in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Do your own laundry.
  • Ask before you take anything, and put it back where you got it.

It's important to have a family meeting to come up with an agreed-upon set of house rules.

These should cover who does what in terms of chores, cooking, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, who pays for the "extra" WiFi services, who can park their car in the garage, who walks the dog, and so on.

Once you have an agreement, everyone signs off on it. Some families even make it fun.

You can create a penalty jar so that if you mess up, you have to cough up a buck or two and buy that week’s pizza. Or, you draw out a "special projects" card (cleaning the gutters or organizing the garage, for example) that you get to do because you dropped the ball.

2. Use assertiveness skills.

Use "I" sentences instead of "you," which are always experienced by the receiver as accusatory.

For example, instead of saying, "You were inconsiderate and disrespectful when you invited your boyfriend to spend the night without asking us," say, "I'm not comfortable with your boyfriend sleeping over. It creates a problem for us with your little sister."

RELATED: How To Stay Strong As A Parent During Crisis

3. Reframe the nature of your relationships. 

To avoid slipping into old dysfunctional patterns, treat your family member the way you treat your best friend.

Would you expect your best friend to pick up your bath towel or replace the toilet paper roll for you? Probably not.

Sometimes we over-share, and in doing so, unintentionally invite people to weigh in. If you don't want to hear what your family member thinks of the person you are dating, hold back a little.

Let your friends set you straight — it always seems more loving when they tell you what an idiot you are being than when your parents or children do.

In general, boundaries are very important. If you're the parent, resist the temptation to overdo it.

If your kid’s car is out of gas, it's not your job to fill it up.

If you're the adult child, try to think of yourself as a guest in your parents' home. Even though you're not and it's still your home, if you frame it that way, you will likely show more sensitivity to their needs.

Have some compassion for your parents. It's a huge adjustment to have people living in a full home after years of being child-free.

The more grown-up you seem, the less they will worry about you. The less they worry about you, the less they will nag you. Win-win!

4. Be open to new activities and family rituals.

In the time of COVID-19, many families are finding new hobbies that they can do together.

Games and puzzles are coming back strong. Some of my patients have started book clubs with their parents — another good thing. Or they binge-watch a TV series together as a family. Fun!

Sheltering at home for too long can undermine your confidence. Many of my patients returning home are beginning to see themselves as "kids" again. They begin to wonder if they can "make it" on their own, so they start losing confidence.

When that happens, it can become a slippery slope, especially with all the uncertainty that COVID-19 is causing in the U.S. economy.

If you're the parent, this is when you'll be the most vulnerable to rescuing your child and filling out that job application for them.

Don’t do it. Rescuing sends the wrong message, and may be interpreted as you lacking confidence in your child.

I'm not saying that you don't offer financial, emotional, or even practical advice, since the children whose parents do have been shown to have clearer goals and more satisfaction in pursuing them. Just don’t do the work for them.

When it comes to offering advice, less is more.

One of my patients told me: "My dad thinks that breakfast is a huddle and he is the coach. Every morning, he calls the plays, and we are expected to cheer from the sidelines. I really hate coffee now."

For the adult child, get out of the house. Don't spend the day in bed, unless you want to completely drive your parents up the wall.

Meet with friends at a coffee shop that has outdoor seating and work on your resume. Stay away from Facebook, nothing worse for self-esteem — try LinkedIn, instead.

Network, connect, put yourself out there. First and foremost, have a plan for moving out.

You’ve got this!

RELATED: The 5 Ways Growing Up In A Dysfunctional Family Changes You — And How To Break The Cycle

Renae Norton is a psychologist. For more information, visit her website: Eating Disorder Pro.

This article was originally published at Eating Disorder Pro. Reprinted with permission from the author.