Toxic Family Patterns

“Happy families are alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way.”- Lev Tolstoy

During the time of pandemic, all members of the family are back together. Since offices, colleges and schools have been shut down, everybody is spending their days at home as a family. Every family does not resemble the families shown in the movies, media and sitcoms. Every family is unique in their relationships as well as their conflicts. Due to the changing dynamics, families usually get together for special occasions which are short lived. Staying within the confines, under the same roof for an elongated period of time might be distressful for a few family members.

A lot of factors can affect the family dynamics at home from the nature of work that the parents do, the age of the children at home, the number of members living in the house. Along with that not every family interaction is ideal. Unsolicited advice, interference in personal life, calling names etc., can all be considered as unwanted interactions. Unhealthy relationships have different characteristics for every individual:

  • Arguments with different members of the family
  • Their treatment in the family
  • Unhealthy ways of interacting with people

Toxicity in a family stems from a family pattern and not certain individuals. Usually individuals have certain unmet conscious needs and that need is unconsciously placed on the other members of the family this in turn creates toxic behaviours. Creating boundaries at home or with the people that you’ve grown up with is more difficult than setting boundaries at the workplace or colleges.

Dealing with familial conflicts on a daily basis can become mentally challenging for a lot of people. Hence the first reaction to this is to avoid the conflict and that leads to a feeling of discomfort.

Certain Steps That Can Be Taken To Break Toxic Family Patterns

1. Not blaming an Individual

Family conflicts should not be seen as caused by an individual. Since these follow a pattern, the patterns might go back to differences between members in the past. In order to break-free from the constant cycle of arguments it’s imperative that the members identify the origin.

2. Communication:

Avoiding confrontation and negative talk doesn’t tantamount to avoiding interaction Altogether. Focusing on common neutral topics for discussions can help if the interaction always turns argumentative. When you see a conversation turning bitter, knowing when to step out of it can lead to respectful conversations.

3. Modeling certain behaviours:

If you want respect and empathy in a conversation from the other person, it’s important to emanate the same qualities.Understanding is key in a conversation. If both parties identify the lack of a specific quality from the other, it can be solved by a mutual consideration.

4. Responding and not reacting to situations:

A reaction is elicited from an emotional place. A response is given when the other party participates in actively listening. Usually in heated arguments and conversations the reactions are more common than responses. Taking a step back and assessing if the response to the situation is coming from an emotional place.

5. Determining the level of closeness:

Determining the level of closeness you’d like to maintain with the family members is of paramount importance. Keeping in mind the amount of information you’d like to share with them, the number of times you’d like to indulge in an interaction. If the relationship with an individual can be perceived as unhealthy, assessing the limits to that relation is extremely important.

6. Staying Connected:

Boundaries and limiting unnecessary communication helps but at the same time in order to avoid conflict as individuals, people try to minimise communication and any interaction. It’s critical to stay in touch with friends and at the same time since the only physical contact at the moment is immediate family. Basic communication only aids in maintaining mental health.


Sometimes it can be difficult to reason with family and maintain good relationships. Although creating harmony and strengthening the ties that already exist with family members can work in the favor of alleviating the stress. In order to make it easier for oneself, taking some time off from worrying about the ongoing predicament at home could ease the worry and overthinking. In any circumstances it’s not necessary to put up with relationships that drain you mentally without setting boundaries. Since every family member might not be willing to partake in therapy, individual therapy (several organizations as well as independent therapists are providing therapy online during the pandemic), or talking to a trusted source can prove immensely helpful.



Ribeiro, C. (2020, March 12). The family lockdown guide: how to emotionally prepare for coronavirus quarantine.

Retrieved from Yu, C. (2017, November 29).

When do our family interactions become toxic? Retrieved from Scott, E. (2020, March 14).

How to Have Healthy Family Relationships With Less Stress Retrieved from


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