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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I come from a family that is more competitive, catty, insecure

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I come from a family that is more competitive, catty, insecure and petty than supportive and encouraging. Because of our different mindset, we've had many feuds and now have a rift between my siblings which has lasted for almost 20 years. We don't communicate at all and family functions (at my parents' house) are very uncomfortable. My husband and I will be having a family soon. I don't trust my sisters to be civil or nice with my children so what should I tell my children if we go to family functions. Or should we avoid them all together?
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It can be very difficult when you have relatives that behave in such a way that it is hurtful to you and your family. When you have children, it is a natural instinct to want to protect them from being hurt by the very things your relatives did to hurt you.

Avoiding your family is one option. But what that does is cut off your children's opportunity to get to know where they come from and who is in their family. It may not be an ideal family, but children do want to know about their families so they have a better understanding of who they are.

It may help to let your kids get to know your family but put boundaries around any acting out your family does. That means always being with your children when they are with your family and not letting them be alone with anyone. Also, you can let your family know that you will not tolerate your children being pulled into any arguments or other dysfunctional behaviors. If you do see something you do not like, then be prepared to remove the kids and leave. But if your family does anything remotely sexual or criminal, then it is fine to cut off contact in that case.

With boundaries, you can allow your kids to get to know where they came from and show them how to set boundaries when other people do not behave as they should. It can teach your kids how to handle others' in their lives that act out with them.

I hope this helps,
TherapistMarryAnn and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you

You may also find this resource helpful:

Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families: The Secrets of Dysfunctional
by John C. Friel Ph.D. and Linda D. Friel M.A.

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