Rules of communication when you are stuck together

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We’re continuing to talk about how to make your forced stay with relatives less traumatic, and, if possible, even comfortable (if you’ve just joined us, please read the previous articles).

Of course, a lot depends on who you live with and what your relationship is like. Each family has its own issues and, of course, they must be taken into account. However, there are some general rules that would be useful for any family:

1. Each of us has their own “safety margin”, or their individual self-adjusting potential. For some, the situation of being “locked up” is a break from the daily rush, and for some, it’s a painful imprisonment. Those who find it easier can help those for whom this period is a serious challenge, but it’s important to do it right:

  • Don’t invalidate other people’s feelings (why’re you all wound up, just relax!”, “you can’t be that sensitive, it’s not like you’ve been taken to a desert island!”, “I’m not whining, and you shouldn’t either”, “Some people have it worse, all we’ve got to do is stay home!”).
  • Don’t pretend that nothing is happening – but it’s important not to be overly dramatic and not make a mountain out of a molehill, either.

Panic, anxiety and dysphoric mood are contagious, so it’s important not to let them in, by supporting those who right now are having a harder time.

2. It’s important to exhibit your feelings and not to retire into your shell. If you’re “breaking”, talk to those close to you, and if you know that there’s no support there, use your phone or social media to talk to friends and kindred spirits. If you don’t take care of your emotional state, the likelihood of “lashing out” at those close to you and aggravating an already difficult situation increases.

3. Try not to fight. Put off the accumulated issues and disputes with each other for another time – it’ll just make the situation worse now.

4. If the situation does nevertheless become tense, you feel a conflict looming, and you want to lash out with your irritation and talk back, try to put yourself in your relative’s shoes – think about what could worry him, why he’s acting like this now.

5. Try to be considerate of positive little things: thank your mom for a nice dinner, compliment your mother-in-law’s new apron. It’ll score additional points for the productivity cup, which are far from unwanted.

6. Ensure that the elderly relatives have the opportunity to talk to others through the Internet. We can talk on Skype and through messengers, whereas they might not be able to. Organize a video call for your mom or grandma with their friends – that could really help and create a positive attitude.

7. Don’t forget that you can try to make your stay more comfortable, but alleviating everyone’s anxieties is out of your hands. This is a joint challenge which can also be an important experience of overcoming the conditions together.