Managing Difficult Situations- Rules of Thumb

There are no ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in managing difficult situations as every situation is different. However, we have tried to come up with a ‘try to’ and ‘try not to’ list based on what other relatives and friends have found worked for them.

Give sympathy and support.

Try to make sure that the person feels that you understand and love them and care for them.
Wrap them in cotton wool or try to protect them from everything.

Take on their problems.
Help with practical issues such as getting medication, getting to appointments, sorting out housing and bills.Protect them from having to learn to do these things themselves. Make sure that the mental health services take a fair share of responsibility.

Give cash to people who run out of money repeatedly or spend it on drugs, alcohol or gambling.
Expect the person to respect normal boundaries e.g. zero tolerance to threats and violence, and no drug use in the house or around other family members.Expect the person to respect boundaries if you don’t.

Use threats or violence.
Take drugs or drink heavily yourself.
Tell people how their behaviour affects you.Criticise.
“It really upset me when you swore at me”
or”We cannot tolerate you threatening your sister like that”
“You don’t respect anyone anymore””That’s a nasty thing to say to your sister”
Get advice from experts or other families.Expect the problem to go away on its own or hide it from others.
If you feel stressed or overwhelmed by a behaviour, walk away or take a break.

Arrange a family meeting to discuss it when everyone is feeling calmer.
Deal with a problem when you are stressed. This risks you getting angry and making the situation worse.
Ask the person to make changes that might improve their behaviour.

Suggest that the positive change in their behaviour could be linked to something that they would like, such as a shopping trip or a hairdo.
Make sure that they don’t get the reward or trip unless they at least make a genuine effort.
Beg, force, blackmail or cajole.

Aim for things that haven’t much got much chance of actually happening.
Make promises you can’t keep.
Expect rapid change overnight.
Help with the treatment that the person receives. Take part in groups or other meetings such as care plan reviews when you are invited and, if possible, insist that you have a copy of the care plan if you do not already have one.Insist or force the person to take medication or attend their appointments. This might only make relationships worse in the long run.

Watch Professor Jo Smith discuss managing drug use

Watch Professor Jo Smith discuss coping with risky behaviour