5 Strategies for Dealing With Toxic People

Stand Up to the Toxic People in Your Life

Raising your kids as a single parent comes with lots of challenges. From doing it all solo to working through conflict with your ex, it can be downright exhausting. That's why there's just no room for dealing with toxic people. The ones who drain your energy and leave you feeling frustrated and judged, as though you're somehow not worthy.

In a perfect world, you'd be able to banish these people from your life completely, right? But for many single parents, the most toxic people are the ones you simply can't eliminate. Maybe it's a toxic ex, his or her family, or your own loved ones who tear you down the most. If that's the case, you need a plan for pulling back, as opposed to eliminating their presence completely.

So how do you do that? Try these strategies for starters.

5 Strategies for Dealing With Toxic People

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Think before you answer.

Woman thinking before making a decision.
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When someone asks you for a favor, what's your immediate response? Whether it's your ex, your parents, your neighbor, or your kids ... Have you grown accustomed to the idea that when someone asks you for something, you're supposed to answer right away?

Let's put a stop to that thinking. From this point forward, when someone—anyone—asks you to do them a favor or commit to something that will require an investment of your time, energy, or money, give yourself a little time to consider your response. Make the phrase "I'll get back to you tomorrow" part of your standard reply to any request. And if they say, "I have to know now," then you've got your answer: no. 

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Say no.

Person holding up the answer no in front of yes.
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That's right! You can say no to other people's demands. It might not feel comfortable at first, but give it a try.

The best part is that saying no to things you really don't want to do won't just free your time—it will also free your mental energy. Because saying "yes" and then resenting it is exhausting!

And if your ex threatens to change your custody arrangement each time you don't comply with his (or her) wishes, it's time to start documenting those conversations, as well as when you are accommodating, versus when you say no. If nothing else, documenting your responses will demonstrate for the court that you're not simply refusing every request from your ex (just the ones that don't work for you).

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Say yes with conditions.

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You can meet your own needs while still showing consideration for others. For example, "I can swap nights with you if you can drop the kids off at my office" or "I'd be happy to help with the 6th grade yearbook, but I can't come to the monthly meetings." Putting some conditions on your "yes" responses will help you feel like you have more choice, and it will also help others realize that you can't easily be taken for granted.

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Practice self-awareness.

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We all have limitations. And a big source of frustration is ignoring them, completely. Think for a minute about those times when you get angry with your children. How much of that stems from saying "yes" to things you don't want to do, can't do, don't have time to do, or can't afford? Training yourself to say "yes" when you mean yes and "no" when you mean no requires a great deal of self-awareness.

Take baby steps toward this goal by becoming aware of how you feel when you respond to your kids' demands. Then, when you're feeling stronger and more confident in your ability to say "no," or to say "yes" with conditions—or to embrace a full "yes" without any conditions at all—you can apply that self-awareness to other demands, like dealing with your boss at work, your extended family, or your ex. Because saying "yes" when you want to say yes feels good—even if it means being more considerate to your ex, at times, than he or she is being with you. In the end, it's not about keeping score. It's about doing what's right for you and for your children.

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Put up healthy boundaries

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Finally, another strategy for dealing with toxic people in your life is to put up healthy boundaries. For some, this may even mean pulling back and avoiding contact at all costs. While this isn't the healthiest way to deal with conflict with your ex, in particular, (because you need to maintain some form of communication if you're parenting together), it may temporarily be necessary for single parents who've tried everything else, to no avail.