How to Maintain Boundaries with Family During a Crisis

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In our world today, addiction is gripping our families at greater rates than ever before. Our loved ones are finding themselves in critical situations such as addiction, accidents, incarceration, and hospitalizations. Our families are thrown into crisis as we scramble to save our loved ones from these dire consequences. But how much help is too much? When does our desire to help our loved ones go from helpful to unhealthy?

Setting and maintaining boundaries within our family structure is important all the time, and much moreso during a crisis event. Family boundaries protect our individual needs, helps our families create strong relationships, and sets the tone for the environment of our home lives.

When crisis strikes, boundaries help us determine the best course of action to mitigate the damages. Some common family circumstances that typically send us into crisis mode are:

  • Discovering that a child or spouse brought drugs into our home.
  • A family member has been arrested for driving under the influence or other drug-related charges.
  • A family member is hospitalized for an overdose or other drug or alcohol-related injury.

During these critical times, it becomes more difficult for us to maintain healthy boundaries with our loved ones. Below are a few helpful tips to maintaining boundaries during such times.

1. Make self-care a priority.

In the midst of crisis, we lose sight of ourselves and our most basic needs. Our attention goes to the crisis and our own anxiety rather than our normal, healthy patterns of sleeping, eating, exercising, and social activity. We often don’t allow ourselves the grace and compassion we need to fully process, heal from, and act on our crisis event.

Self-care, whether it be little things or big things, is always crucial to maintaining our mental and physical health. This is especially true during a crisis. Take care of yourself first and foremost so that you have the strength, energy, and mental clarity to handle a crisis in your family.

2. Expect respect.

A home should be a safe place of love, acceptance, and support. It is not a place to tolerate insults, disrespect, or abuse from any family member. We are in charge of our own homes, and we have the authority to create the atmosphere that we choose to live in.

When one family member’s behavior begins to affect the relationships and atmosphere of the home, its time to step in and adjust the boundaries. Perhaps alcohol should be kept out of the home, or certain friends should not be allowed to visit.

Setting boundaries for how we want others to treat us reduces our own stress while holding others to higher standards of behavior and self worth. In time, others will begin setting their own boundaries for respect and the atmosphere of our home will change completely. This is especially true during crisis, when family members are more apt to place blame, argue, and disrespect each other.

3. Communicate your wishes.

Whether we speak it or not, we have expectations of others in our home. Many an argument is started because of unmet expectations. Bedrooms need to be cleaned, trash needs to be taken out, and pets need to be fed. Responsibilities need to be shared and not fall entirely on a single person. Making wishes known to family members keeps them on top of their own responsibilities in the household and reduces the stress on ourselves.

This is ever so much more true during a crisis. We may be away from the house more or occupied with the additional responsibilities. Asking others to help is part of the participation process of being a family member, and every one is responsible to pitch in and carry their share. Attempting to handle all of the responsibilities will burn us out and keep us from maintaining our own self-care.

4. Avoid rescue.

Bailing out of jail, hiring the lawyer, or even explaining behavior away to others are all rescue attempts, and will ultimately hurt our loved ones. When we experience the consequences of our own actions, we are much less apt to repeat them. Those who struggle with addictions must hit a “bottom” in their life before they decide that they need and want healing. Removing the consequences from their actions keeps them from experiencing the destruction they are causing to their lives by engaging in their addiction.

Avoiding rescue will also protect our own assets. Why should a family member’s negative behavior take away from our lives? Bail and lawyers cost thousands of dollars. If a family member has found themselves in a predicament due to their addiction, allow them to find their own path out. Let them stay in a safe, warm jail cell until a judge releases them. They’ll be well fed and won’t have access to drugs or alcohol while they’re there. Let them find their own attorney or use the public defender, and let them fully experience the devastation they’ve caused in their own lives. It is only when we’re truly miserable that we decide that change is necessary.

5. Create a plan for healing.

Once the crisis has been mitigated and emotions have calmed, begin to make a plan to recover from the event. Perhaps an intervention and treatment is in order. Perhaps greater boundaries need to be set. Counseling is always a good long-term option not just for a family member, but perhaps for the family as a whole.

Sometimes we need to think in terms of not just healing from the current crisis, but also preventing another one. There may be other family members who are at risk of experiencing a similar crisis. Early intervention my prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Finding professional help is a wise decision when creating a plan for healing. Professional counselors are equipped to help mitigate the emotional fallout from family crises and prevent future occurrences from happening again. Drew Horowitz & Associates is well equipped to help families heal from the damage caused by addiction and life crises.


We don’t live in a perfect world, and we aren’t perfect beings. Crises will happen in all of our lives. Maintaining good boundaries with family before a crisis strikes will help mitigate the emotional damage caused by such an event. It also helps us maintain our own self-care, manage our emotions, and ultimately be more effective at managing our lives through the crisis.

Boundaries protect our own lives from being affected by family members who are struggling while helping our family members find help for their problems. We shouldn’t be afraid to stand our ground when others refuse to accept the help that they so desperately need.

If you, a family member, or a loved one is struggling to maintain their sobriety in the midst of a crisis, Recovery Homes of Minnesota can help. Contact us today to learn how we can help keep loved ones on the path to recovery and healing.

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