Parental Pugnaciousness

9 Aug

Letterbalm Two Parents Arguing

Dear LetterBalm: I’m going into my senior year of high school in the fall, and I can’t wait to get out of the house. I love my parents, but it’s torture to be around them. They fight all the time, about everything, real verbal battles and abuse. They call each other bad names, swear at each other and yell. One good thing coming from this is that I am careful not to verbally abuse my friends because I know how poisonous it is. But I’m really worried about my little brother after I go away to college. He’s only 11, and I don’t want him exposed to my parents’ battles all alone. What can I say to them to get them to stop?

–Hands Over My Ears

You poor kids. Your stress levels must be right up there with street-repair jackhammers and noisy garbage trucks – except this is caused by your mom and dad, whom you love. Ms. L.B. suspects that your parents’ fighting is so familiar to them that they don’t hear themselves and aren’t conscious of deeper problems they may have. They also don’t realize the damage they’re doing to their children. You have to step in and advocate for you and your sib. If they fight again and you’re there, take your brother and leave the house every time, even if you walk around the block, and alert a trusted neighbor or a relative after you go away to college. Think about what you will say and stay calm. Pick your moment for your parents’ undivided attention (without your brother) because you’ll get only one chance:

Mom and Dad, this is the most serious talk we will ever have, and I ask you with all my heart to listen to me and don’t interrupt, please. Your verbal fights have continued for so long and become so bad, that I’m afraid for Ethan when I go away to college. He’s grown up in a house where his mom and dad argue terribly all the time. You call each other bad names, swear and don’t listen to each other. Maybe you don’t realize what you’re doing, but you’re destroying the family and setting a terrible example for your kids. Please, I’m asking you to go together to counseling and make a real effort to stop your fighting. No matter what you decide in your marriage, nothing is as bad as the fighting and yelling and disrespect. I’m telling you now that if things don’t change before I go away to college, to protect Ethan I’m going to have to tell somebody what you’re doing. Ethan and I love you very much, but this makes us anxious and sad.

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