Children upset by parent’s fighting / Show parents your letter and the replies
DEAR ABBY: I’m a 13-year-old boy, and I have a 5-year-old sister. Our parents are together, but
Dad's job was relocated to another state and he's gone most of the week. When he gets home, all he and Mom do is fight.
The fighting puts a lot of stress on me. My sister asks me, “Why are Mommy and Daddy always fighting?'' This makes me want to break into tears because I don't know what to tell her. Abby, please help me understand what to do in these situations. —WORRIED BIG BROTHER
DEAR BIG BROTHER: You should not have to be in the position of explaining your parents' deplorable behavior to your little sister. While you can assure her that the fighting has absolutely nothing to do with her—or you—the people who should be quieting your sister's fears are your parents. Please waste no time in telling them how upset your little sister becomes when she hears the quarreling, and that it makes you want to break down and cry, too. It’s something they need to hear. —Abby
Hi Big Brother: It’s so mature of you to reach out like this. It’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Also, your sadness is appropriate, let the tears flow, and if you can, breathe deeply while crying, it helps to clear your mind of the trauma.
Your parents are stuck in abuse, abusing each other and their two children. They both need an equal amount of professional help (therapy/counseling/coaching). They are unconscious, not totally awake; else they’d be able to see the fear and sadness on the faces of their children. Very few parents treat each other abusively by choice, they don’t argue by choice. They are programmed, like a computer to goad and react and argue, to make each other wrong, they have in fact lost their choice to communicate lovingly.
Your letter seems to suggest that you have not taken sides, that you don’t think one is more argumentative than the other. That is good. Sometimes one parent will look like they start the arguments but the truth is you and I always start the arguments we find ourselves in.
You ask what to do. The first thing you can do is show them your letter and these replies, after which several things might happen. They might feel so guilty that they decide to do therapy together. While this might sound like a good thing it rarely is. Seldom do parents do enough therapy to stop the arguing completely (BTW: It's entirely possible to not communicate abusively). Another thing you might notice is that they might stop arguing for a few days, or even lowering their voices, or going outside to argue. This will only be temporary. Most likely what will happen is your parents will decide to divorce; and while this thought might pain you at first, it will fix the problem, but possibly only a little bit.
Usually what happens when parents divorce is: A judge decides who’s the best con. For example: “Judge, the children will be better off with me.” What judges know, but they can’t do anything about (unless both parents are beating their child), is that letting the winner take care of you is like letting you be raised and trained by a person addicted to abusing. Unless the person awarded the children attends a minimum of 50 hours of counseling the single parent most likely will start fighting with his/her children. Abuse addicts need a fix each day, once the spouse is gone there’s no one left to argue with so as to get their periodic adrenaline fix of abuse.
Most children your age who are experiencing such abuse immerse themselves in school or extra outside the house activities. They do their homework at school or the library and play sports or get a part-time job so as to spend as little time at home as possible. It’s possible you could help your sister enroll in some activity, dance, music classes, sports, Girl Scouts, YWCA. This will have two advantages: You’ll both meet other children and adults and possibly be able to discuss the problem. The more conversations you have about this, with as many people as possible, will help you immensely (assuming you've first shown them this letter).
Please let me know what happens.
Last edited (11/28/17)