What should kids do when their parents fight?

Gingko asks: What should I do when my parents fight?

Wow, this is scary stuff, isn’t it.  There’s really nothing like when your parents fight.  Just them being upset is kind of upsetting, isn’t it?   I remember once when Handsome came home from a class where he’d been yelled at for an hour.  He walked in the door, I took one look at him, and I could feel how upset he was so much that I had to just squat down and pee, right there on the floor!  I knew he wasn’t upset at me, but it didn’t matter.  I count on him, and want him to be happy, so this was frightening.

But it’s so much worse to have parents really fight.  They’re both upset, and they seem like that’s all they care about, and not about you.

But that’s not true. Most of the time, grownups fight for the same reasons we do.  They’re upset about things, feeling very stressed, and they disagree about something they both care about a lot.  And usually it ends soon, and is nothing to worry about.  Also, there are lots of kinds of “fights.”  Let’s look at some of them.

–  Arguing.  EVERYONE argues.  That’s actually a very good thing.  Maybe it’s really mild, like if they disagree about what movie to go to or what to have for dinner.  Or if they disagree about something the President is doing.  That’s all good; it shows they’re thinking!  Maybe it’s a bigger argument, like when your mom doesn’t like your dad talking a certain way, or your dad doesn’t like your mom being away from home so much.  Most arguments are about money.  These arguments might be unpleasant for you, but really, they’re nothing to worry about.  When they happen in my house, I just walk into another room and try to sleep.  That might be good for you too.

–       Bickering.  This one’s really annoying.  Sometimes our parents simply get on each other’s nerves.  And instead of talking nicely to each other, they just say negative things to each other all the time.  This doesn’t mean they don’t like each other.  People completely in love still might bicker.  But it does create a lousy atmosphere for you to live in.  Maybe you should wait for a time when they’re in good moods, and tell them how their bickering makes you feel.   Or you can talk to just one of them alone about it.  Most of the time, they won’t even realize they’ve been doing it, and you get to be a hero because you’re making them aware of it!  But it is usually best to wait till they’re not in the middle of it.  Just like you don’t want to get in the middle of a dog fight if you can ever avoid it – you might get accidentally bitten!

–       A Screaming Match – This is when it’s a real fight but no one is physically doing anything they shouldn’t.  This is very upsetting, and you’re probably right to feel that no one’s paying attention (at that moment) to you and how you’re feeling.  The most important thing is for you to be safe.  If your parents are calm people, maybe you can try to stop them fighting, and let them know how scary it is for you.  But with some parents, that won’t help, and the best thing is for you just to go into another room and shut the door, and let them yell it out.  Think of it like when they let you cry, it’s just got to get out of their systems.

–       A Physical Fight.  If you’re ever around grownups who get into a real physical fight, where they’re either hitting each other or throwing or breaking things, or even if just one of them is hitting the other one, your job is to GET SAFE!  Get away from the fight.  Go into another room, or, if even that’s not safe enough, go outside.  Do you have a neighbor who you can go to?  And if it’s really bad, you might even need to call 911 to get the police to come and break it up.  Remember, you are a kid.  It doesn’t make you weak to know that you’re not big enough to stop the fight.

Okay, that’s a lot to deal with, isn’t it!  Just one last thing.  I make Handsome mad sometimes.  And throughout history, kids have driven their parents up the wall ALWAYS!  But that doesn’t mean that your parents are fighting because of you.  No matter what you’ve done, their fighting is not your fault.  (It might be your fault that they’re mad, but think about it:  Why should what you do make them mad at each other?!)

So always remember, whether they’re just having an intelligent argument or if it’s a really big fight, your biggest job is to make sure you’re okay.  And deep down, that’s what they care the most about too – even if, at that moment, they’re not showing it.

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