What I Want for Christmas Are Parents That Don’t Fight

What I Want for Christmas Are Parents That Don’t Fight

Dear Developmental Doc:
I’m not sure if it’s weird for you to get a letter from a kid instead of a grown-up, but my Mom always reads your column, so I figured maybe you could help. I’m 14 years old and I’m fine. I mean, I have an older brother and a younger brother and they both have special needs, but I’m not autistic. My problem, believe it or not, are not my brothers. They’re really sweet and usually I don’t mind being everybody’s big sister. The problem is that my parents fight about my brothers all the time. They can’t agree on how to take care of them, what to feed them, which doctor should be in charge. In fact, I don’t think they know how to talk to each other without arguing. This is NOT normal! Most times, I feel like running out of my house because the noise that my parents make really hurts my ears (that’s where my brothers and I are a lot alike-they hate the noise too). I don’t know what to do except that I feel like crying all the time.
Please help, Sara P., Los Angeles, CA.

Dear Sara,    
You are a very special person for having the courage to share your story with me. It sounds like its pretty tough in your house. Having special needs children is never easy, and I’m guessing that your folks feel pretty overwhelmed by the fact that both of your brothers are autistic. Sometimes when parents are very stressed they are unable to hear concerns that they would normally be able to respond to pretty easily. I am wondering, since you said that your mother reads my column monthly, if you would feel comfortable letting her know that you wrote to me? Alternatively, I am thinking that there might be someone special at school, a  teacher who you like or the school counselor that you can share this story with and see if your parents might be able to listen to your thoughts and concerns a little more closely if another grown-up is there helping them to hear you. This might also help your parents get some of their own help to figure out the best options to help both of your brothers.

The most important thing to know is that your feelings are valid and that you’re right, it’s not o.k. for kids (or adults) to be growing up in a house where there is constant arguing, even if the circumstances makes life tough. It hurts more than your ears. I am hearing that all of this tension is hurting your heart. Please know that there are people out there who care and, again, I’m really glad that you reached out.

Esther B. Hess, Ph.D. is a developmental psychologist and executive director of a multidisciplinary treatment facility in West Los Angeles, Center for the Developing Mind. To contact Dr. Hess, please visit her website at www.centerforthedevelopingmind.com.

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