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Parent’s fighting upsets kids

Posted: August 31, 2012 9:04 a.m.
Updated: August 31, 2012 9:04 a.m.

Dear Annie: We are three daughters who need help. Our parents’ home seems unhappy and full of bitterness. Mom and Dad have been married for 59 years, but Mom doesn’t seem to enjoy life. Dad is not perfect, but we really don’t know their past personal stories and relationship. They seem to have led separate lives: Mom at home with six kids to raise, and Dad working long hours at his business.

Since Dad’s retirement, they have settled into a routine of doctor appointments and staying home. Dad no longer wants to do anything, because Mom is constantly telling him that he doesn’t do things correctly. He embarrasses her. Dad has no interest in going places due to his health issues, and Mom doesn’t want him driving much or staying home alone.

The constant nagging has created an unhealthy environment. It is difficult to visit because we don’t like to see and hear them like this. We have sat down with them to discuss the situation and offered suggestions, but there has been neither change nor resolution. Counseling is not an option, as Mom seems overly concerned with what others know about her or will think of her. Dad doesn't seem to be concerned about anything.

We don’t want to become the kind of kids who stop seeing their parents. Any suggestions? -- The Girls

Dear Girls:

We recommend you find ways to get them out of the house, together or separately. Take them out for dinner. Invite Mom to a play. Encourage Dad to attend a ballgame with you. Look into senior programs in their area, and perhaps offer to go with them until they become interested enough to go on their own and, hopefully, make friends. Please don’t give up on them. They need you.

Dear Annie:

When I confront her about this, she gets mad and sends me to my room. I think she wants me to be holed up in there so I’ll see how messy it is. But I don’t. Does she have OCD? How would I know? Help me. -- My Room Is Clean

Dear Room:

Dear Annie:

I would like to mention No Kidding (nokidding.net), an international "social club" for adults, single or married, who never have parented and don’t wish to. Not everyone wants kids, and many of us are surrounded by others constantly trying to change our minds. No Kidding is not a dating site. It’s just a place for people without kids to meet like-minded others. -- California

This is in response to "Single Too Long," the 45-year-old gentleman who is having problems meeting women who have never been married and don’t have children.
If your mom is only concerned with the mess in your room, it's probably not OCD. It’s more likely that your room is a little messy. Mom sounds stressed. If you find yourself arguing with her a lot, please consider that the two of you may be pushing each other's buttons more than you intend. Try talking to her when you are both calm. Explain that you don’t want to fight. Ask how to make things better. If it doesn’t help, please discuss it with your school counselor.
I’m 13 and live with my mom. She always overreacts when my room is not absolutely spotless, which leaves me wondering whether she has OCD. She doesn’t seem to care that the rest of the house is a mess. She seems to magnify the messiness of my room only.
When couples retire, they can fall into the trap of doing nothing and getting on each other’s nerves. Mom resents Dad invading her domestic domain, and Dad is depressed because his identity was tied up in his job. And if they have health issues, it can exacerbate the problem because getting out of the house can be problematic or exhausting. It’s a shame your parents won't address their problems, particularly if they are depressed.

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