Dear Annie: I am 15 years old and the youngest of four children. My father and mother have had bickering matches for as long as I can remember. Their fights sometimes get physical, but not enough to do real harm. My mother has constantly tried to improve my father’s personality and parenting skills. He doesn’t understand how to communicate with his family, specifically his children. Each conversation includes rude comments, sarcastic remarks and hurtful words. Well, now the physical stuff has been directed at us. His reason for attacking us was because we were defending my mother from his fists. The fact that he knocked her hand off the steering wheel while she was driving only makes it worse. Annie, my father does not act like this in front of his parents or his friends. To them, he is perfect. But when he comes home, the littlest mistake will set him off. I am tired of this constant fighting, and my mother has told me she wants to go to a counselor. She tried that several years ago, and Dad refused, saying he wasn’t the problem. My mother works long hours, and I am afraid she won’t divorce him because she doesn’t have the money. How do I make this better? – Terrified Teen
Dear Teen: Honey, if your father is hitting you or your mother, he is an abuser. It’s not simply an anger issue, because he is capable of controlling himself in front of others. Your mother should seek counseling without him, and she or you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (ndvh.org) and ask for assistance. Please don’t wait.