Annie's Mailbox: Teen frightened of abusive father

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 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. What should I do?

— 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 1-800-799-SAFE (ndvh.org) and ask for assistance. Please don’t wait.

Dear Annie: Six of my old college friends (along with husbands) met at our country club for lunch.

It had been many years since we were together, and some of us had never met the others’ husbands. However, the men were gracious and sat at one end of the table so “the ladies” could catch up.

One of the husbands is a minister. As the waitress was serving us, this man announced that he would be happy to “bless the meal.” We put down our cutlery and sat quietly while he prayed.

Was it inappropriate for him to impose his level of religion on all of us? He had no idea if any of us was a practicing Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist.

No one asked him to say a blessing. Nonetheless, we complied with his “order” rather than making a scene. How should this have been handled?

— Los Angeles

Dear L.A.: You handled it perfectly. Instead of making an announcement, the minister should have asked if it was OK to bless the meal. But there wasn’t much you could do after the fact. You behaved with polite courtesy, allowing him to observe his beliefs while you sat quietly and waited until he was finished.

We assume the blessing was nondenominational, but if not, please inform the man’s wife that the blessing was inappropriate and potentially offensive for some.

Dear Annie: I’d like to address your response to “Scared,” the young girl with a friend who cuts. As an ex-cutter, I’m glad you told this girl to continue to be a support for her friend. But I’m not sure suggesting she get some exercise will help.

Although I understand it releases endorphins, this comment could further lower her self-esteem by making her think she needs to lose weight.

Here are a couple of tricks that I found effective to stop cutting:

snapping a rubber band around her wrist when she has the desire to cut, and squeezing ice in her palm until it numbs. Obviously, it is important to keep away from cutting tools and other triggers. Hope this advice helps. This girl certainly isn’t alone.

— Prior Cutter

Dear Prior: Thanks for the additional suggestions. We know our readers appreciate them.

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