Stop calling, Dad!

My dad is depressed and calls me more than four times a day. How can I make him stop? It’s time to act like the adult in this relationship, says our elder. Help him to get help.

Dear EWC

My father and mother divorced when I was in 6th grade. I am 19 now and live with my mom and work full time. My father has made mistakes in the past and some of my siblings have cut him off or don’t speak to him much. He makes it a habit to call me two, three, or even four-plus times a day. If he sees I’m active on Facebook, he will call me, even if it’s midnight or later. My mother gets angry because he is always asking lots of questions about her and her new boyfriend and what they are doing, or he needs to know specific details of my everyday life. It gets to be too much sometimes and I’ve tried gently addressing this with him, saying I can’t answer four calls a day, etc. He just says, “It’s because I’m lonely and depressed and have nobody but you guys.” I’d like to feel bad but a lot of the time it’s just obsessive, almost. When I went away to college for a year after high school my mom didn’t even call me once a day sometimes. I just don’t know how to address this with him so he gets the point. My mom has suggested blocking his number so he can’t call me so much but that seems too harsh. I really need some advice on how to handle this situation.

Tutu-Debbie replies

There are very few answers to the question of what you should do. I can only think of two. One is to follow your mother’s advice and block his number. But instead of doing it all the time, I would suggest only doing it once a day after the first call and unblocking it the next day. I would suggest you tell him you are going to do this because you do not want to talk to him more than once a day. I would also tell him you will not talk to him but will end the call if he asks you about your mother, or her boyfriend, or too much personal about your life. In other words, if he asks you about something you don’t want to share with him, tell him you don’t want to discuss it and move on to another subject. If he insists, end the call.

This will not be easy. It is difficult to be the adult with your own parent, but that is the position he is putting you in. It is for your mental health as well as his.

Mental health is the second suggestion. Your dad is allowing himself to wallow in his current situation and may need some counseling to help him see his way out of it. You can suggest this to him. If he doesn’t know where to turn, you can advise him to try:

Mental Health America (resources for finding treatment)

There is nothing wrong with needing a little help after the end of a relationship, especially a long one. If he is hesitant, I would suggest you tell him it would help you for him to find another outlet for his problems, and that as much as you love him, you cannot be his sounding board and his daughter. This may help him see why this would help.

Sometimes there is no other answer than to act like the adult when the adult won’t. Good luck to you!

Letter #: 414375
Category: Family

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