This is a scary time for everyone.
Our elder has some advice for a letter writer who just had a fight with his dad.
I’m 19 and living with my parents and my relationship with my pops has been crap since I was in 12. I never was a perfect kid but I never got into any legal trouble and didn’t try to worry him too much but still got a lot of verbal and emotional abuse. Tonight was a boiling point. He got pissed that I moved his slippers and one of them kinda flew and went on a tangent. A couple hours after that I left and went to my room to not hear his yelling and closed my door 75% of the way. He told me how he didn’t want it closed like that. He kicked the door in and unhinged the door and told me that I disappointed him and had not met his expectations. So this was the first time I let it all out and went on a yelling spree for a couple minutes and I might have punched a hole in the wall. He saw that and took everything I kinda use in the house: clothes, toothpastes, basically anything I use and threw it on the floor. Basically I don’t know what exactly I’m supposed to do. I’m a college student right now and honestly at this point, I don’t know what to do. My grades suck and I’m not working at the moment and I think I might do something even worse later if I stay in this house. Any advice would be great.
Living at home gets to be a challenge for most of us once we get out of high school. By the age of 19 or 20, you start wanting some independence. You don’t want to be told what to do. You would like to be able to come and go as you please. You want to be able to start living your own life. Yet, if you are going to college and working towards a degree, it would be very hard to be on your own. I know that you realize this. So the thing to do is try to find ways to defuse the situation at home and keep the peace as much as possible. Not always easy and sometimes pretty hard. But right now, you need to find the strength and determination to do this.
In the middle of this pandemic, nothing is normal. Everyone’s lives are kind of in limbo. We are all trying to adjust each day. This is a very, very weird and scary time for everyone. Your dad is no exception. I am not trying to excuse his behavior. If you have had a rough relationship with your father for a number of years, the current situation is undoubtedly making things that much worse. So be aware of that. But also be aware that your dad may be struggling with issues (financial, job-security, health, uncertainty about the future) that you do not know anything about.
I know this is a difficult thing for you to hear, but for now you are kind of stuck in your parent’s home. So you have a choice here. You can keep feeling resentment about the way things are or you can try turning that negative energy around. You can think about how to use your energy to do positive things for yourself in spite of your living situation. This is gonna take a lot of strength and determination. Just know that going in.
The first thing I would suggest is that you give your college studies first priority in your life. I am sure it is challenging now with having to do everything online, but that cannot be helped. Still, sometimes the only thing you can do is, “do the next right thing”. For you, right now, that next right thing is to focus on your academics. Cause that is the thing that will help you most in the long run.
You may want to try setting up a daily schedule. Block out specific time for academics, workout time, maybe some time to help with household stuff. Schedule in some definite free time. Then try your best to adhere to this schedule. Refine the schedule as you see fit, but make sure you have the right amount of academic time scheduled. Don’t shortcut there, as that is your first priority.
The most important thing is to be consistent. Get up every day with the intention to follow your schedule. If you mess up, tell yourself you will start fresh tomorrow. And then do that. Show up every day.
There may be a number of reasons for the tension in your household right now. But you don’t have to be a victim here. You can make a choice about how much you react to your dad’s outbursts. It is going to take a huge amount of self control, but you need to not get sucked into the craziness. Don’t let yourself get pushed to the point where you want to punch a wall.
The way that your father is treating you is not fair, but you need to find a way to get past that. And you may have to be the one that forces some discussion with your dad about what is going on with him. Clearly he has issues with you. So find a way to understand his issues. Get him to talk about the things that are causing him so much anxiety. If you are not meeting his expectations, ask him to give you some specifics. You cannot change your behavior unless you understand the problems. But you need to get some threads of conversations going and keep building on that.
Family life right now is very challenging. Not being able to get out and let off steam and see other people is tough emotionally for everyone. Talk to your dad. Offer to help more and find ways to let him know you are making a bigger effort. Be honest with your dad about your own feelings too. Communication can only work on a two-way street.
I wish you good luck and take care of yourself.
Letter #: 458493