Dear Barb—Grown Up Too Soon

Children don't have to be abused to suffer the effects of family violence.

Dear Barb:

I am the oldest of three. My parents have a terrible relationship; they drink excessively and argue constantly.  I worry about my two little sisters. I don’t know how they are going to be able to maintain any kind of a relationship having my parents as their role models. I have had a few relationships, but I don’t know how to resolve conflict, I either yell at my partner, or walk away. Nothing ever gets resolved. I have tried talking to my parents about their fighting and drinking, but they say I’m overreacting. They say everyone has a relationship like them. They do not see anything dysfunctional between them. I personally think they are both alcoholics. Most of the fights start after a night of drinking. I have had to call the police a couple of times to stop the fighting and my parents freaked out on me for doing that. My dad broke my mom’s arm once and I went to the emergency with her and she told them she fell down the stairs. I could tell they didn’t believe her. I even tried to get my parents to separate, believing some time apart might help them see how sick they both are. I really want to find a way to help my little sisters; do you know of any programs that I could get them into before it’s too late? Thanks, Gena.

Hi Gena:

You have had to grow up far too soon. You are so brave and mature, having to get through such a difficult childhood. Your siblings are lucky to have you to care for them and show them some sort of role model. Children who grow up in homes where violence is present suffer as much as if the violence was directed towards them.  The results of family violence can include emotional, behavioural and developmental problems within the child. Your parents may believe that you and your sisters are not impacted by the violence, because the violence is not directed at you, but that is not the case.  Children who grow up in these types of homes suffer from feelings of self blame, shame and guilt. They may also experience sadness, separation anxiety, fear of strangers, and not being able to trust people. You are right in trying to get some help for your young siblings and for yourself as well. There are many places you and your siblings can go for help. Begin with your family doctor, he or she will be able to direct you to the child and family services in your area. You can also contact your local Alanon chapter, they offer weekly support groups for people living with alcoholics. Through these agencies you will be able to access other support groups and counselors. Don’t forget the Kid’s Help Line at 1-800-668-6868, it’s free and can give support options local to your area.  I’m pretty sure you and your sisters will be able to get through this with you at the helm. Thanks for your letter Gena.