Advice: Dad says: “I’m leaving”……

Mum and dad don’t normally fight but the other night they had a massive argument. It woke me up when I was asleep. Dad was shouting at mum. He said he’d had enough and was going to leave. They haven’t said anything to me about it, but now I can’t stop worrying about what I heard and them getting divorced. I’m so stressed out and don’t know what to do.

K.G, 14. Perth, WA.
Our psychologist says: Sometimes when people are fired up in an argument, they say things they don’t necessarily mean. Even though your dad threatened to leave your mum, it’s possible this isn’t actually going to happen. It may have just been his ‘frustration’ talking and the words came out in the heat of the moment. On the other hand, maybe there have been tensions brewing behind the scenes in your parents’ relationship. Perhaps until recently they’ve managed to keep these hidden, but now they’ve reached a point where they’re considering separating. For you, the ‘not knowing’ is causing you to jump to conclusions (“mum and dad are divorcing!”). Dwelling on “what if they break up?”, is stressing you out. To help manage your anxiety you need to know what you’re actually dealing with…in other words, you need the ‘facts’. Talk to your parents (either together or individually). Let them know you overheard their fight. Explain how worried you’ve felt that separation may be on the cards. Ask what’s going on. By raising the issue, you’ll give them the opportunity to open up about their argument and talk about the future. If your dad’s “I’m leaving” threat really was just a line that came out in anger, then by revealing your reaction you may provide him with a bit of a wake-up call. Hopefully, it’ll encourage him to think more carefully about how he deals with disagreements and be more aware of the impact his words can have on others. Alternatively, if your ‘parent chat’ uncovers they are on the path to break up, it will be a big blow. At least however, it will give you a chance to ask more questions, get a better idea of what’s happening and start planning together how you’ll all get through it.

Over to you:  Our psychologist has given her suggestions, but what do you think? Have you ever been unsure about something you overheard? How did you get a clearer picture of what was actually going on?  What might help K.G?


image credit: David Castillo Dominici at 

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