Does my mom need help?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 15 years old. I have two older sisters and we all find ourselves getting frustrated with our mom often. I know this is common with kids and their parents but I feel like my relationship with my mom is different. She sits around all day and yells at us from across the house whenever she needs something done even if it is something as little as getting the remote that fell on the floor a few feet away from her. She gets angry fast like if you don’t do something fast enough or if you say no to her. When we try to talk about something important she doesn’t listen at all and just starts yelling. For example, my oldest sister was talking to her about paying for college and my mom just started yelling and swearing at her. Her most often outrages are on days we all clean together. She starts yelling and saying we did something wrong and sometimes even hits us. Usually it’s me she goes after if she tries to hurt one of us. Then she goes on her computer while we finish cleaning. The next day she just acts as though nothing happened. She also makes herself believe we’re not thankful for the things she does for us and doesn’t believe us when we say we are. Is it stress that causes her to act like this or could there be something else?

My sisters are both leaving home this year and I’m scared to be left in a house alone with her because I’m not going to have anyone to protect me anymore if she does get angry again and tries to hurt me. I don’t want to leave to live with my dad because I also have a little sister and I don’t want her to go through the same thing my sisters and I have. Is there some way I can help my mom so this stops happening?

A: Your mother may not know it or show it, but she is lucky to have such a caring daughter as you. Instead of just getting angry, you are concerned. Me too. It’s possible that your mother is depressed. Yes, I know. Most people think of depression as sad. But some people get irritable and easily set off. It doesn’t sound like there is much that gives your mother satisfaction — even having 4 daughters who are growing up and doing well. My guess is that she is overwhelmed and unable to acknowledge that something is terribly wrong.

You mention a dad but you didn’t talk about whether you have approached him about the situation. You’re right that your younger sister needs protection. So do you. Could you and all your sisters confide in your dad? Perhaps he could talk to your mother about getting some help. Maybe he could offer that both you and your younger sister could stay with him to give your mother a break.

If your dad isn’t someone you trust to help you, please think hard about whether there is another adult who might help your family. Do you have a grandparent or another relative you could ask to help your mom? How about the school guidance counselor?

No kid should feel unsafe in her own home. No kid should feel responsible for the safety of a younger sibling when it’s all she can do to take care of herself. I’m very glad you wrote. Now please follow up and get someone involved who can offer you support and practical help.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Does my mom need help?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/29/does-my-mom-need-help/