Dear Rachel: My Family Won’t Stop Fighting
Recently, my family has been going downhill. My mom has been smoking and it scares my dad, sister, and me. If I try to confront my mom, she’ll get angry and smoke even more. My sister has been yelling and not doing very much work. We’ve been having fights and everyone’s been arguing. What should I do about my family?
Seeing a little vulnerability in your parents is fine, but having parents be out of control is truly scary. Part of their job—when you’re a kid, anyway—is to try to act like things are cool even when they’re not.
Knowing that your parents are okay makes you feel secure in the world.
Let’s face it: you have limited control over what your parents do. I have two suggestions for you. First, go lose yourself in some killer books. Here’s a list of the top 100 teen books ever. You need an escape. You can read about other girls’ experiences there, which may comfort you. Or throw yourself into something you love doing, like knitting, basketball, baking, whatevs. Keep yourself busy, and do the things that make you feel happy. If all else fails, you’ll need to binge-watch a really good TV show. During my last breakup that was Alias.
Second piece of advice: go talk to your parents and sister. Tell them how you feel. Instead of telling your mom how bad smoking is for her, share the feelings you have when she does it (I know this firsthand, because I have a mom who smoked). Say you’re scared. Anxious. Panicked. Worried. She’ll be moved to action more by the thought of protecting you than herself. Write a letter to her or tell her directly.
As for your sister, consider doing the same. Look her in the eye, tell her you love her, say you want to improve your relationship and share your feelings about what’s happening. Don’t accuse her—say it’s something you both need to deal with. If you have some contributions to the fights, own them (that’s classy and makes the other person more open to resolving the conflict). Ask her if you can work on the way you communicate.
Since I don’t know your family I have no idea how this’ll go. But you have to try. Good luck, dude.
This post originally appeared on teenvogue.com