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by Abigail Van Buren

No Reason to Go It Alone When Times Are Tough

DEAR ABBY: My father has been short-tempered for as long as I can remember. He never beat us, but he spanked us plenty as a means of discipline when we were growing up. Now this anger is random; he makes every family event a nightmare for anyone involved. He insists on planning events at their home, and screams and degrades any of us "kids" (and Mom) if we do something other than his way.

Shortly after my sister's divorce a few years ago, my father met with our priest to discuss his anger issues, but it didn't change anything. We've suggested anger management or counseling, but he tells us we're "overreacting" and blames my sister's drama as an excuse for his behavior.

I am expecting my first child, and my husband and I are afraid of the effect Dad's behavior will have on our little one. My sister's children are all afraid of my father. While they respect him, they constantly worry about when the next blowup will happen. I don't want to cut anyone out of my life, but how can I deal with this? -- EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED IN OHIO

DEAR EXHAUSTED: You and your siblings are no longer children who have to obey your volatile father. If he uses the excuse that you (all) are in his home to imply that his behavior is acceptable, then you and the sibs should host family gatherings in your own homes, where your rules take precedence.

It's sad that your father didn't take his anger issues to a licensed psychotherapist, who could have helped him understand what causes them and given him tools to manage them. But since he didn't, you must accept that your first responsibility will be to your child -- specifically to protect him or her from your father's explosive outbursts.