DEAR ABBY: You are my last hope. I grew up in a very abusive family. Every day was a nightmare. I remember saying as a child that I would never hit my children.
My worst fears have come true. I abuse my 5-year-old son. I try not to. He means everything to me. I love my son so much and don't want to hurt him, but I can't seem to help myself.
I pray every day for help and for forgiveness. I turned out exactly like my parents. I'm desperate and full of guilt. Abby, how can I stop abusing my precious son? I'm a single mom and can't afford a counselor. -- DESPERATE IN TEXAS
DEAR DESPERATE: The fact that you're asking for help tells me you did not turn out exactly like your parents. Many parents feel as you do, but few have the courage to admit it.
When you feel like lashing out at your son, remember to get hold of yourself before you take hold of your child. Stop in your tracks and turn away from him. Put your hands over your mouth and count to 20, or splash cold water on your face. Close your eyes and imagine that you are feeling exactly what your son is feeling. Pick up the phone and call someone -– anyone -– even if it is the prerecorded weather.
The National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse is a non-profit organization that has support groups for parents like you who are frightened by their own violent behavior. To find a group in your area, write NCPCA, P.O. Box 2866, Chicago, Ill. 60690, or phone 1-800-556-2722.
Please write again in six months and let me know how you are and how to reach you. I care.