DEAR ABBY: I'm 18 years old. I play two competitive sports, maintain a 4.0 GPA, have good friends and will be attending the college of my dreams. Yet for some reason I cannot get along with my parents.
It seems like I can't live up to their standards. We get into huge fights every day over insignificant things. My parents continually tell me they don't think I will handle college very well because I "can't get along with people." But their lack of faith just frustrates me and we get into more fights.
In reality, the only people I don't get along with are my parents. This is unsettling to me because next fall I will be across the country from them and I feel they will be happy that I'm gone. I'm at a loss as to what to do to control my temper and fix my relationship with my parents before I leave. Your advice would be appreciated. -- CLIMBING THE WALLS IN CLEVELAND
DEAR CLIMBING THE WALLS: It's possible that your parents may be suffering from separation anxiety. You, their child, are about to leave the nest, and they may be dealing with conflicting feelings of pride in your accomplishments and sadness that you are about to fly from the nest. It may not be a lack of faith in you. Also, they may be having second thoughts about how they can afford the tuition and other college expenses beyond possible financial aid.
Whatever their reasons are, you need some tools to help you stay calm and not fly off the handle when your buttons are pushed -- regardless of who is pressing them. In my booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It," I offer suggestions that will help you gain control of your emotions so that you will lose your temper less often. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. Anger is a normal emotion. There are probably no human beings who don't experience anger at one time or another. However, it's important that you learn some techniques to handle your emotional reactions more constructively than you have been. Not only will these techniques help you with your parents now, but also they will help you when you're away at college adjusting to new people and new situations.
Remember, the average person may become irritated, angry or frustrated several times a day. The key is to deal with these emotions effectively. Talk to your parents about your feelings and explore what's going on. By focusing on what is triggering your negative emotions instead of reacting with an outburst, you can not only defuse your anger but also retain your dignity, and possibly achieve a more informed understanding of how your parents may really feel. I hope that the outcome will be a rapprochement with your parents.