Does your child’s alarm clock turn a wakeup call into a moody battle because he doesn’t see the point when he’s not going to school or camp due to COVID restrictions? Does your teen drop all his clothes on the floor, so you can’t walk through his room? Or, do you feel like your teen is freezing you out with glare in his eyes when he knocks on your office door and can’t quite grasp you’re really at work even though you’re home and aren’t available for whatever he wants?
How do you help your child or teen begin to understand anger and well, have a relationship with that feeling now that at-home environments are changed and you and your kids are getting cabin fever. Being outside in the summer helps but not enough ‘cause they can’t have friends over and siblings relationships are wearing thin..
Helping Your Angry Child and Teen
It’s hard to cope with anger once it has grown into a hurricane with a tornado of powerful energy. How can parents respond without fighting back, so kids can think and reason while they simmer?
Become a Witness, Not a Participant
Slo-o-w Down. Never, no never, tell an angry person to calm down. It’s so irritating to hear! It’s so hard not to react immediately to provocations, but if you step back, observe, and become a witness instead of a participant, it’s amazing how you’ll see your child simmer down, too.
Find a Way to Introduce Language with a Metaphor
If you’ve been able to step back and witness, you may find the time to discover a metaphor that describes a way to discuss angry feelings: a stormy day, a wild tornado, a minefield of clothes, a cloudy mood. Use language that your child can connect to that describes anger without feeling criticized. When anger is called “the wave” or “the storm, it gives you and your child a way to talk about it without judgment.
Extend an Invitation to Your Child to Become Self-Observant.
In a quiet moment, hang out with your child without an agenda. Let him or her know that anger is like a wave that rises, peaks, and falls. Ask her if she ever noticed that she can tell when the wave is coming before the peak. Invite her to become tuned in to when this is happening and tell you if she wants, “Mommy, I’m feeling like the wave is going to peak. Help!”
Educate but Don’t Preach.
Anger often lurks below the surface before the explosion. Encourage your child to think back, moment by moment, as to what led it to surface. This way the unseen becomes seen. The unknown becomes knowable.
Use Your Feelings.
Parents can become attentive to how they feel inside of themselves while the anger is churning in their child. Without reacting, monitor your own emotions as a clue to what your child’s emotions might be like. You and your child are separate individuals but tuning into your feelings can guide you when you try to help your child understand hers. Can you feel your child’s tension rising inside of you? Don’t act on it, but become aware of how your body is feeling, what you feel like saying but are keeping to yourself, and an expression or gesture arising involuntarily. All of what’s happening to you is a clue to what might also be happening to your child. Or, not. Find out so your child can be surprised that you feel similar to how he feels, or he feels in different ways than you can conjure up. This leads to discussion. Discussion disarms anger. Now you and your child are talking ABOUT anger instead of displaying it. Fantastic!
Words Tame Emotions When There is No Blame.
Let your child know how ready you are to listen to his thoughts without any blame. Instead of rushing in with solutions, just be a sounding board. Blame is a killer. It’s a judgement that sinks in as criticism not understanding. Even if your child is angry at you, it’s best not to jump back with your angry voice because you may be surprised about what has incited their feelings. Ask, don’t tell your child what he feels and why if he might begin to figure it out. Again, now you’re in a discussion. Discussion disarms anger.
Listening Reduces the Feeling of Being Alone with Angry Feelings
Once your child feels you are on his or her side, they may be ready to see how anger has been turned outwards into behavior, expressions, or gestures or inwards into feelings, anxiety, moodiness, provocations, or retreat. Sometimes anger turned outwards is displayed by the messy room, the slammed door, the flung clothes onto the floor. These actions may be to prevent the feelings from turning inward into a feeling of gloom or rejection. Discuss these possibilities without judgment. Monitor when you feel angry, too. How do you display it or turn it inside to miserable feelings?
How Can Anger be a Benefit?
Anger isn’t bad or damaging when it becomes the key to understanding yourself or solving problems. Help your child discern the difference between anger that hurts and anger that leads to insight. Find a range of words to describe anger from mild annoyance, irritation, frustration, disappointment to fury, agitation, and rage. Teach your kids these various words so they can us this vocabulary to be more precise with themselves and you about what they’re experiencing.
Anger is a Feeling that Offers a Message and Can Build Parent-Child Bonds
Anger tips us off that something needs to be understood and addressed.
It’s a communication.
Anger can clear the air when it is comprehensible and mobilizes problem solving.
Greet your child’s anger. Don’t fight it.
Join your youngster and listen wisely as long as is needed.
If you’re too busy at the time, explain that and make an appointment to talk it out and definitely arrive on time at the designated private space.