Anger is a natural, healthy emotion. And like all emotions, anger needs to be expressed — the key is learning to express it appropriately.
It’s important for adolescents to understand that anger is normal and is felt by everyone. Anger is also powerful, in part because it is fueled by adrenaline. That’s why anger can be frightening.
Anger left unexpressed may bubble over into a rage that can have tragic consequences. When kids or adults feel anger, it's time to step back, take a deep breath, and engage self-control. Here are some specific tools that can help.
Be a good example. Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. If you yell, hit or throw things when you’re mad, your son or daughter will follow suit. When they are teens, this type of response can become dangerous.
Recognize the signs. Help teens recognize the physical signs their body gives them, like a pounding heart, flushed face or a tightening of the muscles. When they feel that way, it’s a good practice to take a moment to calm down. The tried and true “count to 10” is one simple way to take a moment and breathe instead of lashing out.
Tune in to feelings. Get kids to note what makes them angry and why. It’s not enough to say, “It’s unfair.” Instead they should take the time to try and understand what specifically is unfair and why that makes them angry. The heat of the moment may not be the best time to have this discussion. After a cooling-off period, help teens look back over the situation so they can better understand their reaction and be more prepared next time.
Practice damage control. Once the anger trigger has been identified, help your child choose the solution that provides the most benefit with the least damage.
Try healthy stress relief. Help teens work out their anger in healthy ways like a fun pillow fight or a walk. Music can also be a very important stress-reliever for teens.
Call for help. Some problems are just too big for anyone to handle alone. Teach kids it’s OK to ask for support and help if they can’t resolve what makes them angry.
Let them know it’s OK. Tell your teen that everyone gets angry — including you! Talk about a time when you were angry and anger management helped you successfully resolve the problem in a positive way.
If your teen is getting into physical fights, often argues heatedly with no resolution, seems always angry, holds onto grudges or “gets back” at people, consider seeking professional help. Most counselors, including those at Youth Eastside Services, are equipped to teach effective anger management for parents and kids.
Patti Skelton-McGougan is Executive Director of Youth Eastside Services (YES). YES is a nonprofit organization and a leading provider of youth counseling and substance abuse services in the region. Since 1968, YES has been a lifeline for kids and families, offering treatment, education and prevention services to help youth become healthy, confident and self-reliant and families to be strong, supportive and loving. While YES accepts insurance, Medicaid and offers a sliding-fee schedule, no one is turned away for inability to pay. For more information, visit YouthEastsideServices.org