The Latest in Anger Management for Teens
- hormones, which can cause mood swings and confused emotions;
- stress, because people under pressure are more likely to become angry;
- personality, because some people feel emotions more intensely or act impulsively; or
- environment, which means that your child’s role models (perhaps, you?) are quick to lose their temper.
Regardless of the cause, everyone gets angry sometimes. Anger is a normal emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling mad. What is important is how we handle our anger. Teens must learn methods for controlling their behavior when they see red.
The Effects of Poor Anger Management
Even for young people, not dealing with angry feelings can actually put stress on their body, which can lead to medical problems such as increased illness, high blood pressure, chronic back pain, and stomach aches. It can also increase their risk for developing depression, drug addiction, and eating problems. Teenagers who have trouble managing their anger often have fewer friends, behave in more negative ways, and receive lower grades in school.
A Five-Step Approach to Managing Anger
Teach your child this step-by-step approach to managing their anger. It’s also a great method for problem-solving, another important life skill your teen should master before they enter the adult world. Tell your teen that if something happens that makes them feel angry, this approach can help them manage their reaction:
1) Identify the problem. Notice what you are feeling and thinking, and determine why. What exactly is making you angry? Pay attention to what upsets you by noticing how your body feels when you are angry. Sometimes people are first aware of experiencing anger through their bodies rather than their thoughts or feelings. You may feel like your heart is racing, you might be breathing faster, your muscles may tighten, or you could feel hot or sweaty. When you notice your body beginning to react, it’s time to slow down and identify the feeling before reacting. Put into words what’s making you upset so you can act rather than react.
2) Think of potential solutions before responding. Think before you act. This is where you stop for a minute to give yourself time to manage your anger. It’s also where you start thinking of how you might react — but without reacting yet. Think of at least three things you could do (even if they’re not all the best solutions). Remember, there are many ways to look at the same situation.
3) Consider the consequences of each solution. This is where you think about what is likely to result from each of the different reactions you came up with. Realize that how you behave affects not only you but also those you love and others around you.
4) Make a decision. This is where you take action by choosing one of the three things you could do. Having considered the consequences of each of your potential solutions, pick the one that is likely to be most effective. Once you choose your solution, then it’s time to act.
5) Check your progress. After you’ve acted and the situation is over, spend some time thinking about how it went. Consider whether things worked out as you expected them to and whether you’re satisfied with the choice you made.
These five steps are pretty simple when you’re calm, but are much tougher to work through when you’re angry, so it will take lots of practice.
Other Ways to Manage Anger
The five-step approach is a good method for controlling your anger when you are confronted with a particular situation and need to find a course of action. But, what if you simply need to shift into a better mood? Sometimes when you’re angry, you just need to stop dwelling on how mad you are. There are definitely some techniques for reducing tension, and not all of them will work for every person. Here is a list of possible ways to share with your teen to help them relax:
- Exercise. Get that anger out by taking a long walk or run, work out at the gym, do yoga, or play a sport. Exercise stimulates the release of a chemical in the brain called “endorphins” that make us feel more relaxed and calm.
- Listen to music. Music has also been shown to change a person’s mood pretty quickly. Try dancing, too, to get the benefits of exercise at the same time!
- Write down your thoughts and emotions. Writing down your feelings can improve how you feel. It doesn’t matter if you write in a journal, or as poetry, or as song lyrics, and it doesn’t matter whether you keep it or throw it away. When you notice, label, and release feelings, you are gaining self awareness and preventing the anger from building up.
- Draw. Scribbling, painting, doodling, or sketching your thoughts or feelings might help too, or it can just make you feel happy.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Take slow deep breaths. Close your eyes and think about a person, place, or thing that makes you feel calm. Repeat a calming word or sentence. These techniques work best if you do them regularly, which will help prevent anger from building up.
- Avoid your triggers. If there are certain things that you know bother you, you can make decisions about how to manage these triggers. Sometimes you can avoid them. Sometimes your triggers may not be avoidable and then it’s up to you to be prepared with strategies that will help you stay in better control. Having a plan ahead of time will often be enough to prevent a meltdown.
- Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Venting our frustration or talking about the other emotions beneath the anger (such as fear or sadness) can often help. Reacting in anger often causes the reasoning center of the brain to shut off for a time and the way you can turn it back on is to talk rather than act out when anger takes hold. Taking a few minutes to gather your thoughts and speaking them out loud to someone you trust can do wonders to diffuse an angry situation.
Parents can remind their teens that controlling their temper will be hard at first. Anger is a strong emotion, and it can feel overwhelming at times. Learning how to deal with strong emotions takes effort, practice, and patience, but you can get there. They will make mistakes and parents should encourage their teens to not be too hard on themselves, but take responsibility for how they acted and how it affected other people. Remind them that “I’m sorry” is a powerful phrase that can help do damage control.
If you feel like your child’s anger is out of control and/or if you ever feel afraid of your teen, you must get your child professional help – for your sake as well as their own. Their anger may be a sign of something else going on, such as depression. Contact a counselor, therapist or doctor who will be able to refer you to the right people. There are lots of anger management support groups throughout the country. Contact your local school or public health agency to find out what groups are available in your area. Remember that getting angry is normal; letting anger get the best of you is not.