Teenagers have a lot to be angry about but they are among the worst at expressing it. Adolescence is a confusing time as teenagers learn to manage physical and mental changes, growing responsibilities, and social pressure all while figuring out who they are and how they fit in. Teenagers express their anger in different ways. As a parent, you know when you teenager is upset. Some explode for all to see and hear while others keep to themselves and shut everyone out. Regardless of how they express anger, it can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience for both teenagers and parents. For parents, it can be difficult to handle your teenager’s anger, especially if it is directed at you. So what can you do to help your teen manage their anger?
1. Acknowledge their emotions:
Acknowledge your teen’s anger without pointing fingers or making them feel guilty. Assure your teenager that getting angry is a normal part of life and share with them what makes you angry. Something silly such as, “I get soooo angry when the neighbors let the newspapers pile up in their front yard!” can set the tone for a more comfortable conversation. Explain to your teenager that part of controlling and understanding your anger is to realize when it is happening and that it’s OK to talk about it. Don’t fall into the trap of judging their anger as something bad. That’s likely to make your teen shut down on you. Remember it’s not the anger that’s bad; it’s violent or aggressive actions and words.
Anger can also be thought of as a secondary emotion. This means that usually we feel something else first, like hurt, betrayal or humiliation, which can quickly turn into anger. Try to find out what may be beneath the obvious anger. If you can acknowledge and talk about the emotion that’s underneath the anger the angry symptoms may become unnecessary.
2. Be the adult:
If your teenager is angry at you or is taking out their anger on you, it is important to remain the adult. What does this mean? It means not sinking to your teen’s emotional level and not responding to their anger with anger. This can be easier said than done but try changing your mindset about your teenager’s emotions. Instead of approaching the situation by thinking that your teen is behaving like an unreasonable brat try staying calm and instead think, “It is normal for teenagers to overreact to situations and get mad at their parents. This isn’t personal.” Acknowledge their anger and try to deescalate the situation by giving them what they need. Some teenagers need some time alone, others need to just get it all out before calming down, some want someone to just listen to them without talking and others may need to sleep it off. Remind yourself that they are being normal teenagers and they’ll get past it.
3. Give them a way out:
Sometimes teenagers take it too far and they know it. During a fit of rage they say something they know they shouldn’t have said or do something they instantly regret. In these moments, avoid the temptation of responding with raw emotion and instead use it to defuse the situation. Responding with punishment, scolding, or lecturing may make your teen feel as if they’ve crossed a point of no return and keep going. Try calming looking at them and staying silent for a little while to give your teenager a moment to process what they just did. Give them an opportunity to back down without shame and you’ll be surprised how many times they do.
4. Be a role model:
Kids have a funny way of growing up to be just like their parents. If you let your anger get the best of you and let little things build up before exploding with anger then don’t be surprised when your teenager handles his/her anger the same way. If this a problem for you, buy an anger management book, learn some techniques, or speak to a mental health professional about keeping you anger in control.
Parents can sometimes see this as admitting weakness in front of their teenagers and feel like it would undermine their authority but in reality it is very healthy for a teenager to see their parents be honest about their normal human weaknesses and do something positive to improve them. Lead by example and your teen will notice.
If you teenager’s anger is unpredictable, frequent, and sometimes unexplainable there may be other underlying issues at play. Irritability, anger, and social withdrawal are all signs of depression and anxiety. Ask them why they have been so angry? If your teenager is unwilling to talk about what is behind all his/her anger do some investigating. Perhaps the best thing you can do is ask their teachers if their behavior has changed in the classroom. How have they been interacting with others at school? Are they aware of something that may have happened that would explain this anger? Have they been getting lower grades? Have they been bullied or embarrassed socially? If you feel like you’re getting nowhere consider taking your teenager to a therapist. The therapist should be able to shed new light on the problem and help you to understand what’s going on.
By Miguel Brown