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Anger is a normal emotion. Young people may feel angry because they feel embarrassed, worried, disappointed, scared, upset or frustrated. Sometimes they feel frustrated because something happened in a way that they didn’t like, people didn’t act how they wanted them to, someone hurt them, rejected them or insulted them, someone made them feel unsafe, someone acted aggressively towards them or they felt misunderstood.
It is important that young people are allowed to feel angry, as long they express it in an acceptable way. Some acceptable ways that young people can express anger are:
- Taking a break
- Stopping and breathing
- Punching a pillow
- Hitting a balloon
- Stomping their feet
- Drawing or writing on paper what they are angry about and so they can rip it to pieces
- Counting to 10
- Walking away from the situation (if it is safe to do so)
Helping your children to express constructive anger
Here are some practical tips to assist you in teaching your children how to manage their anger.
- Have positive, clear and consistent rules. Within these rules you are informing your children about acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Praise your children when they are behaving well. This system helps children to feel safe and secure.
- Encourage your children to understand and express their needs, thoughts and feelings, even when those thoughts and feelings are difficult and negative.
- Model appropriate, constructive, angry behaviour. Talk with your children about how you feel and what you do to calm down. If you model inappropriate angry behaviour that is directed at your children, apologise to your children and talk with them about how people make mistakes, that mistakes are okay and that we can learn from our mistakes for next time.
- Stay calm and keep your children close when they feel angry. Help them to move through their feelings in a safe and constructive way. Once they calm down, talk about how they felt, why they felt that way, how they calmed down and what they could do differently next time.
- Help your children make a ‘Mad List’ of everything they can do while they are angry (e.g., dance it out, sing it out, etc.)
Anger can become problematic and negatively affect young people’s lives. You should be concerned about your children’s angry behaviour if they:
- Have been feeling angry for a long period of time
- Have been feeling anger that is out of proportion with the reasons for the angry feelings
- Express their anger in harmful ways (e.g., act aggressively, hit people, bite people, throw things, yell, withdraw, act defiantly, damage property, swear, etc.)
- Have been having trouble with their relationships with peers or adults because of their anger
- Have been having trouble coping at school because of their anger
Underlying concerns associated with anger
When young people express problematic anger, they often have concerns that aren’t being addressed or have needs that aren’t being met. In the table below we identify some concerns that could be underlying causes of your child’s anger. For more information on each of these concerns, please follow the links.
Assessment of anger
During your first session we meet with you and your child to conduct a clinical interview to discuss your child’s problematic anger and to identify any other underlying behavioural, emotional, social or educational concerns your child may have. Finally, we develop a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan to help your child and your family.
Treatment of anger
The aim of our treatment is to improve your children’s emotional understanding and regulation, reduce the harmful, problematic angry behaviours and improve your children’s functioning at school and home. We accomplish this by helping you to understand your children’s thoughts, feelings, and needs, and by providing your children and family with strategies and skills that help your children to manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviours while ensuring that their underlying needs are met.
We use evidence-based, cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy to treat problematic anger. We use a range of cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, depending upon your individual child’s needs, such as:
- Emotional regulation
- Problem skills training
- Exposure therapy
We may also use the following evidence-based therapy techniques:
- Resilience group programs
- Social skills group programs
For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our Appointments page.
If you would like help in understanding and managing your child’s problematic anger, please contact us to schedule an appointment.