Everyone gets angry and anger can be a healthy emotion when it is handled appropriately. Unfortunately, as the parent of any teenager can attest to, teenagers do not come equipped to expertly manage their anger. They need help learning what is appropriate and what is not and guidance on how to express this emotion in a healthy constructive way. This is where parents come in and where many of us fall down. It is very challenging to help your child develop healthy anger management skills if you don’t have those skills yourself. It is even harder to show teenagers why learning to master and manage their anger is important if we, as the parents, are unable to model that behavior ourselves.
For some parents, this means the first step to helping their teenager learn to manage angry emotions is to learn how to manage their own. The good news is that anger management is a skill that can be learned at any age. It may be more difficult for us parents to master immediately because we will be challenging past behavior patterns. However, unless we are willing to let go of unhealthy habits and learn to effectively manage our angry emotions, how can we expect our teens to do the same.
Here are our top tips for helping teenagers (and their parents) get a handle on how to manage their anger.
1. Anger is Neither Good Nor Bad
In many people’s minds, anger is a negative emotion and something we should suppress. The truth is, however, that anger is simply an emotional response. It is neither good nor bad in its own right. What makes anger negative is how we respond to it. It is our reaction, our behavior that is negative, not the emotion itself. Understanding this can help everyone see that it is ok to be angry and expressing your anger is actually very health as long as it is a healthy reaction or expression.
2. Know Your Triggers
Not everyone gets angry about the same things and one of the most important things you need in order to manage your anger effectively is to know what makes you angry. Being able to identify a trigger as it happens makes it possible to manage your reaction before the emotion takes control and sweeps you away.
3. Take a Lesson from Toddlers
Time outs are a great anger management technique, no matter what age you are. The key to managing angry emotions is being able to think before we react. Timeout makes space for us to think by removing us from the situation or person that is provoking the emotion.
4. Try Looking In from the Outside
There are a lot of legitimate things that make us angry. But most of us also experience angry emotions when they are not warranted. This happens when something that isn’t real, like how we perceive something or someone, triggers our anger. Before reacting, take a minute to try and analyze what is happening. Ask yourself if you are angry about something that is actually happening or if you are reacting to an incorrect perception. Taking this pause to think through the situation not only helps avoid acting on bad information, but it also gives us the time and space to choose how we want to respond rather than just reacting.
If you believe your adolescent’s anger is extreme or it’s causing a lot of difficulty with family, school, or peer relationships, please have a counselor or other mental health provider
assess them. Extreme anger could be a sign of Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or other mental health issues that can be treated.