Is your teen often angry, upset, or moody? The teen years can be hard; with fluctuating hormone levels and the overwhelming situation of having to go from childhood to adulthood in the span of just a few years, many adolescents find it hard to keep their emotions on an even keel. Some teens begin to act out if they haven’t learned healthy outlets for managing anger and other strong emotions. They might yell, slam doors, and shout profanities. Others will tend to withdraw, which can lead to depression, anxiety, or compulsive behaviors. As a parent, it’s important to teach your teen how to handle these strong emotions. Check out this list of five healthy outlets for managing anger and share it with your teenager so he or she can learn to deal with these feelings in a productive way.
One of the best ways to release anger is to sweat it out. Exercise is a great workout for your teen’s body, and it’s also a great release for his or her mind. It’s hard to stay angry when running, swimming, or dancing; sustaining anger takes up a lot of energy, and if that energy is being expended elsewhere, the strong emotions will naturally dissipate. The endorphin boost helps, too. There is also evidence that people who exercise tend to be more mentally healthy than those who don’t. Exercise is a lifestyle change that can help treat depression, anxiety, and certain other types of mental health conditions.
If your teenager is naturally athletic, it probably won’t be much of a problem to get him or her moving. Here are some excellent ways for your teen to get in a good anger-reducing workout:
- a membership at a gym
- a place on the school soccer team
- a routine of going to the local rec center for laps in the pool
- a pickup game of basketball
If your adolescent is more of a couch potato, however, it might take some extra effort on your part. Assign him or her the job of taking the dog for his daily run or see if they’d like to take a dance class wit you. You could also suggest getting a part-time job that would keep them physically active, like helping at a landscaping company.
Mindful meditation is a practice that can help your teenager get in touch with his or her emotions and eventually release them. Becoming more aware of emotions can help people cope with them better. Your teen might be receptive to learning how to meditate to stay calm, release anger, and otherwise deal with strong emotions. Meditating can take lots of different forms:
- deep breathing
- walking meditation
Whatever method of meditation your teen is comfortable with can help.
One major point of meditation is to learn to accept strong emotions without labeling them as good or bad. During meditation, urge your teen to notice and observe the emotions and thoughts going through his or her head. In addition to helping to relieve anger, meditation can provide the following health benefits:
- promote relaxation
- lower blood pressure
- improve circulation
3. Journaling or Letter-Writing
Many people find that writing can be cathartic. If your teen likes to write, this might be a great exercise that can allow them to cope with anger, sadness, and other types of strong feelings. Remind your teen that no one will look at what he or she writes. Spelling and grammar don’t count. They can write whatever they want to and it doesn’t even matter if it’s legible (though your teen might want to look back on it later). Typing into a private journal on the computer or on their smartphone is a good alternative if your teen is more comfortable with a keyboard than with a pen and notebook
Another good way to release anger is for your teen to write a letter (not an email!) to the person or situation that is causing frustration. Note that he or she should not mail the letter in most cases! It’s just an exercise to allow him or her to get strong feelings out on paper. They shouldn’t feel the need to censor themselves or worry about mechanics like handwriting or spelling. If your teen reads over the letter and decides that what he or she wrote about should be shared, strongly encourage him or her to let it sit for at least a day. Then they can go back and edit it, if they still want to send it.
4. Talking About the Feelings
Talking about strong feelings can bring a sense of relief. Your teen could talk to you, a friend, or a counselor about how he or she is feeling. They could also look for another trusted adult, such as a youth pastor, a coach, or an aunt or uncle. Do encourage your teen to look for someone trustworthy, who won’t talk about the issue to others or use your teen’s words against him later.
If your teen seems to be having trouble with managing anger, it’s important to seek help sooner rather than later. Reacting badly to negative emotions is a bad habit that could impact his or her life in the decades to come. Call your pediatrician or family doctor to ask for a referral to a therapist who can help your teen work through strong emotions.
In some cases, medication can help a teen who is struggling with managing anger. This is particularly true if he or she is also dealing with:
- other issues that are causing a lot of frustration
Getting a handle on those conditions can help him or her see the anger from a healthier perspective and take control of it. Talk to your child’s doctor about the risks and benefits of any medications that might be needed so you can make an informed decision.
Parenting a teen who struggles with managing anger can be a challenge, but if you can help him or her learn to channel those strong emotions into something positive, you will be setting them up to succeed as an adult. The sooner you can help your teen turn the situation around, the better. Don’t be afraid to seek help for your teen, yourself, and the rest of your family if anger issues are causing a breakdown in your household.