Anger, impulsivity, rebelliousness, and testing limits can be common to parenting a teen. However, sometimes, it can get out of hand. Teens may not have the tools to express their anger in healthy ways, or they may not have the ability to control their impulsivity. Teens may need help from parents to learn how to develop emotional awareness and manage anger. This article will discuss ten ways that parents can step in and help their teen manage anger more effectively.
1. Stay Empathetic
First, you’re not going to get anywhere if you are responding to your teen with your own anger and frustration. Sure, it’s maddening when your teen walks out in the middle of a conversation or when they slam their bedroom door and it practically shakes the whole house. However, the only way you’re going to help your teen learn to manage anger is if you stay calm yourself. Although it can be challenging to remember to stay calm, here are some reasons to do so:
- Your teen’s brain is still developing. It is the emotional side of the teen’s brain that has the majority rule. As they continue to develop, the rational and logical side will begin to take over more. However, during adolescence, teens are going to be more emotional and impulsive. In order to help your teen rise above their anger (to gain control of it, to see what’s driving it, etc.) you’ll need to stay calm.
- Teens are going through big changes. Your teen is going through physical, emotional, social, and psychological changes. They are discovering themselves, breaking away from the family, dealing with acne and puberty, and bearing the burden of new adolescent social rules. Middle school and high school can be rough for some teens. Becoming irritable and even angry might be justified from time to time. As a parent, remembering the challenges your teen faces might help staying in the supportive role versus getting caught up in the anger.
2. Be an emotional container
Without the logical side of them to keep things calm, some teens might feel overwhelmed by their strong emotions. One way to support your teen is to contain their emotions for them. It’s a bit like being a therapist. You let your teen talk, get angry, and yell. Meanwhile, you hold a calm presence. You let your teen know that you’re listening and that their feelings are important to you. What can sometimes exacerbate a teen’s anger is when they notice that their parents are not paying attention or don’t care.
3. Name it to tame it
Dan Siegel, author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, has a great video on how to help manage strong emotions in children and teens. In this video, he suggests that when you name an emotion – “it sounds like you’re feeling disappointed” – you help a teen calm it. You don’t have to try to fix anything, but simply naming the feeling can help a teen make a connection between their mid-brain and their pre-frontal cortex.
4. Stay curious about what’s underneath the anger
Often underneath anger are other feelings, such as guilt or hurt or loss. Yet, commonly, teens aren’t in touch with their feelings enough to know what lies beneath the surface. Instead, they feel the anger and may act out of that. At the right moment, perhaps in a heart-to-heart with your teen, you might bring up what you feel may be contributing to their anger.
5. Give your teen options
If your adolescent is getting angry and breaking things in the house or getting into trouble at school, talk about other ways your teen might be able to express their anger. For instance, safe ways to get strong emotions out include:
- punching a pillow
- screaming in the car with the windows closed
Feeling like they have no ways of expressing their anger can make it more unbearable. Giving your teen an outlet for their anger can help them begin to manage anger.
6. Develop awareness
Talk to your teen about what happens right before they get angry. Help them identify what’s happening in their body right before an explosive outburst. You might also help them identify the circumstances and the thoughts they had that led to reacting with anger.
7. Help your teen problem solve
In some cases, teens may get angry or frustrated because they can’t solve a problem on their own. By helping your teen be resourceful and learn problem solving skills, you can also support their ability to stay calm.
8. Encourage self-care
Often, both teens and adults will become more irritable on days when there is a greater degree of stress. However, your teen is less likely to get upset about the small things if they are keeping up self-care. This includes:
- getting the right amount of sleep
- maintaining a healthy diet
- exercising regularly
9. Discuss assertive versus aggressive behavior
Some teens may believe that in order to appear strong they need to be aggressive. However, they can still be strong and confident without being aggressive. Talking about the difference between aggressive and assertive behavior might help them make different behavioral choices.
10. Model emotional health
You can be a model for your teen’s emotional well being. As an adult, it will be easier for you because you’ve got a developed pre-frontal cortex. You’ve got the logical and rational parts of the brain developed. When a strong feeling arises, do your best to be present with it instead of reacting. Or if you feel that the emotion is too much, find a healthy way of managing it.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
These are suggestions to help your teen begin to learn how to manage anger. If your teen continues to struggle with aggression, irritability, or violence, you might want to seek out a mental health provider. There may be an undiagnosed mental health disorder. Also, without any support, your teen may turn to using substances or other risky behavior as a way to feel better. Getting a mental health professional involved can not only support your teen but also assist you in your parenting.