Anger Management

Pent Up Anger and Resentment in Teenagers

Anger Repression

When a teen feels anger, the teenager may experience difficulty expressing it. In this situation, the teen may repress it over time so it builds and grows inside, states author and psychologist John M. Grohol, with the Psych Central website. While repressing anger, a teenager may isolate or withdraw from family and peer interaction. Repressed anger can also lead to depression, anxiety and risk-taking behavior. Eventually, the teenager may be unable to contain and control the repressed anger. You may discern that a teenager is repressing anger if you see behaviors including glaring, sulking, sarcasm, insults and door slamming.

Roots of Teen Anger

When teens show signs of pent-up anger, delving more deeply should show underlying feelings, according to a brochure published by the Alberta Health Services. Fear may stem from an abusive situation, trauma or parental struggles. Anger may also stem from frustration regarding a situation or issue. Anger may also result from a combination of underlying feelings.

Anger Management

Before pent-up anger leads to a regrettable and negative situation, give a teenager some guidelines for managing anger. Teach kids how to recognize signals that they are feeling angry -- a hot flush to the face, increased heart rate or clenched fists, for example. Your teen may need some help from you to recognize that the anger is happening, too. Once these signals show up, it’s time to express the angry feelings respectfully and effectively, instead of repressing them. Encourage your teen to use "I" statements to say what’s on her mind -- "I feel so frustrated when you won’t listen to me!" or "I get scared when you’re late." Listen and respond when you hear your teen trying to express anger appropriately.

Anger Disorder

If a teenager experiences anger over a period of time and does not have the skills or tools available to express it safely and effectively, it may grow into bitterness and resentment, states clinical psychologist Stephen Diamond, with the Psychology Today website. This repressed anger can grow into a rage that takes on either self-destructive or outwardly destructive energy. Aggressive and violent outbursts may occur with little provocation. A teenager showing signs of an anger disorder needs professional help.

Activities to Express Anger With Autistic Kids

Toddlers

Temper tantrums are a natural part of the toddler stage, but especially so for children with autism, since they tend to have trouble managing feelings. Like other toddlers, autistic toddlers often communicate strong feelings, such as anger, through actions and behaviors. Encourage appropriate expressions of anger with pounding or throwing activities that redirect energy and guide emotion in a structured, constructive way. Give your child a toy hammer and encourage her to pound away at pegs, foam blocks or other toys, or hand her a bouncy ball to throw against a wall or at stacked blocks.

Preschoolers

Encourage preschoolers to manage and express anger through words. Read books together and discuss character feelings with your child. Ask, for example, “Why is Johnny angry? How can you tell?” and talk about the possibilities together. Puppet play can help children represent and express feelings of anger by using props. Take your youngster out in the back yard for some running and physical play, which can help autistic children release pent-up energy and vent frustrations.

Adolescents

Autistic adolescents can benefit from simple anger management techniques or therapeutic activities, like whaling on a punching bag or going for a run. Teach your teen counting, meditation or breathing techniques for controlling anger. Or, encourage him to explore music and find songs to play and sing along with that capture his feelings of anger.

Activities for All Ages

Arts and craft projects are a constructive way for autistic children of all ages to properly and meaningfully express anger and other emotions. Encourage children to finger paint with brisk, aggressive hand movements to express their feelings through a work of abstract art, or promote sensory experiences with sculpting activities that require children to squeeze, smoosh and pound clay. Exercise can also help children of all ages release energy, frustration and stress while also encouraging motor development and fitness.

Arts and crafts activities for anger management

Drawing and painting

When a child is angry, give him some crayons and a piece of paper and let him get out all his pent-up anger with a picture, whether it is identifiable or just plain angry lines and squiggles. Ask the child to tell you about the picture but refrain from saying anything negative about it. Let him paint if he prefers painting. The combination of expressing his feelings through art and by talking is effective for anger management, especially when you teach him additional healthy ways to deal with anger.

Hidden heart balloon craft

This anger-management craft helps children, teens and adults learn how holding anger inside is negative and can be damaging emotionally. Hand out a small balloon, a pencil, scissors, piece of paper and piece of a ribbon to the individual or group. Ask them to cut the paper small enough to fit inside the balloon. They should write down all their hurts and offences on the slips of paper and put them inside the balloon. Have everyone blow up their balloons and follow this with a discussion, explaining how people keep anger inside that never goes away unless you deal with it. Pop the balloons symbolically to represent releasing the anger through forgiveness and choosing to let it go for their own sake.

Sand tray therapy

Playing with sand may seem childish, however, it is a very therapeutic, artistic activity for people of any age. Present children with a tray of sand and lots of small toys -- such as dolls, cars and animals -- and ask them to make up a story. The adult may have different items to place in the sand that represent parts of her life, such as work and parenting. Ask the sand artist to explain her sand-art piece, especially in terms of describing feelings. This art activity may help to identify the roots of her anger.

Feelings arts and crafts for preschoolers

The earlier children learn about identifying and expressing feelings in acceptable ways, the better. Have the children create a "feelings collage" by gluing pictures of people's faces onto paper and then describing how the people are feeling. Talk about how the people could feel better if they had identified negative feelings, such as anger. Alternatively, use colours, stickers or stamps on paper to represent different feelings.

How to Diffuse Anger in Children

Separate your child from the source of her anger. Your child’s close proximity to the person or thing that is filling her with rage will only fuel her upset. If you notice that your child appears to be getting agitated, watch her closely. If she begins losing control as a result of her anger, take your child to a different room to give her the physical space that she needs to cool down.

Engage your child’s senses. As the National Network for Child Care, a department of Iowa State University, attests, when children feel anger their bodies respond physically. This physical response often includes an increased heart rate and muscle tightening. Children can best combat these response by doing something that requires movement. Encourage your little ball of anger to squeeze some clay, run around in the backyard or paint a picture, as all will help aid in reducing the pent-up energy that her anger is causing her.

Wait until your child has calmed before trying to talk to her. If you try to talk to your child while she is still stewing, you will almost certainly not receive a positive response, advises social worker and columnist Carole Banks for EmpoweringParents.com. After removing her from the person or situation that's triggered her anger, step back and allow her to calm down, reminding her to engage in the stress reduction activities you recommended. Once she is visibly calm, approach her and engage her in a discussion about her upset.

Encourage your child to express his anger. If you try to let the topic of anger drop as soon as your child calms down, you may actually be encouraging him to internalize her feelings, warns Todd Clements, M.D., and Kim Ferren, L.P.C. for Meier Clinics Foundation. Instead of expecting your child to sort through his feelings -- something he is not yet equipped to do -- sit down and talk with him about his anger after he has calmed down enough to engage in a productive conversation. Encourage meaningful conversation by asking your child open-ended questions about his feelings and the feelings of the person with whom he was angry.

Anger Management Resources for Teens

Books on Anger Management for Teens

There are many books available for teens that deal with the issue of anger management. Some examples: "The Anger Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Deal With Anger and Frustration" by Raychelle Cassada Lhomann; "Getting a Grip: The Heart of Anger Handbook for Teens" by Lou Priolo; "Mad: How to Deal with Your Anger and Get Respect" by James J Crist; and "Cool It! Teen Tips to Keep Hot Tempers from Boiling Over" by Michael Hershom.

School Counselors

Most high schools have guidance counsellors available for students. Many times, a counsellor can help a student to deal with his aggression. If a counsellor feels that a teenager needs more help than she is able to provide, she can suggest support groups, therapists, or family assistance programs equipped to deal with teen anger management.

Therapy or Family Counseling

Therapy is a type of support that helps individuals or families going through tough times. It can be difficult for teenagers to recognise and admit that they need help with a problem. There are therapists that specialise in certain age groups or specific types of anger problems. Therapists may be psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists or counsellors. Depending on the specifics of the situation, counselling may be more effective if parents or other family members attend as well.

Government Agencies

There are government agencies that can provide information for teens about anger management classes, support groups or family therapy. Each state has different phone numbers or hotlines for teens to call. Most police departments also have access to this information.

Anger Management for Teenagers

Prevention and Self-Care

Teenagers who have good self-care skills are better equipped to deal with stress, frustration and anger. Teach kids the importance of eating healthful foods and getting adequate amounts of sleep. Exercise is a great way to help relieve negative thoughts and reduce stress. According to KidsHealth.org, a brisk walk can produce chemicals in the brain that can improve a person's mood, making it a good tool for managing angry feelings.

Education on Anger

Anger is an often misunderstood emotion, and teens can benefit from learning about angry feelings. Teach teens that anger is a normal emotion and that feeling angry isn't bad. Help them identify the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior, and review the potential consequences of the latter. Discuss how angry feelings can lead to positive change, such as during the civil-rights movement. Help teens identify productive ways to express their anger like speaking up respectfully.

Healthy Solutions

Teenagers sometimes resort to aggression when they see it as the only option. Learning that there are many ways to solve a problem can help them recognize better alternatives to aggression. Teach teens how to weigh the potential pros and cons of several different responses before impulsively reacting to events. Encourage them to wait until they feel calm before making decisions, as it can be impossible to think rationally and logically while feeling enraged.

Relaxation Skills

Teenagers need to learn skills that can help them calm down when they feel angry. Activities such as listening to music, writing in a journal or talking to a friend can reduce their angry feelings. Deep breathing and meditation are also good ways to reduce physical symptoms of anger, such as increased blood pressure or heart rate. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches how to reduce tension by relaxing various muscle groups. Guided imagery can help teenagers picture a peaceful scene to calm angry thoughts and feelings.

How to deal with angry teenagers

Understand that your teen may be irritable due to sleep deprivation.
Understand that your teen may be irritable due to sleep deprivation.

Understand the possible root of the problem. As teens develop, they experience hormone fluctuations which can cause erratic mood swings, including anger. In addition, teens often experience what doctors refer to as DSPS, or Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which causes sleep deprivation. According to Science Daily, "Teenagers' morning drowsiness is often caused by out-of-tune body clocks." Since many teens have trouble going to sleep until late but must get up early for school, they often don't get the rest they need and are irritable as a result.

Set an example of effective anger management for your teen.
Set an example of effective anger management for your teen.

Make it clear what your expectations are when it comes to speaking respectfully to each other, and set an example. You cannot reasonably expect your teen to control his anger when you are unable to do so yourself. Crisis Counseling.com says a good rule is "any family member who yells, screams, hits, bites, pushes or throws something in anger will take a mandatory time out for twenty minutes, then apologise, and then discuss the problem." Having such a rule can pre-empt teens from acting out in the first place and is fair because it applies to the entire family. By holding yourself to the same standards, you can teach your teen how to deal with his angry feelings in a mature and civilised way.

Be supportive. Although angry teenagers may be frustrating to deal with and less than pleasant to be around, the kids who make it through this phase successfully are usually the ones whose parents continue to try to understand them. According to Psyche Central, "Parents who hang in, who continue to express love and concern ... and who stubbornly refuse to give up are the parents who generally manage to save their kids." Realise that just like the teething and colic phases of infancy, this too shall probably pass.

Seek professional help if all else fails. In some cases, your teen may need to talk to a school counsellor or therapist to solve his anger problems. Teens who resort to violence or destructive behaviour are possibly suffering from mental health issues or acting out due to hidden drug addiction or personal trauma. If this is the case, assure your teen that you are there for him and want to help him be the happiest, healthiest he can be.

How to Express Anger in a Healthy Way

Show your child the appropriate way to react when you're angry. For example, if you're rude to a store cashier or curse and yell at other drivers on the road, your child will pick up on that behavior. Instead, act the way that you want your child to behave.

Tell your child that it's okay to feel angry. Explain that anger is a normal and healthy human emotion, but it's not acceptable to express anger in hurtful ways.

Listen to your child when he's angry and has a problem. Don't send him to his room to calm down on his own. Let him know that you're there to help.

Have your child write down what's making him angry on a sheet of paper. Once he's expressed himself, ask him to shred the paper into tiny pieces. This tangible act may make him feel calmer and less angry.

Give your child something he can use to physically and safely express anger, such as a punching bag or pillow to hit. Dancing, running and other physical activities might help your child burn off his anger.

Suggest interesting activities to your child to distract him from his anger and help him calm down. He may enjoy painting, coloring or writing a story.

Help your child put his anger into words. Say things like "You must feel angry that your friend took your toy," or "You don't like waiting for your turn, do you?"

Hold your child in your arms if he seems extremely angry and you think he might hurt himself or others. Your child will probably try to escape, but restrain him until he's calm enough to listen to you.

Praise your child when he expresses anger in an acceptable way. When he sees how pleased you are, he's more likely to repeat his actions.

Things You Will Need

  • Paper
  • Punching bag or pillow

Tip

If your child harms animals or smaller kids, damages property or can't control his angry outbursts, he may benefit from professional help. Consider seeing a counselor with your child if he constantly seems angry, harms himself, loses friends regularly or is preoccupied with revenge.