Before we delve into how you, as the parent of an angry child, can help him or her to cope with those feelings, let me emphasize to you that anger is a normal, healthy emotion. We all experience anger; it is unavoidable. As your child's parent, however, you are the primary and most influential adult in his or her life. As such, you have an immense opportunity and responsibility to help your angry child learn to cope with anger and express those feelings in ways that are positive and healthy. Here are some things that you can do to help your angry child:
1. ListenGive your child ample opportunity to be heard. Even if you disagree with what's causing your child's anger or with his or her opinions, take the time to hear them out. Being angry and feeling unheard can cause your child to act out in ways designed to get your attention and force you to listen; and unfortunately, those measures can also be dangerous. So be extra intentional about being attentive to your child and listening more than you speak.
2. Know When to Speak UpWhen you're dealing with an angry child, you have to realize that the intensity of his or her emotions can actually prevent what you have to say from sinking in -- no matter how important or valid it is. To increase the chances that your attempts to communicate will be successful, take into consideration timeliness when looking for an opportunity to share your concerns. You may need to wait until you can see that your child has calmed down, or hold out for an occasion when your child is particularly open and communicative. Many times, this will mean putting your thoughts on hold for a day or two, until you can see that your child is ready to talk.
3. Provide the Opportunity for Physical Release
Does your child like to play basketball? Run? Swim? These types of physical activities can play a significant role in helping your child process and eventually release intense feelings of anger. (In addition, they are a great source of physical exercise!) If it's possible, take steps to exercise with your child
or encourage him or her to engage in new physical activities, or take a current exercise regimen to a new level.
4. Be Supportive of Your Child's Extended Family Relationships
Sometimes it will just "sink in" more readily when your sister says to your child the very same things that you've been saying for months. Recognizing that, do what you can to maintain those vital extended family relationships. And if your child doesn't have a special aunt or uncle around, or if there isn't anyone you really trust to be a positive influence, consider signing your child up for a youth mentoring program
like Big Brothers Big Sisters
. Their experienced, qualified mentors are trained in listening to kids, helping them to express themselves, and accepting them unconditionally.
5. Get Help
If you've witnessed examples of extreme, unresolved anger for more than two weeks, seek the help of a mental health professional
who can provide one-on-one assistance and help your child work through these difficult emotions. Remember, too, that this is not a reflection of your parenting. Whether your child is angry over an absent parent or a recent divorce, he or she may very well need help obtaining the skills necessary to effectively work through those emotions and move on in a way that is healthy and productive. If you've applied the steps outlined above, and you're just not seeing any improvement, give your family doctor a call and put into motion the process of seeking additional help for your child.