As discussed in multiple articles, the changes experienced throughout teenage years are difficult not only for friends and family members but mostly on the teenager themselves. Struggling for balance, maturity, independence and freedom is tiresome to say the least. Some other difficulties are mastering the new found independence and adult responsibilities and the trying to balance their need for their parents. Yes, it is not to be admitted but teenagers very much still need their parents for not just shelter, food and clothing but for emotional support and guidance. Throughout this period in time, parents can be met with much resistance, hostility and sometimes experience anger management problems. Dealing with anger is an issue that is growing more in our population. With the increase in violent crimes in the United States specifically looking at the Sandy Hook incident and the Colorado mass murder at an Aurora movie theatre, we are looking at adults that had mental instability and a blatant anger management issue.
Some specifications to look at if you suspect that your child or teen is having anger management issues are a history of explosive aggressive outbursts out of proportion to any precipitating stressors. This may lead to assaultive acts or destruction to property. They could possibly have hostility to insignificant irritants or have swift and harsh judgment statements made to or about other individuals. Body language can often be tense muscles (e.g. clenched fist or jaw), glaring looks, or even refusal to make eye contact. A teen with anger management problems could use passive-aggressive patterns (e.g. social withdrawal, lack of complete or timely compliance in following directions or rules, complaining about authority figures behind their backs, nonparticipation in meeting expected behavioral norms) due to anger. There could be a consistent pattern of challenging or disrespectful attitudes toward authority figures or use of abusive language.
If your teenager is experiencing these difficulties it is highly recommended that they seek the help of a therapist, counselor, or psychologist. All have been trained thoroughly in dealing with these issues and can help assist your teen in opening up, finding the root of the anger and helping them work through it. Additionally they can help parents and caregivers by giving them more productive ways in dealing with these issues so that they do not escalate to the point of danger to themselves or others.
Of course the long-term goals would be to decrease the overall intensity and frequency of anger feelings, and increase the ability to recognize and appropriately express angry feelings as they occur. Developing an awareness of the current angry behaviors, clarifying origins of and alternatives to aggressive behavior is key to working through this issue. A teenager in time can come to the awareness and acceptance of angry feelings while developing better control and more serenity as well as become capable of handling angry feelings in constructive ways that enhance daily functioning.
Some short-term objectives to assist in helping your teenager with anger issues are verbally acknowledging frequently feeling angry. In doing this you assist your teen in coming to the realization that he/she is angry, by reviewing triggers and frequency of anger outbursts. It is important to identify targets of and causes of anger. Two books that you and your teen can read are Of Couse You're Angry (Rosellini and Worden) or The Angry Book (Rubin). Ask your teen to keep a daily journal in which he/she documents persons, situations, and so on that cause anger, irritation, or disappointment. Additionally attempt to assign and process a list of all the teenagers targets of and causes for anger.
Communication is key, verbalizing increased awareness of anger expression patterns by confronting/reflecting your teenagers angry behaviors that occur in your presence. Referring your teenager to an anger management class or group can assist them in dealing with this issue in an environment where they feel safe and can relate to others suffering from the same dilemma they have. In verbalizing feelings of anger in a controlled, assertive way you can also assign them to an assertiveness training class. It is important to sit with your teen and process their angry feelings or angry outbursts that have recently occurred and review alternative behaviors available. Role-playing techniques assist your teen in developing ways (e.g. assertive use of "I messages") of handling angry feelings.
With the assistance of a therapist, teaching relaxation techniques (e.g. deep breathing, positive imagery, deep muscle relaxation) to help him/her to respond appropriately to angry feelings when they occur is highly recommended. It is imperative to verbalize increased awareness of how past ways of handling angry feelings have had a negative impact. You can do this by asking your teen to list ways anger has negatively impacted his/her daily life; process this list. Expand your teenagers awareness of the negative affects that anger has on his/her body. Lastly, decreasing verbal and physical manifestations of anger, aggression, or violence while increasing awareness and acceptance of feelings is impotent. Read or ask a therapist about the empty chair technique. Using this technique to coach your teenager in expressing his/her angry feelings in a constructive, non-self-defeating manner is extremely helpful.
This process is not something that can be tackled in a day, a week and in some cases will take a lot of patience, time and again, some help from a professional. Encouraging your teenager to express and release feelings of anger or rage, violent fantasies, or plots for revenge is imperative. Knowledge is power, read, research and ask questions. This is a life skill that your teenager will need to master and additionally assist them in the future with dealing with life stressors (e.g. college, career, relationships). Positive reinforcement, open communication and love and nurturing will make this process smoother. Life as we know if tough and typically gets harder as we age, but teenagers have many other factors to contend to, hormones, adjustments to new rules and regulations and mew responsibilities. I commend you if you have a teenager. Let them know how much they mean to you and that you will always be there for them. And do not be afraid to give them a little affection from time to time, whether its embarrassing or not, they will remember it.
Ciao for now!