Have you ever watched a parent rant and rage about something in front of their child? Heard them yell at someone else in front of their children? Or perhaps been guilty of this act yourself? We're all human and slipping into this kind of unhealthy behavior can happen.
The question is what does this do to our children and what do we do about it.
First, we need to realize that it is alright to feel the need to release our anger at someone or something that has happened. The choice we all have is how we go about it. Some of us may write, or exercise or talk to someone about the issue. Preferably a counselor who can give you tips for healthy release of your angry feelings. Talking to friends or family in order to vent can actually increase your angry feelings because they will tend to agree with you and further foster your anger. This will not help.
Next, we need to acknowledge that we've made a mistake in venting in front of our children. Just like we do with other adults - we need to apologize and make amends. Many parents may not realize or feel that they need to apologize to their children, but we do. If we make a mistake it is important that we let our children know that we were the ones that made the mistake, apologize and make amends. It is no different than if you struck your child. Emotional scares can be far worse than physical ones, and expressing your anger in front of your children is nothing more than a form of child abuse. If it continues you may be facing the authorities for your actions, so do something about it today before it gets so out of control you can't find a way out.
Children will internalize the anger we show them. This will tend to surface by out of control behavior from our children. We show them how to act. If we are constantly angry in front of them, they will mimic that behavior. Screaming, yelling, throwing tantrums and being mean are all signs that you've taught your child to handle their anger and frustration in an unhealthy way. Parents never like to be told this, but it's important to realize that if these are the problems your child is having then they are trying to express their anger, frustration and fears in the only way they have been taught.
It's our job as the parent to correct our mistakes. So what do we do?
Sit our child down and explain ourselves. They certainly do not need to details of exactly what we are angry about, but we do need to make sure they know that we were in the wrong by expressing our anger in front of them. We were angry or sad and never should have said/done... (fill in the blank) in front of them. Then apologize. Let them know how sorry you are for what happened, that you will work very hard to never do that again. If they want to know why you were angry make sure you explain that it had nothing to do with them. Be general. Kids do not need to know our adult issues. If it has to do with a relationship with another person or situation that has changed or ended - just let them know that you are sad/angry/frustrated that the relationship/situation has changed. They do not need to be involved with the details, but it is okay to let your children know that you're angry or sad about something. It will make it easier for them to come to you with their anger and frustrations instead of acting out in the moment.
Then give it some time. Keep reinforcing that your child can talk to you about what is bothering them when they start acting out of control. Don't immediately scold or discipline them until you can get to the root of why they are feeling so out of control. Most of the time we'll find that our children just need to talk something out. Show them how to use their words to express themselves and not lose total control. Even if it is a painful issue that we are dealing with ourselves, we are the adult in this situation. Our job as parents is to teach our children in a loving and positive way even in times when we feel lost and out of control.
Do your best to keep your anger in check. If that means seeing a counselor or other professional to give you advice, do it. Don't think you have to do this alone. If there is help available, take advantage of that help. Allowing our anger to fester and grow keeps us from moving through the issue. We hurt ourselves and we hurt our children by doing this. And again, venting to family and friends may seem to help in the moment but will keep you in the middle of the anger. You can't move through it if you keep talking about it to those who will just jump into the fray with you. Of course they mean well, but keeping yourself in the anger doesn't help anyone. We need to process and move on. This is what we want for our children, and the best way to show our children is through our actions.
We've all been there. We have all had things happen in our lives that hurt, but we are the only ones responsible for how we react. The other people involved didn't force you to explode in front of your children, you did that all on your own. But it can be fixed. We only want love and joy in our children's lives. There will be hurts and challenges that our children will need to face no matter how much we wish differently. Our job is to prepare them so they can face these challenges in a healthy way. Not only will we be teaching our children, but we'll be teaching ourselves a better way of life. Our bond with our children will prove it.