We usually feel angry when we do not get our way or feel let down. It is a natural human emotion, just like happiness and sadness. The onset of the teenage years not only brings in attitude, unpredictable mood swings and eye-rolls but also aggressive outbursts which can escalate quickly. I don’t think any parent is prepared enough to handle this stage! When you are in that moment, it’s easy to lose your patience.
It might help you to know that teenagers have challenges to navigate, which they may not be sharing openly. They’re going through sensitive dynamics with friends, break-ups, not having cool enough stuff and maybe under pressure to perform and make decisions, which invariably gets them anxious and stressed. They seek autonomy and yearn for experiences where they can do what they want! But, at the core of all these problems lie, which most teens have shared with me, the fundamental issue – they don’t feel understood, and many feel lonely.
Anger is not all bad; it is the expression of anger – screaming, abusing, hitting – that is usually the problem. Other forms of anger are irritation, rage and pent-up regret. We, as adults, need to help them find appropriate ways of letting out their anger and create space for their needs to be met. If there are regular blow-ups in your house, these suggestions can help you move towards a peaceful home.
Understand the Anger: Reflect on your own and with your teen on what situations cause anger. These conversations will help you build a bridge of communication with your teen, to understand each other better. You will be in a better position to support your child. Once you find the answers to these questions, find solutions together.
Do you tend to get angry when hungry and tired?
Do you get angry when someone says no?
Do your friends and/or classmates make you angry?
What makes you furious at home?
What situations make you agitated at school?
Channelise it: Anger has gained a bad reputation, but for a moment let’s look at the beneficial side of anger. For example, if you see your child getting furious because they or their friend is being bullied at school, you can support and help them start an anti-bullying campaign at their school. So, sit together and analyse the situation that provokes anger. Those situations can be directed to create change and inspire others, as well.
Press Pause: Two (or more) angry individuals cannot calm or successfully resolve a situation. It is difficult not to snap when your adolescent is out of line or gets into long arguments, this hampers your relationship. So, when tempers are flying, pausing to cool off at this time will allow you both to create space to have a level-headed conversation. Be compassionate with them during these vulnerable years.
Role Model: Your behaviour is contagious! Your child is picking up everything you do subconsciously. Now imagine, when their arrogance triggers you, but instead of reacting, you decide to pause, take a deep breath and calm yourself down! Whoa, can you see what you are demonstrating to your teen? Your task is halfway done! They will see their mom and dad make an effort to control their own anger – you are modelling a healthy behaviour for them to follow. Learning and practising anger management techniques from a professional could be helpful for all of you in the family.
Making parenting more about showing and doing rather than telling, will make your journey easier. Frustration, anger, and irritation are part of experiences through life. However, if your teenager’s anger has become destructive and violent, it may be time to reach out to a professional. The anger could result from childhood trauma, negative experiences or excessive stress.
Shubhika Singh is a senior consultant psychologist specialising in young adults and the co-founder of Innerkraft.com, based in Kolkata