Anger outbursts and tantrums can be a normal aspect of child development. We have all witnessed a child dropping to the floor yelling and refusing to budge when they don't get their own way. It is also easy to think of a time when a teenager has slammed their door and hid away in their bedroom. Everyone gets angry, including adults, but it is important to learn how to manage and express anger in appropriate ways. Child Psychologists can help with teaching your child to develop their emotional intelligence and coping skills.
Some ways you can help your child with everyday anger include:
Talk about feelings with your children. Let them know you understand how they are feeling and label your own emotions. e.g. "Oh no, I can't remember where I left my keys. How frustrating". When children hear emotional language they learn how to use it themselves. The more we use language to label how we feel the less we act out our anger with aggression. Reflect your child's feelings so they know that you are in tune with their needs. e.g. "I can see that you are angry because you have your fists clenched and you are gritting your teeth". This can allow your child to know that they are being heard and can de-escalate situations. This allows for appropriate consequences and follow-up to take place without things getting out of hand.
You can let your children know how to cope by showing them. When you have a problem that is appropriate to let your children know about verbalise and demonstrate your positive coping strategies. This can include positive self-talk. e.g. "I feel pretty tired after a big week at work. I'm going to give my friend a call and then go for a swim. That will make me feel better". Children are like sponges and will mimic your coping habits.
Identifying Calming Strategies
Find time to set aside to sit down and talk with your child about their anger. Create a positive opportunity to identify appropriate things they can do when they are upset. Make sure you find a time when you can discuss without rushing. Explore what your child notices in their body when they are angry and the types of things that upset them. Make a visual list of choices they can make if they are angry. Children respond very well to rules and expectations which are explained ahead of time. Some coping strategies could include 'talking to someone', 'having some quiet time', 'relaxation exercises' or 'doing some physical activity'.
Role Playing Difficult Situations
Common situations where difficulties arise can be role-played. Recurring situations can often include resolving conflict with siblings, coping with losing and learning to share. Take time to act out these situations with your child and their siblings. Children learn by doing, so take time to play and pretend a situation is happening. Get involved and make the conflict resolution role-play fun. Demonstrate what they should and should not do and then get them involved in the play acting.
Acknowledging Positive Coping
Praise your child when they demonstrate appropriate expressions of emotions and when they use their words. e.g. "I'm so proud of you. It was sad that you didn't win but you were a good sport by congratulating the other team".
In some instances a child may be struggling with severe anger which may benefit from professional help. Seeking support from a Child Psychologist and Adolescent Psychologist can provide you and your family with the guidance you need.
Contact us at www.oraclepsychology.com.au if you need our help.
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Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt is the Principal Psychologist of Oracle Psychology in Newcastle, NSW.