By Dr. Teandra Gordon, LMFT-S, Clinical Director of School Based Behavioral Health
When you hear the term anger management it can conjure up visions of adults who are unable to control their emotions. But children can struggle with explosive behavior as much as adults.
Managing emotions is an important key skill for kids to learn. The adults in a child’s life are their greatest teachers because role modeling is a powerful teaching tool. When adults manage emotions in healthy ways it teaches children to do the same.
Anger is a normal human emotion; but how kids respond when angry can mean the difference between having behavioral and social challenges at school and at home, or not. When angry, kids should be coached through finding strategies to help them diffuse an angry mood.
Managing emotions starts with self-care. Make sure that kids are getting: enough sleep, adequate exercise, and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Emotional self-care is just as important as physical care. That could mean involving your children in daily routines that better help them to connect and communicate with the loving adults in their lives.
During these daily times of connection, kids can share the “rose,” which is the best thing that happened that day and the “thorn,” the worse part of their day. Having a consistent way to talk about difficult experiences can help to keep anger from building up inside. It also helps kids learn to better problem solve the challenges that they deal with on a daily basis.
When kids become angry, teach them to:
- Take three slow, deep breathes. Breathing gets oxygen flowing to the brain which will allow kids to think about a good choice to make in a given situation.
- If anger is still present, do something that calms them like: taking a walk, listening to music, journaling, exercising, or talking to someone they trust.
- Use “If . . . then . . .” statements. This helps your child to ask themselves what might happen if they do certain things or take certain actions. For example, “If I hit them, then I will get in trouble. If I tell the teacher, then they will get in trouble.”
With guidance, your child’s anger management skills can develop and improve over time. However, if he or she continues to struggle with their anger, a trained mental health professional can rule out any underlying problems as well as offer assistance in creating a behavior management plan.
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