July 12, 2021
Anger Management Courses for Children
Anger, whether experiencing it personally or witnessing someone else experience it, can be very distressing. We tend to frown upon any displays or even admission of anger. However, it is a normal and healthy emotion and very much part of the human experience. Concealing or stifling it is not a healthy way to experience and process feelings of anger. Anger management courses for children can provide a fantastic opportunity for children to learn how to tolerate their overwhelming feelings. At Role Models, we are passionate about supporting young children in managing big feelings and expressing them in an appropriate way.
Anger can often mask other feelings like fear, stress, sadness, hurt or worry. Anger can highlight that someone is in need of support. According to the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services CAHMS , anger is an important emotion, and when we are afraid it can help make us feel less vulnerable and able to survive the situation. The important thing is how anger is expressed and dealt with. It is often when anger is ignored or not expressed properly that it can become a problem. At Role Models, our Brilliant Me and My Feelings 60 minute sessions support children to identify emotions such as fear and anger. Whilst children might feel anger, but beneath that, it could be jealousy, hurt, embarrassment or even tiredness. Calling it anger might be easier, but in our courses and sessions, we teach children to become curious about their emotions in order to better understand them.
As parents, tantrums and meltdowns are a common part of parenting a toddler (and can sometimes continue past this stage). For children, and adults, when we can’t use words, we use behaviours.
These can include being:
- Outwardly aggressive –openly expressing ones anger, e.g. shouting
- Inwardly aggressive – including negative self-talk and can be detrimental to one’s mental wellbeing
- Passive aggressive –not expressing emotions and allowing them to build up inside. Once tolerance for internalising these emotions has been reached, people can ‘explode’ and be prone to outbursts
- Physical reactions – such as feeling heat in the body, racing heartbeat, rashes etc.
- Irritable – general feeling of irritation and not being at ease with ones mental state
According to the NHS Children’s and Young People’s Health Services, anger can be a way for children to show their frustration or unhappiness, or they may not even know what is making them feel this way. Our Brilliant Me and My Feelings Online Course is focused on supporting young children in identifying their feelings and normalising those that are commonly frowned upon and often repressed. In our blog on Emotional Intelligence, we discuss the importance of identifying emotions for children. In his paper on ‘Frustration Tolerance’ Education Consultant Dr Bill Rodgers writes on the importance of this. He writes that ‘children are pretty good at recognizing all the faces – including what an ‘angry face’ looks like – but sometimes they are not always adept at knowing when they feel angry (or why?); or understanding why someone else is angry.’
The Priory Children’s Services, in a paper on how to recognise and handle anger issues in children, identify the most common reasons why children feel anger. There are several reasons that can cause a child to become angry, which include:
- Friendship problems
- Struggling with school and exams
- Feeling stressed, anxious or fearful about something
- Coping with hormone changes during puberty
- Seeing family members being angry or arguing with one another
What can parents and caregivers do to support children in managing their anger?
- Hold consistent boundaries
It is okay to feel angry, but you might decide that is it not okay to shout or to throw things. Boundaries, whilst difficult to impose and often fought against, provide a frame for children to feel safe within.
- Offer space
It can be hard to rationalise or process the intense feelings of anger or frustration. Allowing your child some time and space will give them an opportunity to experience and tolerate the feelings without any shame or expectations.
- Avoid asking too many questions
Often, children may not know the answers themselves. When they are experiencing intense emotions, it can be overwhelming to be asked to explain or detail the reasons why. Try to avoid asking your child too many questions during their outbust.
- Respond in a calm/ neutral tone
This can be very challenging, especially as seeing our children experience any intense emotions can trigger strong, often painful, emotions ourselves. However, we need to do our best to deescalate their mood and not contribute to it.
- Separate their feelings from their behaviours
Again, this can be tricky, especially if your child is behaving in a way which you see as ‘naughty’. However, we need to remember that behaviours are a response to feelings, and we need to address the feelings. Remembering this can be useful in managing your feelings towards the situation.
- Talk to them in a calm moment
As mentioned above, it can be overwhelming for the child to have to explain and discuss how they feel at the time. Find an opportunity when your child is feeling calmer to talk about how they felt. Again, too many direct questions can be confronting, but showing your child that you are there for them and want to support them, can be comforting. This can also provide an opportunity to discuss strategies to support your child next time they have similar feelings.
- Keep a diary and identify triggers
If you feel as though your child is experiencing regular episodes of anger and frustration, keeping a diary can be a useful tool to help you identify what is triggering these feelings, allowing you to address the cause.
- Include a calming activity
Try to introduce a calming activity into your child’s routine. This can be anything from sports, an art activity to meditating/mindfulness. Providing your child with an activity they find calming will enable them to access this when they are experiencing overwhelmingly ‘big’ feelings.
- Model appropriate behaviour
Children are sponges and often mirror what they see. Without realising, the way in which we express our emotions will have a huge impact on the way in which they deal with theirs. This isn’t easy, and as parents, we cannot be perfect, but modelling appropriate ways to express big feelings will support your child in expressing them.
- Take a moment for yourself
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our children is to take a moment and support our own well-being. As the popular saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Other people’s anger and frustrations are hard to be on the receiving end of, but when it is your own child’s it can be incredibly painful too. It is okay to take a moment to breathe, before supporting your child. Modelling self-care is important too!
This article was written by Laura Kay, Education Team Manager at Role Models.