6 Tips to Help Your Child Cope with Anger
Anger is a completely understandable emotion. Sometimes it stems from fear, sometimes it stems from lack of control, and sometimes it is the result of hurtful actions by another. Whatever the cause of anger, it is developmentally appropriate at just about any age. It’s simply an emotion that people experience.
And yet, parents tend to worry when young children exhibit anger. They get stressed. They get anxious. They get angry in response to their child’s anger.
At times, it seems, parents get so wrapped up in the expression of anger (who wants a meltdown in aisle 9?) that they forget to step back and think about what might have triggered the anger in the first place.
Children need help learning to cope with their feelings of anger. They are lost in frustration and feel out of control when anger takes over. But they don’t know how to cope with these very big emotions – so they yell. They need strategies that will calm them down in the moment so that they can move on.
Tips for creating an anger toolbox for your child:
Believe me, I understand. It’s very difficult to remain calm in the face of a screaming, demanding, and very angry child. No answer is ever right. No solution will ever work. When a meltdown starts, parents can end up feeling helpless.
But our kids need us to remain calm. Keep your voice neutral but loving. Put a calming mantra on repeat. “I can see that you’re really upset right now and I want to help you feel better,” shows your child that you love him anyway. You might say it twice or you might say it twenty times, either way just say it.
Take slow, relaxing breaths while you stay close. Mention that you know what it feels like to be very angry and upset.
Have a time in:
Sometimes all a child really needs to get through a meltdown (even the seemingly never-ending one in the middle of the birthday party) is the knowledge that you understand and will continue to love him anyway.
While it might be tempting to send your child off to be alone when in the midst of a tantrum, chances are your child needs you at that moment more than ever. Hold your child. Sing a comforting song. Read a story. Being there and providing unconditional love is more powerful than anything else.
Tear it up:
It can be hard to talk about your feelings when you are overwhelmed with emotion. Sometimes kids need to release their pent up frustration before they can start talking.
Keep a stack of index cards handy with trigger words or phrases written or drawn on them (ex: my brother stole my toy, homework, bath, etc.). When a meltdown occurs, have your child choose the trigger card that best describes what set him off and encourage him to tear it up and throw the pieces in the air. They physical act of tearing and throwing can help release the emotion, while the trigger words give him a place to start talking when he’s ready.
Color it out:
Assigning colors to feelings is a great tool for kids. I’m red like a volcano ready to erupt gives them a visual to match their feeling. It also helps them learn to slow down and think about what they’re feeling before they explode.
During a calm moment, have your child assign colors to common emotions (keep a cheat sheet posted to the fridge). When your child becomes angry, have him color a page full of feelings. Scribbling out the different feelings on paper helps your child release emotions and process what he’s feeling.
Sometimes a little physical release can go a long way. While you don’t want your child releasing his emotions on others, he can do some physical activities to help get his angry feelings out.
- Stomp around the room with your child while chanting something like, “I’m stomping mad!”
- Teach your child to go into the bathroom and close the door and scream all he wants.
- Let your child throw a ball against an outside wall as hard as he can. Cue him to say what he’s angry about before each throw.
- Teach your child to hold and release the muscles in his hands and arms in four-second intervals to release the stress. Progressive muscle relaxation is a strategy that can be done anywhere at any time
Once the frustration passes, talk about the event. Help your child identify his triggers and think about what helps him calm down during a meltdown.
The stoplight is a great visual for kids. Teach your child to cope with anger using the three colors of the stoplight:
Red: Stop and take three deep breaths.
Yellow: Think about the options.
Green: Choose the best option and go for it.
How do you help your kids cope with anger?