Anger in Our Teens and in Ourselves
By Linda Lebelle (2000)
is a 9th-grader and has been feeling that nothing is worth it anymore. As
hard as she tries, she just doesn't seem to fit in. The day before she had
tried out for the school play, but when she got on stage, she froze up and just
stopped in the middle of her audition. Now, everyone in the school must
know about it and Katie is sure they're laughing at her. She'll never let them
know how bad she feels. She knows what they're thinking and they're
right--she isn't good enough and she'll never fit in. Katie hates them
punched his fist into the bedroom wall. But it wasn't enough. He
picked up his soda can and threw it into the hall. The brown sugary liquid
dripped down the walls and onto the carpeting. "You can't make
me!" he screamed. "I'm not going anywhere with you! I'll
do what I want!" Chris ran down the stairs and out the front door.
His father ran after him, yelling at him to get back in the house, but he had
already gotten into his car and sped away. Chris was so mad at his father.
He had better things to do than go visit family. He and his friends had
plans, and his father wasn't going to run his life. He knew he'd feel
better when he smoked some weed.
do these young people have in common?
battling with anger. They are not getting what they want and things are not the
way they think they should be. They are feeling intense displeasure or
antagonism toward someone or something that comes with the realization that
things are not always in their control.
is a feeling; not a behaviour.
takes many forms--from indignation and resentment to rage and fury--and it is
the expressions of the forms of anger--the behaviour--that we see. Katie
represses her anger and withdraws. Chris is defiant and destroys property.
They will continue their behaviour, or it may escalate, until they decide to
look within themselves to the roots of their anger.
can be harmful or healthy.
is a frightening emotion. Its negative expressions can include physical
and verbal violence, prejudice, malicious gossip, antisocial behaviour, sarcasm,
addictions, withdrawal, and psychosomatic disorders. This can devastate
lives--destroying relationships, harming others, disrupting work, clouding
effective thinking, affecting physical health, and ruining futures.
there is a positive aspect--it can show us that a problem exists, as anger is
usually a secondary emotion brought on by fear. It can motivate us to
resolve those things that are not working in our lives and help us face our
issues and deal with the underlying reasons for the anger, specifically:
Being a parent of an
angry teen brings up the anger in ourselves.
Teenagers face a lot of
emotional issues during this period of development. They're faced with
questions of identity, separation, relationships, and purpose. The
relationship between teens and their parents is also changing as teens become
more and more independent.
This can bring about
frustration and confusion that leads to anger and a pattern of reactive
behaviour for both parents and teens. Unless we work to change our own behaviour,
we cannot help teens change theirs. We need to respond
rather than react to
each other and to situations. The intention is not to deny the anger, but to
control that emotion and express it in a proactive way.
The first step to
identifying and managing anger is to look within ourselves.
Parents and teens can ask
these questions of themselves to bring about self-awareness:
What can we do for our
teen and for ourselves?
Listen to your teen and
focus on feelings. Try to understand the situation from your child's
perspective. Blaming and accusing only builds up more walls and ends all
communication. Tell how you feel, stick to facts, and deal with the
present moment. Practice relaxation and meditation. Show that you
care and show your love. Work towards a solution where everyone wins.
Remember that anger is the feeling and behaviour is the choice.
professional help for your teen, yourself, and your family when the
behaviour is not just a temporary response
a frustrating situation and when there is violence, chronic hostility, depression,
or a risk
Linda Lebelle is
the Director of Focus Adolescent Services (www.focusas.com),
a clearinghouse of resources and information for families with troubled teens.
Thanks to the National Parent Information network for this article which can be
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