How to Talk to an Angry Teenager

August 19, 2019

It’s well known that the teen years can be a trying time for parenting. It may feel like their rebellion is a personal attack and that they are determined to make your home life miserable, but in reality, this is a natural process. Your teenager is maturing both physically and emotionally, and while they may […]

How to Talk to an Angry Teenager

August 19, 2019

It’s well known that the teen years can be a trying time for parenting. It may feel like their rebellion is a personal attack and that they are determined to make your home life miserable, but in reality, this is a natural process. Your teenager is maturing both physically and emotionally, and while they may look like an adult by this stage, their brain is still developing. When their frontal cortex develops in a few years, their brain development will finally match their bodies and you may feel like you are dealing with a different person. Until that time, here are some tips for talking to your angry teen.

Change Your Parenting Style

If you have an authoritarian parenting style, “My way or the highway,” you’ll benefit from switching styles. An authoritarian method of parenting will cause you to butt heads with your teen, resulting in increased anger and chronic fighting. If you can switch your style to an authoritative style, you will get better reactions. An authoritative parent deals with their child in a manner that takes in to account their development stage and circumstances. That means explaining your reasoning, giving consequences that take your child’s feelings and circumstances into consideration, and overall putting the relationship with your child first. Not that your responses will make them happy all of the time, but they should know that you are acting with love and to teach them something important.

Frame the Conversation

When it’s time to have a conversation with your teen, first frame the conversation so they know that while you might be displeased with their choices, you are not rejecting or hating them as a person. If you come at your teen with anger, they are more likely to get defensive or shut down. Since their frontal cortex isn’t finished developing,  they’re unable to fully control their emotions or foresee the consequences of their behavior. This can make teens highly reactive and appear irrationally angry. To avoid this, let them know that you are irritated, disappointed, or upset with their choices or behaviors, but that you’re not angry with them as a person.

Listen

Overall, it’s important to keep lines of communication open with your teen. You can turn anger into dialogue by simply making an effort to listen to and understand your teen. Use reflection to ensure that you heard them and understand their feelings. “What I heard you saying is…” Trying to give advice or enforce rules can break communication down when you need it to stay open.

Your teen is trying to figure out their identity as they go through many hormonal, growth and development changes that are out of their control. Try to understand that their anger is about asserting themselves or trying to separate themselves as an individual. This is a difficult time, and your teen needs empathy. Stay your child’s safe and secure base, so you can help them through it.

If you’re a parent having a difficult time with a teenager, a Psychologist or therapist can be a great resource for parenting support or to help your teen through this challenging time. Contact me today if you would like to set up a free consultation.

Stepping Back from the Edge: How to Deal with Anger in the Moment

March 20, 2019

Anger is a natural and healthy emotion that everyone feels. However, it can also be overwhelming and difficult to cope with. It can feel particularly scary if you find yourself being caught off guard with unexpected anger or feeling that you are getting too angry. So, what can you do when you find yourself feeling anger […]

Stepping Back from the Edge: How to Deal with Anger in the Moment

March 20, 2019

Anger is a natural and healthy emotion that everyone feels. However, it can also be overwhelming and difficult to cope with. It can feel particularly scary if you find yourself being caught off guard with unexpected anger or feeling that you are getting too angry.

So, what can you do when you find yourself feeling anger unexpectedly? Below are some strategies to help you keep your calm and respond appropriately.

1. Breathe and Get Some Space

As you feel the wave of emotions well up, stop and take a breath and then a few more. These deep breaths will allow you to slow your reaction and give you time to think. Also, giving yourself some space or physical distance between you and the other person will help calm your reaction.

2. Acknowledge Your Feelings

When you’re caught off guard with anger, you might start to feel defensive or emotional and not immediately know why. Pause for moment to assess your feelings. Acknowledge that you’re angry and look for the cause. Anger tends to be a protective emotion, so check to see if you, or someone you feel responsible for, is being attacked, criticized, or being treated unfairly.

3. Be Curious Instead of Furious

If you have difficulty controlling your anger, it can be all too easy to jump instantly into attack mode and unleash your anger. Instead try being curious. Consider why this person might be behaving this way, or saying these things. Try and brainstorm possible reasons, like could they have had a bad morning or heard some upsetting news?

4. It’s Not Personal

Remind yourself that this isn’t personal to you. Often, when people are behaving inappropriately or saying hurtful things, it’s because of things going on with them in their own lives. Practice reminding yourself that it’s not about you.

5. Use “I” Statements

Before responding, first consider if a response is necessary and helpful. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away. If you do need to say something, focus on the behavior you find unacceptable without placing blame. Talk specifically about your feelings and the effect of the behavior on you. I felt hurt when you commented on my parenting. By communicating without placing blame, you are more likely to be understood and work toward a resolution, rather than putting the other person on defense and starting a conflict.

If you’re still feeling upset after a difficult exchange, try calling a friend to talk it out, write your feelings down in a letter you’ll never send, or do some exercise to work off the adrenaline. You can also work through anger and other intense emotions with meditation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by anger or emotions in general, there are many skills you can learn to help you manage them. Contact me today to schedule a consultation.

Is My Anger Normal, Or Should I Seek Help?

March 4, 2019

Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. And when our buttons get pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. In fact, anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately. But for some people, managing their own anger is challenging. Usually these people […]

Is My Anger Normal, Or Should I Seek Help?

March 4, 2019

Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. And when our buttons get pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. In fact, anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.

But for some people, managing their own anger is challenging. Usually these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out-of-control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have gotten used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their own feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on egg shells, all in an effort to “keep the peace.”

Common Reasons for Intense Anger

If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them ring true for you.

Anger as a Way to Self-Soothe

Self-medication, as a way to deal with life’s pain, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle and often.

One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic, or pain reliever. When we are triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.

Becoming angry in the moment releases a powerful brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. But as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their own anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.

Self-Empowerment

Another chemical released by the brain during a fit of anger is called epinephrine. While norepinephrine acts like a pain reliver, epinephrine acts like an amphetamine, allowing us to feel a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.

This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe in our life in general. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder so many people are addicted to their own anger.

“Safe” Attachment

Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a safe bit of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these types of parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in their relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing that.

Tips for Managing Anger

1. Recognize the problem – As with a substance addiction, it’s important to recognize and admit you may have a problem.

2. Monitor your behavior – Keep an anger journal and log behavior you noticed or you were accused of by others. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of your anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger on paper will offer some insights into where it’s coming from.

3. Feel your anger but don’t act on it – Bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s important for us to feel our feelings, ALL of them. But it’s equally important to regulate our actions. Walk away from potential fights and don’t send that angry email.

4. Get some help – Speaking with someone about your anger can often help. By uncovering the emotions underneath the anger, you can diffuse it and begin to heal from past traumas.

If you feel you may have an issue with anger and would like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.