Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Kids and Anger – How to Help Your Little Hot Head Find Calm (by Melissa Benaroya)

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Anger is neither good nor bad; it’s just a normal feeling. How we express our anger is what is most critical.  It is an important emotion and can actually be helpful in creating motivation. It can also be dangerous when expressed in an unhealthy way and can lead to bad decisions.

You’ve probably heard ideas like telling your child to “count to ten” or “go scream in a pillow”. These are neither practical nor helpful strategies, so here are a few ideas that will help you and your child both manage and express anger is a healthy productive way.  

How to Help Kids Deal With Anger

Acknowledge and validate.

For your child’s emotional health it is essential that they process their anger, otherwise it will keep recycling and resurfacing.  They won’t be able to move past the emotion.  To do this, simply acknowledge them by reflecting back what it is they are saying or paraphrasing.  You can also empathize by sharing what you are noticing and saying something like, “Wow, you sound 

frustrated” or “You look angry”. Telling your child how they feel, “You are really angry” is not as helpful, because when you tell them how they are feeling it can often contribute to a power struggle.  And, nobody likes to be told how they are feeling!

Skill build through mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness practice can help your child to identify their emotional state and learn strategies to regulate their strong emotions.  Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis will encourage a healthy expression of emotion because your child will not only be able to recognize their emotions, but they will have a strategy to express it in a safe healthy way.  The Mind Yeti sessions, such as Cool The Volcano and Your Wise Friend, guide children through a visual so they can learn to recognize and label exactly how they are feeling.  These sessions then provide a clear specific strategy to respond when those feelings arise.  Both sessions normalize big emotions and reinforce that using their learned strategies will not only help them to feel calmer, but also help them to connect to those around them and make better choices.

Be a teacher, not a preacher.

Practicing breathing with your child can help them to access this skill when it is needed. Giving the direction “take some deep breaths” in the moments when they are already angry may just escalate your child’s emotional state because you are not only telling them what to do, but they may feel frustrated because they are not exactly sure how to do it. Try practicing together during moments of calm, using the visual of blowing on hot soup or hot cocoa.  This practice will also provide your child with a visual trigger when they are in need of some calming breaths. 

A final word.

Using these strategies will not only strengthen your child’s emotional awareness and ability to regulate, but can also strengthen your relationship with your child.  These teaching moments are opportunities for building intimacy, as well as mutual trust and respect.  Just remember that your modeling is the greatest teacher and will have the greatest influence on your child adopting these practices.

WANT THESE TIPS HANDY WHEN YOU NEED THEM?  
Download my top 3 tips for helping kids cool down here!


About the Author: Melissa Benaroya


Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, is a Seattle-based parent coach, speaker and author in the Seattle area (MelissaBenaroya.com). She created the Childproof Parenting online course and is the co-founder of GROW Parenting and Mommy Matters, and the co-author of The Childproof Parent. Melissa provides parents with the tools and support they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Melissa offers parent coaching and classes and frequently speaks at area schools and businesses. Check out Melissa’s blog for more great tips on common parenting issues and Facebook for the latest news in parent education.

 

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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.








Hey Sigmund on Instagram

We humans are meaning makers. We are storytellers We humans are meaning makers. We are storytellers at heart. It’s how we make sense of each other, our world, and most importantly, ourselves. But big feelings can hijack our stories. When anxiety drives the story, it tells tales of deficiency and lacking, and puts avoidance where courage should be - but we can change that.
.
When we get a feeling, we are driven to make sense of it. Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to. It compels us to listen to, and act on, its story: ‘This is unsafe and you need to act.’ This is how it keeps us safe. When there is no obvious threat, it is understandable that the story that children (or any of us) might put to the feeling is, ‘I feel as though something bad is going to happen, so something bad must be going to happen.’ .
.
This is when anxiety grows teeth. It assumes a power it doesn’t deserve, and drive a response that holds brave hearts back. .
To change the response, we have to change the story. First, we validate, because that lets them feel us beside them. ‘I can see how worried you are about going to school. It makes so much sense that you want to stay home. I’d want to stay home too if I felt like that.’
⠀⠀
Then, to change how the story ends, we change how it begins. ‘Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to - it’s how it keeps you safe from things that are actually dangerous, like dark alleys. But here’s the secret to doing hard things: Anxiety doesn’t only happen when something is dangerous. It also happens when there is something important or meaningful you need to do, like school or trying something new. It happens when you’re about to be brave. This is when you have a decision to make. Is this a time to stay safe, or is this a time to be brave?’
.
Then, we align with the part of them - and it’s always in them - that wants to be brave and knows they can be. It might be the tiniest whisper, or threadbare, or wilted by anxiety, but it will be there. .
Our job as their important people is to usher that brave part of them into the light, so they can start to feel it too. ‘You have done brave things before my darling, and I know you can do this. I know it with everything in me.’

We humans are meaning makers. We are storytellers at heart. It’s how we make sense of each other, our world, and most importantly, ourselves. But big feelings can hijack our stories. When anxiety drives the story, it tells tales of deficiency and lacking, and puts avoidance where courage should be - but we can change that.
.
When we get a feeling, we are driven to make sense of it. Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to. It compels us to listen to, and act on, its story: ‘This is unsafe and you need to act.’ This is how it keeps us safe. When there is no obvious threat, it is understandable that the story that children (or any of us) might put to the feeling is, ‘I feel as though something bad is going to happen, so something bad must be going to happen.’ .
.
This is when anxiety grows teeth. It assumes a power it doesn’t deserve, and drive a response that holds brave hearts back. .
To change the response, we have to change the story. First, we validate, because that lets them feel us beside them. ‘I can see how worried you are about going to school. It makes so much sense that you want to stay home. I’d want to stay home too if I felt like that.’
⠀⠀
Then, to change how the story ends, we change how it begins. ‘Anxiety feels awful. It’s meant to - it’s how it keeps you safe from things that are actually dangerous, like dark alleys. But here’s the secret to doing hard things: Anxiety doesn’t only happen when something is dangerous. It also happens when there is something important or meaningful you need to do, like school or trying something new. It happens when you’re about to be brave. This is when you have a decision to make. Is this a time to stay safe, or is this a time to be brave?’
.
Then, we align with the part of them - and it’s always in them - that wants to be brave and knows they can be. It might be the tiniest whisper, or threadbare, or wilted by anxiety, but it will be there. .
Our job as their important people is to usher that brave part of them into the light, so they can start to feel it too. ‘You have done brave things before my darling, and I know you can do this. I know it with everything in me.’
...







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