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Navigating the Teen Years: Managing Anger: Theirs and Yours

December 7, 2009
Times Observer
BY JANET FORBES, BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY LAISON, CASSADAGA JOB CORPS ACADEMY

Warm family relationships can help protect children from acting violently, abusing alcohol and other drugs, or engaging in other high-risk behaviors. But family members even in the most loving families get angry at one another from time to time. When families communicate well and work cooperatively, anger can be resolved without a problem. Handled poorly, however, anger gets in the way of good communication between parent and child. Anger without control can sometimes be dangerous and may even become violent.

Many adults are not good at managing anger, and expressing this emotion in a healthy way. Some adults see anger as an emotion that should be suppressed, because it leads to trouble. Some grew up in families in which anger generally led to explosive behavior and even violence. Others were taught that it is not “nice” to be angry. It’s important that parents know how to manage anger successfully in family life, at work, and in the community. And that same knowledge needs to be shared with children, so that they learn this important skill.

With the many changes that occur during adolescence, it’s not unusual for teenagers to feel anger and resentment toward parents. Adolescents struggle to prepare for adulthood. Sometimes anger is their way of asserting independence. This can wear thin on parents, who may fight back with their own anger, creating a vicious circle of escalating resentment.

The best solution to out-of-control anger whether from a parent or from a teen is to step back, and identify more positive, healthy ways to deal with strong feelings. We do this when we can calm down and respond in a disciplined and thoughtful way. By maintaining composure, parents can be good role models and open the door to constructive communication with their children.

But how do you keep calm when you feel pushed to the limit? Here are some suggestions:

Tips For Calming Down • Pick your battles. Sometimes the issue is not worth the anger, or worth arguing about. • Take a deep breath; count to ten. Think about the issue before a single word comes out of your mouth. • Go for a walk. • Use “self-talk” to calm down. That is, say something soothing to yourself such as “I need to relax and stay calm. I can’t afford to blow up.” • Reframe the issue. For example, when your son says something rude to you, it may be less a matter of him disrespecting you than a sign that he has a problem with his anger. “Framing” it this way, you focus on the fact that he needs your help in overcoming this problem. • Use humor. Humor can sometimes be a good way to calm anger, but be sure not to use sarcasm, which can sometimes be hurtful.

Sometimes the hardest part of helping children learn to manage their anger is that parents have to look at their own practices. Parents needs to ask:

Do I express anger in positive and constructive ways? Do I resolve conflict well? Have I taught my children to accept and express their anger?

Resolving Conflict Resolving conflict constructively may be a huge challenge, but it’s an absolute necessity for the sake of every member of your family.

Once you are calm, you are in a better position to address the issues that caused the conflict.

Here are some tips: • Give your point of view. State the problem as you see it; speak clearly and calmly – don’t yell. • Ask to hear your teen’s point of view. • Pay attention, listen, and carefully consider what your teen is saying. • Discuss ways to solve the dispute without a battle. • Practice the art of compromise. Find the middle ground you can both live with comfortably. • Assert your authority, when appropriate, but in a calm, yet firm manner.

What If The Anger Doesn’t Stop? When anger becomes a chronic problem for someone in your family, the underlying issue may be larger than you or your teen can manage. If you even think your family is at this crisis point, or if you think you or any member of your family has a serious problem with anger management, it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional. Recognize that this situation necessitates counseling, and sometimes that means the entire family will need help.

Talk with your school counselor or family physician for referrals to mental health services.

You and your teen working together with honesty, openness, compassion, and love can lead to constructively managing anger in your family.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov

Forbes is the Business and Community Liaison at Cassadaga Job Corps Academy. She has an AAS in Nursing from Jamestown Community College and a BS in Human Services and Community with a concentration in women and family issues from SUNY Empire State College. She lives in Jamestown and is the mother of an adult son and grandmother of three.

For more information about CJCA, contact Janet Forbes at (716) 595-4237, email Forbes.Janet@jobcorps.org. or visit www.jobcorps.gov. For more information about Job Corps, visit www.jobcorps.gov

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