Brenda Yoder, MA

Brenda is a writer, speaker, and educator. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a BA in Education.

I spent time this week helping  more than one kid deal with anger.  As a counseling professional in a school for 10-13 year-olds, I see many kids who don’t know what to do with their anger.

It just builds up and builds up and sometime it might just come out” a ten year old said to me.  She took a risk in telling me she wanted help because her tough-girl image already precedes her.  But inside, she doesn’t like how she feels.

It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, kids with anger are hurting inside.  Their bodies experience a range of emotions – frustration, hurt, jealousy, envy, insecurity, fear – but it comes 

out as anger. As this child explained, it’s like their body is a volcano with lava flowing up to the top just ready to spill over.

So how can you help a child who experiences anger as their primary emotion?  Here are some things to try:

  1. Have the child practice deep breathing, teaching them to pay attention to their own body, their breathing patterns, and how their body calms down when they practice it. Help them self-regulate their emotions by teaching them techniques they can do on their own.
  2. Help the child notice what parts of their body get tense first when they get angry.  Is it their hands? Their jaw? Their shoulders?  Help them develop relaxation techniques while deep breathing, targeting the parts of their bodies that feel the anger first.  Help them be aware of their body and how it responds to anger so they can move to self-regulation.
  3. Give them sensory items to engage with.  One of my favorites is a plastic box filled with different kinds of dry beans and marbles or pennies.  As kids fidget their hands in the box, the cool-touch of the beans and the feel of it on their hands has a soothing, calming effect, allowing a child to refocus and calm down.  You can also Google other sensory techniques to try.
  4. Give them an outlet to express what they are feeling, like talking, writing, drawing, coloring, or shooting baskets.  Kids often won’t just sit and talk when they are angry. By giving them something to do while you talk with them, they are better able express what they are feeling inside.  It gives them a non-threatening way to express themselves.
  5. Help them identify other feelings that may be masked by anger.  Helping them understand the difference between frustration and anger, sadness and anger, hurt and anger, etc., allows them to be self-aware about their emotions and recognize their root feelings.  It gives them the ability to voice their feelings appropriately (“I’m sad”) rather than having anger as their primary emotion.  This, too, can help them self-regulate their feelings.

In a culture where kids see more anger around them, have more opportunities to express anger through social media and texting, or to bully others, it’s important to help them develop appropriate ways to handle a dangerous emotion that can be harmful to them and others.

I don’t want to feel this way” more than one child has told me.

How can you help children in your world to deal with their anger?  Do you have other techniques that also work? We’d love to hear them!

What do you think?

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