Feeling angry is not wrong. Feelings are legitimate and when processed in a healthy way can help emotional growth and social development. Pain does not need to be destructive, internalized or shamed, it can be seen as an opportunity for growth and self-awareness. As parents we can teach by doing. The key is to learn how to deal with our own emotions and our children’s without judgment. If we ourselves can set a good example emotionally, by not overreacting or lashing out, it will help set the foundation for them. Here are some simple ways we can help our children process anger:
1. Help them to recognize their emotions
When you’re feeling an emotion, name it out loud for your child. This will help them recognize their own emotions and be better at communicating. Being overwhelmed with emotions, especially anger can be scary for a child, but if they know what it is and can communicate with you, it will help you to give them the coping tools that can support them.
2. Ask them to explain how they are feeling
If you are able to, ask your child to explain how they are feeling. Let them express themselves without judgment so they can feel heard. Give them the space to explain why, not only for yourself but for themselves to hear back too, to help you both discover the root of the anger.
3. Try not to plant the seed that what they are feeling is wrong
You may not agree with the reason that your child is angry, or how they are handling it, but that doesn’t de-legitimize their emotion. Try not to make them feel bad about their anger, otherwise they may suppress it. Allow them to acknowledge it and process it in a safe space. They are still developing and should not be expected to act beyond their years.
4. Find a good outlet
Art or physical activity can be a great outlet to work though or healthily express strong energy such as anger. Try and find an activity your child can relate to and use as a source of replenishment or release. Even something as simple as a few deep, slow breathes in the moment, an afternoon in nature or in the ocean, pure silliness from you, or just a few minutes void of stimuli can help them decompress.
5. Every Child is different
What may work for one child may not work for another. Know your keiki and work to their strengths. Anger can be a muse for productivity when channeled in the right way and can be self-destructive if internalized. A full belly and good sleep can help balance emotions and reduce outbursts while a calm, steadying mentor by their side can help when they are struggling with anger the most.
Image Credit: Paul Bacon Jr