Anger is a normal and healthy feeling which we all experience. Over time we have learnt ways to manage this. Children and young people can sometimes be scared by the feeling of anger. They may not always have the words or understanding to manage this emotion. Anger can be a way for them to show their frustration or unhappiness, or they may not even know what is making them feel this way.
It can be a response to feeling scared or stressed, or things not happening as they hoped. Parents and carers have an important part to play in helping them cope with these strong feelings.
Children can learn to recognise and name strong feelings like anger. Children often need support to learn out how to handle the feeling and how to show it safely, as well as how to calm themselves down.
Sometimes children and young people get angry about something that has just happened or something they have bottled up for a long time. As they grow up they have many challenges to learn to manage. Changes in school, friendships, exams and family relationships can all lead to feelings of anger.
Things You Can Do
It can help for your child to learn about anger. You can support them do this.
The anger volcano is a fun activity that you can do together. It will help you to chat about how anger feels and how you can manage this in a positive way. You can download this below.
Talk about what’s making your child feel angry – don’t ignore it. Your child may not want to talk straight away and that is okay, but you can help to get them started by talking about what makes you angry. Choose examples that a child or young person can easily understand like ‘leaving the towels on the floor in the bathroom’.
It is hard keeping calm and caring for your child through a meltdown. Make sure you have time to let off steam and have someone to talk to too – being with your child when they are feeling angry is exhausting! Get support for yourself;
Taking care of yourself will help you keep being able to respond to and support your child when they are struggling with their feelings.
You know your child best. You may notice that there are some things that make an angry outburst more likely. Being aware of this can help you and your child avoid a meltdown.
Anger can be triggered by basic needs like hunger or tiredness. Or it may be that stress, new situations or family upsets or worries increase the number of outbursts. Things like teasing or feeling ‘bossed about’ by a sibling can also create these feelings. Sometimes stepping in to distract and support your child to manage their frustration can head off an outburst.
Knowing how best to respond to your child can be difficult when they are angry. The reasons and how your child shows anger will depend on a number of things like age, personality and understanding.
There is a pattern to anger. It can happen very quickly but if you can spot the stages you may be able to sometimes avoid the meltdown. Use some time after an outburst to think how it might be avoided next time. As your child gets older it is important that they get in the habit of reflecting on this too.
Stages of an angry outburst:
Escalation – it’s getting bigger!
Crisis Stage – meltdown!
Recovery Stage – for you as well as your child.
Always praise your child when they try to manage a difficult feeling in a positive way. If they don’t manage it talk to them when they have calmed down. Come up with a plan about what they could try another time.
The Anger Iceberg
It can be helpful to think of your child’s anger like an iceberg. If your child is showing lots of signs they are angry, underneath the surface they could be feeling lots of other emotions.
Anger is sometimes just the quickest and easiest emotion to show.
You can download the anger iceberg below.
Fight Or Flight
Fight, flight or freeze is a normal reaction. It is our body’s way of preparing itself to respond to danger. Back in cave man times it would have been the instinct that kept us safer when wild animals were around.
Fight, flight or freeze is an automatic response. It can happen when the danger is real or only in our minds. Our body’s automatic reaction is either to;
It can be helpful to watch out for when your child has a “fight ,flight or freeze” response. Be aware of any patterns or triggers. Flight or flight can be a sign of the anger emotion. This response is our bodies letting us know that there is a danger. We can stay and fight the danger or run away.
Being able to spot the signs of anger early can help your child understand what they are feeling. Talk about what your child feels when they start to get angry. For example, they may notice that:
Let It Out
Helping your child find safe ways to let out anger can be good for all the family. Giving your child a space where they can go if they are feeling angry can also make them feel more secure.
Safe ways for your child to let their anger out:
Ideas For Calming Down
The videos below explain what your child can do to calm intense fear or anger so they can make better decisions, and how they can create a space between a situation occurring and their reaction to it.
Shelf Help Books
Books about mental health for 13 to 18 year olds, with advice and information about issues like anxiety, stress and OCD, bullying and exams.
All Shelf Help books can be reserved for free from any Norfolk library, or online. The books are available to borrow for up to six weeks.
Health Uncovered Podcast
Health Uncovered is a series of podcasts that aims to get young people in-tune with their health and wellbeing. The series is hosted by BBC Radio One presenter Cel Spellman and features young people and health professionals from our Norfolk Healthy Child Programme.
Life isn't always easy - and young people across the country have been helping us explore the issues that they’re facing today. From online bullying to sexual health, body image to mental health. They've been asking the questions you want to hear answered, joined by the health professionals that help young people, like school nurses and mental health specialists, to provide solutions, support and understanding.
Anger VolcanoClick Here
Anger Iceberg PosterClick Here
If you are concerned that you are unable to help your child control their anger, you could speak to their school or early years setting. Many children get angry and sometimes their anger can last a long time. Schools and early years settings will have supported lots of parents to help them understand the same issues.
If anger becomes regular and uncontrollable you may need to seek further help and support. You can contact a member of the 0-19 Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
You can also contact your GP, who can help you access support.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
For adults Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors.
For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support.
Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.
Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.