Elk River Teen Treatment Program

Anger Management Treatment Program for Teens

Anger Management for Teens

What to Look For and How to Help

Helping teens with anger issues is a challenge for parents. Everyone gets angry from time to time. How can parents tell if their child has a serious problem? How do they know what to do to help?

Doors slamming and feet stomping out the door aren’t unusual sounds with a teen in the house, but parents need to be on the lookout for indications of a deeper issue.

A study of 6,483 adolescents ages 13-17 and their parents reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2012 found that nearly two-thirds reported at least one lifetime anger attack that involved destroying property, threatening violence or engaging in violence. Threats were most common, but 39.3 percent engaged in violent attacks and 31.6 percent destroyed property.

Violent outbursts so severe that they can be categorized as a mental health condition called intermittent explosive disorder usually begin in childhood, the study found.

Kids who regularly lose their temper over minor things or damage property when angry bear watching. So do those who are also abusing alcohol or drugs, constantly fighting with friends and family members or become furious at regular teasing.

Taking out your anger by kicking the dog is a joking figure of speech but if teens actually try it, it’s time to take action before the violence escalates.

Parents should become concerned if children dwell on past slights or embarrassments to the point of becoming angry all over again. Physical manifestations to watch for include headaches, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and insomnia.

Anger Management Techniques for Teens

The key is to provide adolescents with anger management techniques that can help them through the frustration, fear and rejection that everyone encounters in life. An added challenge is helping impatient teens realize that changing behavior takes time. The frontal lobe of the brain that regulates self-control isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s. Add adolescent drama and hormones to the volatile mix.

Parents need to teach teens that anger happens to the best of us but finding ways to deal with it is part of growing up.

The place to start is by making sure your child knows of your unconditional love and support. By listening to what he or she has to say, parents can try to understand the underlying issues. Helping them recognize what triggers an angry reaction in the first place is the beginning of learning to deal with it.

When teens begin to be aware of their physical reactions to anger, those can become clues that it’s time to walk away. Anger causes an actual physical response through higher blood pressure, tense muscles, faster heart rate and adrenaline rushes.

Teens need to be able to recognize their anger triggers. Perhaps the large problem is that they are feeling misunderstood or disrespected, dealing with too many expectations from teachers or parents, or being told “no” too often – in their opinion.

Encouraging them to analyze the situation objectively can be helpful, too. Is it simply a misunderstanding? Did someone just catch them on a bad day?

Because teens tend to be impulsive, it can be helpful to encourage them to stop and think before acting or reacting. Teach them to listen and consider the other person’s point of view.

Other Anger Management Strategies for Teens

  • Finding a distraction
  • Meditation
  • Keeping a journal
  • Taking a walk or exercising
  • Drawing
  • Talking with someone
  • Listening to soothing - not angry - music

How Parents Can Help Their Teens with Anger

Teens – like everyone else -- need to learn to replace negative thoughts with more rational thinking, according to Dr. Tony Fiore and Dr. Ari Novick, authors of “Anger Management for the 21st Century.” Rational self-talk, they say, goes like this: “It is understandable that I am upset, but getting angry isn’t going to fix anything.”

People who can’t control their anger tend to exaggerate or blow it out of proportion, therapists say. Instead of believing that “everything’s ruined,” tell yourself “it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.”

Parents can help by setting a good example for teens of not losing their own tempers and getting help with their own anger management issues if necessary.

Therapy sessions, both in individual and group settings like those available through the Elk River Treatment Program, are another answer if the young person is willing.


Other sources: teenviolencestatistics.com, kidshealth.org, teenhelp.com, Archives

of General Psychiatry.