Many parents believe in the same myth: if they do everything right, their children will be happy. But that’s not how childhood works. No matter how much you love your child or how much you give to them in the way of attention and material items, kids are still going to experience all kinds of emotions, including anger. And divorce can bring it out even more as their worlds are upended and stability is threatened.
While childhood is filled with fun and wonder, it is also a time when children often feel a lack of independence, scared, and confused by the world around them. Uncertain about if they’ll have a home, if a parent will chose or leave them, stop loving them like their parents have stopped loving each other are just a few of the concerns kids have going through their parent’s divorce. These feelings, combined with growing pains, an increase in hormones and the pressure of doing well in school and extra-curricular activities, quite naturally leads to frustration and anger and outbursts or sadness. Sometimes their feelings result in acting extra special good or sweet trying to please to navigate their own uncertainty, but what about when it comes out as anger. What can be done then? How can it be handled when you are separating, divorced or co-parenting?
Here are some ways to help your child deal with their anger:
Recognize it’s Normal and Healthy
You can’t help your child if you see them as Damien from “The Omen.” The feeling of anger is completely normal and natural for human beings of all ages to experience even if they weren’t dealing with the inbetween of dealing with the two of you and your grown up issues with one another. Approach your child with this attitude. Your job is not to STOP them from feeling anger, it’s to help them process their anger in constructive, not destructive, ways.
If only your child chose to be angry on the days you didn’t have a fight with a coworker (or that text from your parenting partner that set off your buttons) and then were stuck in traffic on the way home for an hour and a half! It’s important to remain calm when your child is having an anger fit, even on those days you feel like blowing your own top. This will not only help keep the situation under control, it will also teach them through action how to control their own emotions as they grow and develop.
Validate Your Child’s Anger
Never tell your child they shouldn’t feel something they are feeling. If they are feeling frustrated and angry, chances are there is a very good reason for it. So validate their anger. This can be as simple as saying, “You seem very upset right now,” instead of saying, “Hey, calm down, there’s no reason to get so angry.” Validating their feelings will help them identify their emotions and not feel bad or ashamed of them.
Help Them Release Their Energy
Help your child deal with their anger in positive ways instead of negative ways. Very young children may want to draw their anger. Older children may want to run around in the back yard. Teenagers may want to lift weights to get that energy out. Squeezing stress balls and bubble wrap is a fun way to get the anger out and it often ends in everyone having a good laugh.
Remember, feeling anger is a natural part of life. Don’t make your child feel bad for their anger and don’t feel like you’ve somehow failed as a parent because your child experiences anger. Anger just is and we all have to learn to process it in healthy ways.
Some kids have more anger than others. In the case of a divorce or sudden death of a parent, a child may be dealing with the kind of anger that requires professional counseling.
If you and your child’s parent are experiencing conflict about your child’s behavior and you need to have a different kind of conversation about it, a family mediator can support the two of you to have the conversation the two of you feel is needed–without prescribing the outcome. Sometimes your communication can get garbled and the static has build walls to be able to discuss what your concerns are for your child, how they are doing (what you are seeing and hearing) and what you feel they need.
We help families have conversations differently most every day (except Sundays and some holidays). We’d be more than happy to discuss how we may be able to help or help you determine what type of help you feel you need. You can find us at www.greatrivermediations.com