Ah, the joys of raising teens. The years are filled with learner’s permits, high school sports, prom, college applications, and…… anger? Yep, anger. The truth is that a LOT of teenagers become angry- with their peers, with themselves, and most certainly with their parents. They may be passive-aggressive, have emotional outbursts, and sadly some even resort to violence. And although there has always been a certain amount of angst associated with the teenage years, culturally there seems to be an increase in it, and many parents are at a loss as to why. Here are some some common reasons for anger in the modern teen:
First, puberty is starting younger and younger (some estimates say around age 8). Hormonal changes and insecurity coupled with new sexual feelings and experiences can be a major source of conflict and confusion. When a teen’s physical body is changing so rapidly, it’s easy for emotional turbulence to occur.
Another source of anger may be the cultural disconnect between parents and their young adult children, specifically as it relates to technology. With their smart phones and tablets, teens are used to getting information instantaneously, so they may experience anger when things don’t go their way immediately or they have to wait. This disconnect can also lead to differences in communication styles between kids and their parents, which can be an additional source of conflict.
Finally, a major cause of anger in teens can be rooted in the media. Remember that the media teens are frequently exposed to often has the agenda to sell them something or to make them think or act in a certain way. This can be radically different than what you want for your child: to become a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adult. Conflicting values and messages they receive can lead to teens becoming emotionally flooded, or overwhelmed with difficult feelings that may manifest themselves as anger.
These are just a few common sources of anger for millennial teens, but the real question is this: what can parents do?
Encourage Emotional Awareness
Anger is almost always a secondary emotion- that is, it’s covering up some other vulnerable feeling, such as fear, disappointment, or insecurity. By starting early and encouraging your children to recognize and properly express a full range of emotions, they’ll be better able to manage difficult ones (including anger). Also, be careful to not fully discourage anger-there are some things in life that fully warrant it! Teach your teens that anger as an emotion (not as an action) is not a bad thing, as long as it is properly managed.
Give Positive and Negative Feedback
When our kids need our feedback (and they all will at some point!), it’s important to balance positive and negative. While we need to have the courage to address inappropriate or harmful behaviors, fixating on the problems can give kids the impression that they’re nothing more than their mistakes, further exacerbating their anger. It sure can be tempting to nag, but point out the positive things your teen is doing as well!
Seek Professional Help
If a teen is prone to violent outbursts and poses a threat to himself/herself or to others, it’s time to get counseling. Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is characterized by fits of rage that may be accompany depression, childhood abuse, or substance abuse. If things have gotten out of control, a mental health professional can help.