Even though the U.S. has largely returned to “normal,” the impact of the past two years is still lingering—and the kids are letting us know. At Amen Clinics, we’ve been seeing an increase of children and teens with anger issues that, according to their parents, have emerged over the course of the pandemic.At Amen Clinics, we’ve been seeing an increase of children and teens with anger issues that have emerged over the course of the pandemic. Click To Tweet
I know a lot of us are tired of talking about the impact COVID-19 has had on our daily lives. Most adults can accept what we’ve gone through, however, it’s not so easy for kids to do the same. From a developmental perspective, they don’t possess the same tools needed to cope with the drastic challenges they had to deal with, such as social isolation, remote learning, and the absence of extracurricular activities. Some children are still struggling to catch up.
Since it’s often difficult for kids to articulate the unsettled emotions they have, they tend to act out how they feel. For many, it shows up as anger that is uncharacteristic for them or their age or disproportionate to situations. It’s their way of letting us know they are somehow distressed.
3 Ways to Help Your Angry Child
Still, it’s no fun when our kids lash out at us—or others—but when it happens, it’s important that we take the time to find out what’s going on in their minds. And, how you handle it can make a big difference in either getting to the root of the problem or making your child feel worse about feeling bad.
Here are a few things you can do to help your kiddo when inappropriate anger strikes:
- Modulate your voice: As hard as it might be when your child is screaming at you, don’t raise your voice in response because that only makes them escalate. Wait to talk with them until they are calmer, since it’s impossible to reason with someone who’s having a meltdown.
- Validate his or her feelings: Even if they were triggered by something completely irrational (from your perspective), it’s really important that your child knows you’re taking in what they say. So rather than replying, “oh that’s nothing to worry about” (which invalidates their emotions), respond with something more empathic like, “I understand that [situation] feels scary/hurtful/etc. to you and made you feel really mad. What upset you the most about it?” Once they’ve gotten it off their chest, you can comfort them and together figure out a strategy for combatting the concern together.
- Talk with your kids more often: When we regularly talk with our kids and engage them in reciprocal conversation, we are modeling safety about sharing our feelings. If you haven’t been great at it, start now and make it a regular habit. Actively listen to what they say and repeat back what you heard so they know you understand. This helps increase the chances that in the future, they’ll come to you for support when they are upset about something—rather than lashing out.
Is There an Underlying Mental Health Problem?
While there are children whose anger is reactive to the past couple of years, for others, subtle mental health problems which may have been less obvious pre-pandemic, have come into bloom and need to be addressed. For example, anger is a symptom that is seen with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and others.
If there is an underlying mental health issue that remains untreated, it can interfere with their current success at school, healthy social development, and relationships, leading to even more problems for them in the future.
So, if you think your kid’s anger outbursts are more than adjusting to changes, I recommend you schedule them for a psychiatric evaluation to see what’s going on. This way, you can receive the support and information needed to get your child’s brain into balance so they can have a happier and more enjoyable childhood.
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If you or your children are struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.