Seeing intense anger in your child can be startling and scary to deal with as a parent. There are many reasons why any given child might have frustration, anger or even rage.
Temperament: Some children have low frustration tolerances and are more irritable from their first days onward. A child’s temperament can have a great affect on how they express certain emotions. These children are more rigid when it comes to transitions, are strong willed and opinionated and tend react quickly to their emotions. While this can seem like a deficit, these children are also some of the most determined, perseverant children in their classes and can be great leaders. In therapy, we work to identify the strengths of this temperament as well as working on awareness of how their emotions and actions can affect others in empathy training.
Sensory Processing problems: Does your child cover their ears a lot when around crowds of people? Have they always been fearful of loud noises? Are there only certain types of clothing that are “acceptable” for your child? Do they tend to bump into things often or need to be hugged/ squeezed when they are tired? Sensory processing problems
For more information on Sensory Processing Disorders, check out STAR Institute’s website for a checklist of symptoms for infant/toddler, preschool and school age children.
Parent Child Interaction Difficulties: For some parents, there are constant difficulties in the interaction patterns between you and your child/ teen. It might seem like every single task creates a power struggle. Meltdowns happen not only on the child’s end but also on the parent’s end as the behaviors increase and your energy decreases. This might stem from your child’s rigidity, a trigger inside the parent when the child acts out or many other underlying issues in personalities and experience. However exhausting or intense these interactions have become, there are proven methods in therapy to help identify the problematic interactions and use therapeutic interventions to create more positive, connected interactions.
Environment: Some school and homes allow children more time to vent and breathe whereas others require a lot more emotional containment for longer periods of time. If a child is in a child-centered schooling system (such as Montessori), there is more freedom for that child to release tension or frustration periodically throughout the day. If the school is more structured, there are less times for children to release these tensions and more explosions as the child cannot keep their emotions contained.
Other times, a child or teen has been in a household that is going through a divorce and where the parental conflict is ocurring in front of the children. Children and teens in these situations experience the anger in parents and can tend to internalize these feelings until they are in a place where the feelings are stirred up and can then lash out or explode.
A child or teen going through a transition of schools, homes, cultures or family life might use meltdowns and anger as a way of expressing their confusion or sadness during these changes.
Social Difficulties: Personality conflicts between children or bullying situations can create a lot of anger in chidlren. Many children have never been taught how to effectively deal with the emotion of anger or even how to recognize anger in their bodies before it builds. Successful conflict management as well as feelings identification and empathy training can help tremendously with anger that stems from relationship problems.
Here is a great video on social development. If you have concerns about your child’s social development, we offer social skills groups starting at age 4.
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