Anger Management For Teens

Emotions are a natural part of life, and people of all ages experience them. Many teens experience anger for varying reasons, and a lot of them don’t know how to handle it or properly express it. It’s important to understand how to identify, address, and treat their anger.

Teen Anger: What’s Normal, What’s Not

Teens are capable of expressing anger in healthy ways. Anger can be an expression of something a teen is feeling or an indication of something deeper, and it’s important to remember that anger isn’t always bad.

The expression of anger becomes abnormal when the management and regulation causes harm and distress to the teen, their family, their friends, or the community. Anger unmanaged damages relationships, affects school performance, work performance, etc. The big differentiator between normal anger and abnormal anger is the teen’s ability to manage it.


Understand Your Teen's Anger

Teens’ brains are still growing and learning every day. Everyone has a window of tolerance for managing emotions, but breaking outside that window can lead to hypomania, depression, further anger, etc. This is a basic survival tactic when you can’t manage your anger, and the lizard brain takes over. Not properly managing emotions overwhelms your nervous system and sends you into fight or flight mode. Because teens aren’t as developed, their window of tolerance may be smaller, and their responses may be more aggressive.

Indicators of bad anger management in teens include abusing substances, avoiding triggers and situations that create problems, isolation, aggression, and the inability to keep themselves and others safe when angry.

Warning Signs Your Teen’s Anger Is Out Of Control

Teens become aggressive and reckless when they cannot control their anger and don’t understand the underlying reason for the anger. Life experience and practice can make a teen’s anger threshold larger, but their brains are still developing and they are learning how to handle experiences. If showing aggression in the past has worked and helped them feel safe, they may continue to default to anger and aggression.

Anger is maladaptive, and they need to seek treatment when their anger becomes destructive or out of control. Co-occurring behaviors that accompany a lack of anger management include substance abuse, isolation, and excessive aggression.

Common Mistakes In Helping Your Teen To Manage Anger

Parents often have conversations with their teens while angry, and they are usually asking the teen to apologize or be accountable for something. This may result in a degree of shame, which only exacerbates the anger and can lead to a disconnect between them.

Don’t worry about pushing your teen to apologize. Underneath their anger is something else, and it’s important to get to the core of it. Anger is an iceberg: there is much more below the surface than is seen. A teen may be experiencing depression, shame, guilt, etc.

It is incredibly important for parents to be inside their window of control before talking to the teen. If the parent is not stable and focused, they cannot provide the proper support a teen needs. Often, parents feel the need to address anger or incidents immediately, but that moment may not always be the best time, unless there is immediate concern or a lack of safety. Teens tend to get louder if they don’t feel heard, so parents need to do everything they can to truly hear their teen.

Parents tend to put their understanding of the world on the teen’s shoulder, but the teen may not always understand or accept it. Explore the perspective of your teen and learn what is important to them, even if you don’t find it important. A parent can co-regulate to help their teen calm down and focus. Always regulate, then have a logic-based conversation. As a parent, you may need to rely on support from other sources like other adults and caring professionals.

Anger Management For Teens

Teens need to be given the tools they need to stay within their window and better regulate their anger. One of the tools is an understanding of the source of anger. Teens need to understand that emotions and anger are like waves. They flood you, then secede. And they will always continue to ebb and flow. It’s important to be taught how to manage the floods and utilize the easier times for healing.

Wilderness Therapy Treatment For Anger In Teens

Being out in nature is an excellent way to reduce stress--there are no phones, televisions, or social media. In wilderness therapy programs like RedCliff Ascent, teens may be dealing with a challenging hike or adapting to sleeping outdoors rather than the distractions and pressures of technology. There are supportive mentors and therapists who are available to help them regulate their behaviors and address underlying issues, especially when teens are unable to cope with their emotions. They will be experiencing and growing in a safe and controlled environment, which can help them find the resolutions they need and learn how to independently regulate their emotions.