Sometimes I think the terms anger and teen should be synonymous! As parents we sometimes see our teen as argumentative, moody, defiant, manipulative, just to name a few. It’s virtually pointless anymore to try and imagine the connection to what we were doing, thinking, and feeling when we were teens and what teens experience now because so much has changed. What IS relevant to teens in this day in age compared to what was relevant 10-15 years ago bears minimal resemblance. Sometimes I look at my five year old and shutter to think of what I will be facing in a few short years!
Most of my teen clients come to me at the request of their parents because “something is just going on with them” their parents will say. Many try and read between the lines and figure out the mystery but often times I am used as the detective in this situation! Ever too quickly I generally discover an underlying theme of the teen’s low mood, anger outburst, social isolation, sexual identity questions, and we can work towards alleviating some of the negative feelings associated. One common thread to all of these teen issues is Anger!
Whether anger is stemming from built up resentment towards a friend or family member, a relationship gone bad, pressures in the home, academic success, worry about the future, or a troubled past, anger will always be present and will manifest itself in some form or fashion. I always like to start out my sessions gathering information and collecting data that I can use to show intensity and frequency of the anger the client is experiencing. Once I am able to grasp their anger then I put together a plan of action to tackle it with the client’s involvement, of course.
Upside & Downside of anger- upside, it is usually just a symptom which can easily be treated with interventions and cognitive behavioral approaches. Downside, since it is just a symptom, there will likely be a more hearty underlying issue that is causing the anger to present itself. Getting to the root of this issue and addressing it is a much more difficult task!
So, if you have an “angry teen” and you find yourself asking the questions “what have I done wrong, what can I do better, is it too late to change this, this is so unlike them, what can it be….” what should you do??? First and foremost decide upon a way to communicate to your teen that you care and when and if they are ready to talk to you, they can. Discuss the natural supports in their lives reminding them of who they can turn to when they need help, and always, if their behavior escalates or you are fearful that it will escalate, ask for help from a professional!