Angry Teenagers: What Parents Should Know
An angry teenager is a challenge for any parent to deal with. Not all teens know how to manage their angry feelings or deal with outside stressors appropriately. And, if they develop serious anger issues, what began as an emotional outburst may snowball into acts of violence, self-harm, and illegal activity. Teenagers in these situations may require treatment from a mental health professional.
How can you determine if your teen’s anger is normal adolescent behavior or out-of-control behavior a therapist should address? How can you help your son or daughter deal with anger? To answer these questions, we turned to clinical mental health counselor Carrie Hansen at New Haven, a residential treatment center in Utah.
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Why Is My Teenager So Angry?
Parents have been asking “Why is my teenager so angry?” for years. But how many have thought about what’s behind that anger? According to Hansen, that isn’t the only emotion your teen feels during their outbursts.
“Anger is an intense emotion, often generated by other emotions,” she said. “And the most common ones I see popping up are feelings of sadness or being hurt. Anger is easier to feel and show, so it usually stands out, but when you think you’re dealing with an angry teenager, they’re most likely expressing anger because they’re feeling hurt or sad.”
Stressors that can trigger sadness and anger in teens include:
- Teen hormones.
- Low self-esteem.
- Peer pressure or bullying.
- Family conflict.
- Substance abuse.
- Traumatic events.
- Death of a loved one.
In addition, anger could result from unresolved issues such as depression or anxiety. However, anger by itself does not mean your teen has a mental health condition.
Signs of Anger Issues
“Anger becomes a problem when it gets in the way of daily living,” Hansen said.
She noted that while teens may encounter situations that hurt them and trigger teenage anger outbursts, many of these young people resolve these issues on their own and continue with school, family, and social responsibilities.
However, if your son or daughter exhibits avoidance behavior by refusing to go to school or withdrawing from friends and family, that could be one of the signs of anger issues in a teenager that require additional help.
Other signs include:
- Physical aggression.
- Verbal threats.
- Excessive arguing.
- Bullying peers or family.
- Increased moodiness.
- Friends losing interest in your teen.
In addition to knowing signs of anger issues in a teenager, it’s helpful to understand how that emotion can affect your son or daughter. According to Hansen, when it becomes a teen’s primary focus, they may stop practicing self-care and begin experiencing thinking errors. For example, an angry teenager may feel comments directed at others are actually negative comments directed at them, which increases their feelings of hurt and anger.
How To Deal With Teenage Anger Issues
Although learning how to help an angry teen is challenging, you have several ways to deal with teenage anger issues.
Help your teen express anger in a healthy way
To help your teen learn how to express their anger in a healthy way, Hansen recommended you first reflect on how you manage your own anger.
“Teenagers still follow what parents are modeling for them,” she said. “So, parents can look at themselves and see how they’re handling anger and how this might influence how their teenager is handling anger. The plus side is that if a parent can look at themselves and adjust the way they deal with anger, their teen will probably follow along those guidelines too and manage their anger and emotions.”
Regulating your anger while dealing with your angry teenager is important. For example, you could take a timeout, practice deep breathing, or write in a journal.
Hansen acknowledged teens are good at pushing buttons and learning what gets under their parents’ skin. But, by managing your emotions and staying calm during these tense periods, you keep a situation from getting out of control while you deal with teenage anger issues — and teach healthy expressions of anger.
“Approach your teen in a calm, not emotional manner so you can let them know ‘You are being heard, you are being validated,’” she said. “That’s really important.”
Help your teen find healthy outlets for releasing anger
Finding healthy ways to deal with anger — to release and process it — is another important part of practicing anger management. However, Hansen emphasized that there are different ways to go about it.
“You can go outside and scream, let some tension out,” she suggested. “Some people prefer to process their emotions and how they’re feeling by talking with others, like friends. And sometimes those other emotions that come with anger will give you clues on which direction you need to head in. If you’re feeling anger with depression, you can pay attention to the sadness and focus on that. And that helps resolve your anger.”
Healthy ways to deal with anger also include openly talking about this strong emotion, which can help relieve stress. Hansen has found that acknowledging a person’s anger can benefit the entire family.
“Just being able to say, ‘There’s tension right now because there’s a family member who’s angry and upset,’ is helpful” she said. “The more people who can name it and talk about it openly, the more it doesn’t hold as much power over them. It’s not brushed under the rug or hidden. It eases a lot of tension for other people in the family.”
Get professional help for your teen
When it comes to teen anger management, the methods that work best for regulating your anger may not work well with your child. When this happens, a mental health professional can provide the assistance you both need. You can find qualified therapists in your area by using the Psychology Today search tool.
Hansen offered some advice for finding a good therapist and plan of care.
“Sometimes, different styles of therapy fit better with different people,” she said. “You can definitely have ‘practice runs,’ like an interview with a therapist before you commit to being with that therapist. You can shop around to find someone who’ll be a good fit as far as using different kinds of therapy.”
Teenage Anger: One Last Piece of Advice
Dealing with an angry teenager may be one of the most difficult aspects of raising children. However, being there for your teen and modeling healthy ways to deal with anger gives you an opportunity to play a pivotal role in helping them learn how to regulate their emotions for years to come.
If your angry teenager needs to see a mental health professional, it’s important to realize this does not reflect poorly on you.
“Sometimes parents are not going to be effective in trying to get their teenager to change,” Hansen said. “It’s not like the parent’s doing anything wrong or modeling something poorly. Sometimes, your teen just needs to hear your opinion come out of someone else’s mouth and realize, ‘Oh yeah, what my parent’s telling me is actually valid.’”
Embark is the most trusted name in teen and young adult mental health treatment. We’re prepared to find you the help and support your family needs. Contact us today!