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Parenting Tips during Covid (Part 1: Anger Management)

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a host of disappointments, and you may have noticed a spike in tantrums or acting out at home. Birthday parties canceled, no play dates, and stuck inside doing remote schooling! You may be surprised and a bit embarrassed by your child’s tantrums (or fighting the urge to have one of your own). But your child’s anger doesn’t have to be overwhelming when you are equipped with the right strategies.

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But many kids struggle to understand the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Frustration and anger can quickly turn into defiance, disrespect, aggression, and temper tantrums when kids don’t know how to deal with their emotions.

Here are a few practical tips on anger management:

1. Differentiate Between Feelings and Behaviour:

Teach kids to label their feelings,so they can verbalize feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment. Try saying, “It’s OK to feel angry but it’s not OK to hit.” Help them see that they’re in control of their actions when they feel angry.

Sometimes, aggressive behavior stems from a variety of uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or embarrassment. So, help your kids explore why they are feeling angry. Maybe they feel sad about a playdate being canceled, but they respond in anger because it’s easier or it masks the hurt they’re feeling.

2. Model Appropriate Anger Management Skills:

The best way to teach children how to deal with anger is by showing them how you deal with your emotions when you feel angry. When kids watch you lose your temper, they’ll likely do the same. But, if they see you cope with your feelings in a kinder, gentler way, they’ll pick up on that, too.

3. Establish Anger Rules:

Most families have unofficial family rules about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to anger. Some families don’t mind doors being slammed and voices being raised while other families have less tolerance for such behaviors. Create written household rules that outline your expectations.

Anger rules should center around behaving respectfully toward others.

Address areas such as physical aggression and name calling and destruction of property so that your children understand they can’t throw things, break things, or lash out verbally or physically when they’re mad.

4. Teach Healthy Coping Skills:

Kids need to know appropriate ways to deal with their anger. Instead of being told, “Don’t hit your brother,” explain what they can do when they feel frustrated. Say, “Next time, use your words” or “Walk away from him when you feel angry.”

You also can ask, “What could you do instead of hitting?” to help your child identify strategies that might be helpful. You also could create a calm down kit that can be used when they’re upset.

Fill a box with items that can help them calm down, such as a coloring book and crayons, lotion that smells good, or soothing music. Engaging their senses can help calm their mind and body.

Use time -out as a tool to help your child calm down. Teach them that they can take a time-out before they get into trouble. Removing themselves from a situation and taking a few minutes to calm down can be really helpful for kids prone to anger.

5. Offer Consequences When Necessary:

Give your children positive consequences when they follow the anger rules and negative consequences when they break the rules. Positive consequences, such as a reward system or token economy system can motivate a child to use anger management skills when they’re upset.

Follow through with immediate consequences if your child becomes aggressive. Effective consequences may include time-outs, loss of privileges or paying restitution by doing extra chores or loaning a toy to the target of their aggression.

6. Patience and Practice Together:

Keep in mind that overcoming frustration is really hard to do in the moment, especially when your child is out of practice. Some of the situations that may seem tricky for your child right now, such as paying attention during virtual schooling or turning off a videogame when asked, require skills to manage. And those skills take time to develop! Parents can actively practice and coach their children to rise to the challenge:

● Notice angry feelings as a message that this a problem that can be solved,

● Slow down to figure out what the problem is, and

● Use problem-solving strategies to get to a win-win solution for everyone involved.

When children realize that they can learn to manage their anger, it can boost their confidence and resilience to stress beyond the immediate benefits to their mood.

By Roopali Singh
Creative Team Leader, Suyog Sunderji Wisdom School, India

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