Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Virginia Sherborne MBACP (Accred.)
28th May, 2010
Anger is really a secondary emotion. This means that another emotion is lying beneath, such as a feeling of injustice, hurt, fear, shame, guilt, etc. When parents and teens can identify these underlying feelings, there is more chance of a) aggressive feelings dissolving away, and b) the problem being sorted out effectively as people's needs are more likely to be met.
Parents can provide a role model to help teens identify feelings by clearly spelling out their own underlying feelings when they are stressed. Here is an example scenario:
Your teen comes in very late from a night out. You are tempted to greet them with an angry outburst, “How dare you!…You are grounded for a year!” etc etc. Actually your underlying feeling is FEAR, as you were terrified for hours that something had happened to your child. If you say: ”Oh thank God, I was so worried! I was terrified something had happened to you!”, then your teen learns more about feelings and more about the effect of their behaviour on others. This leaves the door open for agreeing a solution which is mutually acceptable to avoid this FEAR the next time they go out.
Sometimes parents may be providing negative role models.Teens who are angry and aggressive may be copying the behaviour of adults around them. Parents need to be aware of how they operate when their own needs are not being met. And what messages about behaviour did they learn from their own parents?
Most families can identify typical ‘flashpoints’, when aggressive episodes are likely to be triggered. Talking about these calmly IN ADVANCE when both parties are relaxed can help the family to avoid them in the future. Finding mutually acceptable strategies to avoid flashpoints encourages children to learn cooperation and respect.
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