Help your teen manage their anger

Anger is often labelled as a negative emotion, but being angry isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can use it as a driving force for positive changes. It only becomes a problem for teens when they are constantly angry or feel overwhelmed by this emotion, or when the way they express their anger is harming them and the people around them.

We can’t help teens to get rid of anger completely, but supporting them to find healthy coping strategies can help them ensure their anger doesn’t get out of control. Some young people from the ReachOut Online Community have shared what helps them the most when they feel angry, to give you some ideas.

mum and teenage boy sitting on couch chatting (1)

Why do teenagers get angry?

Anger is an emotion that every single one of us experiences; it’s a natural part of being human. As well as making us feel frustrated, annoyed or irritable, it can also lead to physical symptoms such as:

  • muscle tension

  • a fast heart rate

  • a surge of energy from adrenalin

  • sweating

  • crying

  • headaches

  • stomach problems.

There are endless reasons why we might feel angry. It could be caused by a fight with a friend, by seeing something negative in the news or by having someone cut in front of you in a queue. Typically, we feel anger when our boundaries, values or actions are challenged or criticised. Anger is also a natural response when we feel threatened by someone else.

For teens, anger is a common emotion triggered by all the new experiences and stresses they are faced with during a period of rapid growth and development.

Where does teen anger come from?

The first step in managing anger in a healthy way is identifying its underlying cause. This might sound simple, but it can actually be quite tricky as anger is sometimes just the surface response to a deeper problem. Even though your teen may be expressing anger about one thing, it may be driven by another situation that is making them feel:

  • anxious or fearful

  • embarrassed

  • ashamed or guilty

  • hurt

  • sad

  • like they have no control

  • misunderstood

  • stressed.

‘I think sitting with things like anger and trying to figure out why we’re feeling this way is super valuable because it lets you figure out what else your brain is ticking over. For example, sometimes you get really angry really easily because you’re stressed or tired, and so dealing with those things can help address the anger you’re feeling.’ — @ecla34

Starting a conversation with your teen about their anger

If there is a deeper issue that’s causing your teen to be angry, they might not know how to communicate this clearly, or they may not even realise that it’s affecting them negatively.

You can provide support by having an open-minded and non-judgemental conversation with them to help them further express what they’re feeling.

You can start by asking questions such as:

  • What happened? Did someone or something upset you?

  • How did it make you feel? Do you feel something other than anger – are you feeling anxious, sad or stressed out?

  • Did they do something that crossed a line for you? What was it about what they did that you didn’t like?

Once you and your teen have explored why they might be feeling angry, you can discuss what they think would help them feel better. These might be specific anger management strategies, a self-care plan, talking to someone else they trust, or getting extra support from a professional.

Strategies that have helped young people manage their anger

There are several healthy ways to deal with anger that you can look into with your teen.

Pause the situation

Pause the situation When we’re feeling frustrated or irritated, it can be really hard to deal with anything in a constructive way. If your teen puts some space between them and a situation they’re angry about, and returns to it when they’re in a calmer state of mind, they’ll be better able to sort things out in a healthier way.

‘I walk away and if that isn’t feasible, I ask to be left alone until I’m ready to talk. For me it’s about open communication.’ — @hopeful_24

Do some exercise

Getting the body moving is a great way to release tension and can also help relieve the physical symptoms of anger. This could be anything from taking a walk in the fresh air or having a session at the gym. Combining exercise with music also helps to make it a more freeing experience. If your teen needs some encouragement to get moving, try doing something as a family, such as kicking a ball around the backyard or going for a bike ride together.

‘The combination of anger and music drives me to lift heavier and workout harder so once I finish exercising, I feel calmer both physically and mentally.’ — @fishyie

Write it down

Writing can also be therapeutic. Taking time to write down their thoughts may help your teen understand why they’re feeling this way and prompt ideas on how to deal with it. Your teen could do this by themselves if they want alone time, or you could suggest setting aside time where you write in your journals side by side. Another way of encouraging them to put pen to paper is by asking them to write you a letter, and if they’re comfortable with it, you could write one back.

‘When I’m angry about someone or something, I often write it down. It helps me reflect about why I am angry and let out my emotions.’ — @wheresmysquishie

Check out our Youth site for more strategies teens can use to deal with anger.

How you can model positive anger management for your teen

While there are lots of productive ways to support your teen, there are also some things that teens find unhelpful when they’re feeling angry. It’s a common feeling to want to jump to ‘fixing’ problems for your teen or giving them advice. However, teens want independence and to have their feelings acknowledged and respected.

When your teen is angry, it’s easy to get swept up and start feeling angry, too. But this only intensifies emotions, so it’s important to remain calm and try not to react strongly in tense or heated moments.

You can show that you’re taking your teen seriously by asking them questions and listening to what they have to say, rather than by telling them what you think they should do or critiquing them. Trying to understand your teen’s perspective conveys that you care about how they feel and will allow you both to work through the situation in a healthy and productive way.

Did you find what you needed?