The teenage years are trying at the best of times. Young people experience huge hormonal changes which often lead to mood swings and confused emotions. Then there is the added stress and anxiety about getting good grades at school, fitting in with their social group and how they can enter the adult world.

Feeling unable to manage these transitions can lead to feelings of anger and frustration and it is important to equip adolescents with behavioural tools that help them manage themselves as they and their environment change.

Dr Helen Cameron, adjunct senior research fellow at the University of South Australia’s School of Psychology recently told that some of the most effective work can be achieved when children are under 18 and sober. The link between violent behaviour and being under the influence of alcohol is an important one. Two of the most effective areas to work on are self-awareness and self-control.

Self-Awareness is the ability to notice what you’re feeling and thinking, and why. Teens have the mental ability to be self-aware. When you get angry, take a moment to notice what you’re feeling and thinking.

Self-control is all about thinking before you act. It puts some precious seconds or minutes between feeling a strong emotion and taking an action you’ll regret.

Self-awareness and self-control allow teenagers to have more choice about how to act when they’re feeling an intense emotion like anger. As with any new skill it takes time, practice, perseverance and practice. Try going through these steps with a young person to help them manage their anger.

5 steps to managing anger in the heat of the moment
1) Be aware. Become aware of when you are upset and what has upset you. Try and put it into words so you know what is making you upset. This helps you to stop reacting in anger and start looking at how you can handle the emotion instead.
Ask yourself: What’s got me angry? What am I feeling and why? For example: “I’m really angry because mum won’t let me go out until I have finished my homework.” Your feeling is anger, and you’re feeling angry because you might not be able to go out with your friends.

2) Self control. Before reacting think of some of the solutions to this situation? This breathing space allows you to manage your anger before rushing into anything. Try breathing deeply while you try keeping yourself in balance.
Ask yourself: “What can I do?” Think of at least three things.
(a) I could yell at my parents and storm out.
(b) I could do my homework and then ask if I could go out.
(c) I could sneak out anyway.

3) Think it through. So what will the consequences of each solution be? What is the result I would like to end up with? Do any of my solutions/reactions help me get to that result (i.e. going out with my friends)?
Ask yourself: “What will happen for each one of these options?”
(a) Yelling will just make things worse.
(b) Doing your homework means you can relax with your friends and not have to worry about doing it later when you’re tired. Then you have a better chance of getting good marks and feeling better about school.
(c) Sneaking out may seem like a real option in the heat of anger. But when you get home you will have to face the consequences.

4) Make a decision. This is where you take action by choosing one of your options. Look at the list and pick the one that is likely to be most effective.
Ask yourself: “What’s my best choice?”

5) Give yourself credit. After the event take a bit of time out to reflect on how well your solution worked in that situation. This helps you learn about yourself and builds confidence that you can manage your anger.

How to stop anger building up
Exercise. Go for a walk/run, work out, or go play a sport. Lots of research has shown that exercise is a great way to improve your mood and decrease negative feelings.
Music. Listening to your favorite music is a great way to relax and let feelings of anxiety, stress and anger slip away.
Write it down. Getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper can help put it into perspective and relieve the feelings of anger.
Meditate or practice deep breathing. This one works best if you do it regularly, as it’s more of an overall stress management technique that can help you use self-control when you’re mad.
Distract yourself. Going over and over something in your head that has upset you can build feelings of anger inside. Relax, let it go and distract yourself with something you enjoy doing. Then later come back to it and see if you still feel as angry or upset. If you do then find someone you trust to talk to about whatever is bothering you.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Kidsmatter. Kidshealth.