anger management for teens

Anger Management for Teens

Key Takeaways:

  • Anger is normal but it can lead to aggressive behaviors and harm if not addressed.
  • If your teen is irritable, overly sensitive, uses bad language, and is passive-aggressive, they might be dealing with anger.
  • Professional support is best if teenage anger isn’t managed with relaxation, exercise, journaling, and other coping strategies.

Does your teenager have mood swings all the time? Are you constantly getting into heated arguments? Are they engaging in risky behaviors such as drinking, skipping school, and disordered eating? These things make you ask what happened to the sweet, respectful child you used to know.

Parents can benefit from learning anger management for teens. Anger is a normal part of growing up and teens are trying to discover their own identities as they navigate life. On the contrary, anger can be something more, which requires the help of a professional.

Read this article to discover the reasons behind anger issues, why teen anger management is essential, and therapist-approved worksheets that help teens recognize and cope with their emotions.

Why is My Teen So Angry?

It’s not uncommon for a teenager to feel angry. Looking back, you can probably recall when you talked back to mom or dad! But now, you realize it was just a “phase” and you turned out okay as an adult.

Anger can be triggered by changes in a teen’s body as well as external events, such as relationships and academic demands. But while it’s a normal emotion, research shows that uncontrolled anger has negative consequences on your teen’s mental health [*].

What Causes Anger Issues in a Teenager?

Some reasons your teen may experience anger more often include the following:

  • Hormonal changes - Increasing testosterone levels in males are linked to dominance and deviant behaviors (especially when they’re around deviant peers). For females, increasing estradiol levels are linked to heightened emotionality and risk-taking behaviors [*].
  • Body image and self-esteem issues - Females usually experience this, but some males do too. Your teen may not feel satisfied with their physical appearance and constantly compare themselves with others. They yearn for approval. This causes them to have difficulty resisting peer pressure.
  • Stress triggers - Teens who are under a lot of stress can easily feel anxious and angry. Common sources of stress include school demands, problems with their friends, having too much to do, and parents going through a divorce.
  • Bullying - Examples include posting negative content about someone, intruding on their personal space, spreading rumors, and making them feel alienated. Bullying is a serious problem. It requires action from the school administration.
  • Early childhood trauma - Teens with a history of childhood trauma — whether they witnessed the event or experienced it themselves — can affect their teenage years. Trauma changes the way you perceive the world, making you view it as unsafe. It causes you to lose your trust in others.

Signs of Anger Issues in a Teenager

How can parents recognize the presence of anger issues? Below are signs suggesting the need for anger management techniques for teens:

  • Easily irritated
  • Underachieving in school (declining grades, skipping classes)
  • Using profane language
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs
  • Passive aggression
  • Isolating themselves or shutting down
  • Breaking things at home and other acts of aggression

Why Anger Management for Teens is Important

Anger gets destructive if teens don’t recognize it and they express it in unhealthy ways, such as breaking things, hurting others, and destroying the peace of those around them.

Research shows that mild anger can be functional, but high levels of anger results in poor health and a poor quality of life. Furthermore, anger is associated with anxiety and depression [*].

Through anger management, teens develop the skills necessary to overcome anger. That way, their angry feelings don’t build up and they can lead happy, healthy, and productive lives.

How to Help Teens Control Their Anger

No matter the cause of your teen’s anger, the last thing you should do is ignore their feelings, get angry at them too, or reason with them. Effective anger management includes genuine support from parents, healthy communication, and seeking professional help when necessary.

Follow the tips below:

1. Start with understanding.

Not taking their words and actions personally prevents things from escalating. Avoid attaching any meaning to their anger — e.g. “I’m a bad parent because she’s always upset around me.”

The first step to helping your teen manage their anger is understanding why they’re mad in the first place. They may be dealing with peer pressure and taking their frustration out on you. Figuring out the reasons behind their anger allows you to respond calmly.

2. Encourage them to open up.

Getting a teen to open up is not easy. If you suspect that your teen is going through something, here are a few strategies that will help them be open to having a conversation with you:

  • Show an interest in their interests. It’s easier for teens to talk about their hobbies. If they can open up about these things with you, they will be more likely to share their problems.
  • Parents can lead by example by talking about their day. As a mom or dad, you can be honest about your worries. Share about your challenge at work or an experience when you were a teen.
  • Avoid lecturing. Some parents feel tempted to give a lecture when teens get on their nerves, but this only creates a communication barrier.

3. Teach them coping skills.

Calm moments are great opportunities to explore anger management skills for teens. One of the best techniques is to provide them with a healthy outlet for letting go of anger. This includes therapy games like finger painting and music selection (compiling their top songs and exploring their meaning).

Other anger management activities for teens and coping techniques include:

  • Exercise (running, dancing, or doing household chores)
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Writing in a journal
  • Prioritizing sleep at night
  • Taking a break when they start to feel on edge
  • Yelling into a pillow
  • Relaxation skills like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation

Check out these 101 coping skills for teens to add to your list.

4. Let them know that aggressive behavior is not okay.

Don’t just show your teen you understand them. Make sure they also know that aggressive behavior is unacceptable. You can say, “It’s okay to be angry, but being angry does not make it okay to throw things and hurt others or yourself. It won’t solve anything.”

5. Get support from a mental health professional.

If nothing you do is working, the next best step is to connect your teenager with a mental health professional. A therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help your teen recognize their anger, understand its consequences, and learn problem-solving strategies [*].

Your therapist may suggest the use of worksheets as part of their treatment program. I’ve compiled some of our best worksheets in the next section.

7 Anger Management Worksheet for Teens

Support your teen at home by having them spend a few minutes each day going through these worksheets and handouts. Remember that becoming less angry doesn’t happen overnight, which makes our resources excellent for helping them stay calm on a daily basis.

1. Warning Signs of Anger Worksheet

This worksheet lists signs of anger — physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental. To answer it, teens need to place a checkmark beside the warning sign that best describes what they’re experiencing.

Download this worksheet.

2. Anger Triggers Worksheet

This worksheet helps teens identify their anger triggers. Note that anger triggers vary from one person to another. For each anger trigger, ask your teen to rate it on a scale of 1-10.

Download this worksheet.

3. How Anger Affects the Brain and Body Handout

Anger has physical and mental effects, such as increased blood pressure and poor decision-making. This handout will serve as a good reminder to not let anger get the best of them.

Download this handout.

4. Consequences of Anger Handout

This worksheet asks a teen to take a moment to think about the consequences of anger before they act on it. Examples are potential violence and losing privileges.

Download this handout.

5. Anger Coping Skills for Teens Handout

Print this handout and hang it as a poster to remind your teen that they can calm themselves from anger using relaxation, creativity, communication, and movement strategies.

Download this handout.

6. Working Through Anger Worksheet

This worksheet allows your teen to become more conscious of their anger so they can address it. It asks about the triggering event, their thoughts, the emotions they felt, and how they responded.

Download this worksheet.

7. Positive Affirmations for Anger Handout

This affirmations handout will serve as a valuable tool for your teenager to counter their negative thoughts. Encourage them to practice a few positive affirmations daily.

Download this handout.

When to Seek Professional Help

Anger that is out of control requires treatment from a mental health professional. Parents can apply the techniques discussed earlier, but note that therapy is necessary if teenage anger results in physical fights and criminal offenses.

FAQ

Learn more about anger management for teens from the FAQs below:

At what age do anger issues start?

Infants can show anger when they feel uncomfortable and don’t get what they want, which is normal. This is also common in toddlers. However, children past their toddler years (ages 4 and above) whose behaviors are inappropriate — e.g. frequent angry outbursts, annoying or upsetting others, and bullying — can indicate anger issues.

Is anger a mental illness?

No. Anger is not a mental disorder, but it is associated with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder.

What’s the best therapy for anger management in teens?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment for teens with anger issues. CBT works by changing one’s thought patterns by identifying triggers and looking for alternatives to negative thoughts.

The Bottom Line

A teenager’s anger issues can be caused by hormonal changes, body image issues, childhood trauma, and problems at home and in school. Anger may be a normal feeling, but it shouldn’t be ignored to avoid serious consequences. Violence, getting in trouble with the law, and mental health problems are some of them.

The good news is that anger can be dealt with in a healthy way. Coping strategies, answering therapist-approved worksheets, and connecting your teen with the right professional will change their thinking and behavior.

References:

  1. Richard Y, Tazi N, Frydecka D et al. A systematic review of neural, cognitive, and clinical studies of anger and aggression. 2022 June 08
  2. Guyer A, Silk J, Nelson E. The neurobiology of the emotional adolescent: From the inside out. 2016 August 06
  3. de Bles N, Ottenheima N, van Hemert A et al. Trait anger and anger attacks in relation to depressive and anxiety disorders. 2019 August 23
  4. Sukhodolsky D, Smith S, McCauley S et al. Behavioral Interventions for Anger, Irritability, and Aggression in Children and Adolescents. 2016 February 01

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