Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I heard from so many moms who have struggled with kids that had big episodes of anger and rage. I’ve talked to some that are at the beginning of trying to figure out what to do and others that have tried almost everything. Because of the messages I received from the Hard Stories: Angry Kids post earlier this week, I wanted to share what I’ve learned thus far (and I’m still at the tip of figuring our situation out).
This was wildly diverse. There were various medical issues identified in kids that struggled with serious anger/rage episodes. Among the issues raised by moms I talked to were: highly gifted (high IQ) children, Asperger’s Syndrome, family history of mental illness, sensory processing disorder, or simply more highly sensitive children.
1. Universally the first one was to see your pediatrician. We have done this once, but I’ve made another appointment. Hopefully you have a pediatrician you trust like I do and like many of the moms I talked to did. Make a list. Either go in alone for a session with your child’s doctor (my course), or write down every single symptom you’ve seen (no matter how embarrassed you might feel!) and send the list in advance so you don’t have to outline issues in front of your child.
2. Many moms recommended, and found great value in, seeing a therapist/psychologist.
There were assorted options of what these therapy sessions looked like. While the all sibling group didn’t work for us, it sounds like most parents that tried therapy did do it one on one with the child and counselor with a follow up with the parent. (One mom shared that a peer group didn’t work at all for them because their child picked up more bad behavior, though I’m sure this isn’t a universal experience.)
Moms of younger kids found the success with play therapy. Moms of older kids talked about the value of having a independent third party that taught coping skills – particularly for attention seeking kids, many of these children are, having their “own person” helped.
Coping with the outbreak:
I felt such relief to hear how so many moms struggle mirrored my own. Moms shared that a discipline or reaction which worked one time might not work again. From taking away electronics to a full body hug, what once gave respite may not work a second or third time. Most shared trying to discipline with a spanking during an outbreak only made it worse. Similarly, moms shared if one of the parents (or other kids) became angry in response, it only served to fuel the episode, so try to make every effort to remain calm even when you feel at your wit’s end.
One mom told me she found some relief by removing everyone else from the room. I shared my struggle with removing him during an angry episode because of anger-fueled strength, and she said she and her husband would take the other kids and leave to play in one of their bedrooms with a big show of what fun they had while the child having an episode could not join in until he calmed down.
The focus of these responses, and even post episode discussions, is not to stop your child from feeling angry. Everyone feels angry and it’s appropriate and healthy. It is the child’s reaction to the anger which has to be addressed. The key is getting these particular children to channel the emotion into something less destructive to the family.
I’ve read anger and sadness are closely linked in children. In fact, anger is often a surrogate emotion for any number of true feelings like helplessness, anxiety, sadness, embarrassment or hurt. Remembering that fact helps free me up from trying to pin down why my child is getting so angry and rather understand the variety of triggers may be because this particular child uses anger to cope with all those other emotions.
Certainly, right now, I feel the outbreaks are beyond my skill set and finding a third party to help him, and me, learn how to react and cope would be tremendously helpful.
I’m praying for all you mommas struggling with this issue, and I know how it can wear at the fabric of your family. I continue to welcome your insight and feedback and we find our way. Thank you for sharing.