Help Your Teen Understand and Manage Their Anger

Sometimes emotions can be very powerful, like the revving engine of a race car. Anger and frustration can feel like they are driving you. Dr. Michael A. Tompkins has created a manual for teens to help them learn to calm anger, manage frustration and irritation, and de-escalate tense situations. This adapted excerpt from his Note to the Reader in Zero to Sixty: A Teen’s Manual to Manage Frustration, Anger, and Everyday Irritations, speaks directly to teens. It explores anger and some first steps teens can take toward controlling it based in cognitive behavioral therapy. High-performance cars can go from zero to 60 in just a few seconds. That’s moving; and that’s what anger can feel like sometimes. One minute you’re cool and calm and then next minute, in a flash, you’re boiling. When that happens, people tell you to chill out or calm down, but no one actually teaches you how to do that. There are tools to control your anger, and you can learn them. Understanding anger is an important first step in building those skills. Own your anger Anger is an interesting emotion. It makes people uncomfortable. Anger can push people away or even frighten them. This makes it hard for people to understand others who are angry in the same way they understand people who are stressed, anxious, or depressed. When people are stressed, anxious, or depressed, others will often sympathize with them and tell them that it isn’t their fault that they feel the way they do. When people are angry, however, they are often blamed for feeling that way because others believe they could calm down if they wanted to. This makes it hard for people to own the anger and ask for help. It’s not easy to own a problem. It takes courage to stare down anger and decide to take it on. Do you see anger as something outside of your control? Do you think that you wouldn’t be angry if people treated you differently? What if: Your teachers didn’t load you with so much homework, Your friends did things your way, or People left you alone? Then you wouldn’t get angry. It’s them, not you, and to a degree that’s true. Other people do play a role. Sometimes people say something that hurts your feelings or treat you unfairly. Sometimes people do these things intentionally, and sometimes accidentally. What you do have control over is how you react to these things. Owning your anger means you don’t blame your friends, your school, your parents, or yourself. Owning your anger is the first step in taking charge of it.   Admit the Benefits of Anger and Give It Back Have you ever lost your temper: To get out of class, homework, or chores, So that you could get your way, or Put someone down so you could feel better about yourself? Part of owning your anger means admitting that sometimes you use anger to help you get what you want. But understanding

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Help Your Teen Understand and Manage Their Anger 2020-11-30T19:43:33-05:00

Exploring Feelings with Mindfulness

The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone feeling a wide mix of feelings: anxiety, boredom, grief, confusion, frustration, and loneliness to name a few. Helping children recognize and identify their feelings is an important life skill that will be useful long after the pandemic is over. This repost from April 2018 from Magination Press author Lauren Rubenstein, JD, PsyD, explores how we can use mindfulness to examine emotions in a calm, thoughtful way. Take a minute right now to pay attention to what’s going on around you. What do you hear or see? Do you notice anything new? Now, turn your attention inward. What are you thinking, and how do you feel? Mindfulness—as you just experienced—is tuning into yourself and paying attention to the present moment without judging or analyzing what you are thinking or feeling. Although it seems quite simple, it is not easy. Our busy minds are constantly darting and drifting, telling stories about what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future. For children and teenagers, mindfulness is a powerful tool that can enhance many aspects of well-being. As parents and professionals, we can encourage children to be mindful, to cultivate emotional intelligence through their senses, and to reflect on what they learn. Linking Mindfulness and Emotions In order to connect mindfulness to our emotions, we can use the idea of “visiting” our feelings. We can encourage children and teenagers to sense, explore, and befriend all of their feelings with acceptance and equanimity. Emotions and feelings are neither good nor bad, neither acceptable nor unacceptable. Rather, they are simply present-moment experiences of felt sensations. Instead of trying to suppress or undo feelings, we invite children to explore their feelings with their senses and even converse with them. Awareness of how feelings can lodge in the body, as conveyed by common expressions like “a pit in the stomach” or “a lump in the throat” is a form of emotional intelligence. This awareness helps children and teenagers handle any feelings that may arise with equanimity. It also helps them mindfully gain sensitivity to their bodies as rich kaleidoscopes of information. They can cultivate this emotional intelligence through their senses by learning to explore the range of emotions they encounter within themselves on a daily basis. Encouraging Mindfulness Mindfulness can take many forms. Physical practice includes yoga, tai chi, martial arts, and even mindful walking. In fact, any activity can be done mindfully—for example, brushing your teeth, putting on your socks, or practicing the piano. There are many simple exercises you can do at home to help teach your child to be mindful. Reflection activities can be introduced seamlessly into your family routine. Remember: “Short times, many times” is ideal, both in terms of cultivating a mindful brain and fitting practice into busy schedules. For example, before a family meal, have each person at the table name three things they are grateful for. Discuss where the food came from and express gratitude for

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Exploring Feelings with Mindfulness 2020-05-12T23:05:04-04:00
Mom and son smiling at one another

The Power of the Pause: Helping Your Child Learn About Mindfulness in This Stressful Time

Families all over the world are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. As we all practice social distancing, our daily routines have been disrupted. While this is stressful, it also provides an opportunity to slow down, to pause, and learn new coping strategies. The post below explores the power of the "pause" and provides tips for helping your child learn about mindfulness. Now is a great time to practice mindfulness together. For children and teenagers, learning how to take a pause requires practice and support from adults, just like learning to play an instrument or ride a bicycle. We want to encourage them to pause so they can catch their breath; be in the moment; experience what they are thinking, feeling, and doing; and regulate their emotions and behavior. Read on for some helpful tips for teaching mindfulness to children and teens. Be Patient Children—especially young children—may initially become frustrated when learning to take a pause. Your patience with them will help them feel more confident about relying on taking a pause when things get difficult. Be aware that children may give up easily or make negative statements like “This is boring!” “Why do I have to do this?” or “I feel silly!” If your child says such things, don’t dismiss her. Acknowledge her feelings and tell her that taking pauses might seem strange in the beginning. Focus on the effort made by your child and the positive results that come from engaging in mindful pausing. The more your child practices taking pauses, the more comfort and success she will experience. Have her choose a pause that she enjoys or one that has worked for her before. Your attitude about taking a pause is key to her success, as well. Encourage her to practice, and practice together. After all, pauses are good for everyone! Acknowledge Differences Some children and teens may have an easier time pausing than others. The pauses you use should be based on your child’s age and developmental level. Children with certain clinical issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or problems with impulse control, emotional regulation, executive functioning, depression, or anxiety may have more difficulty slowing down to pause, even while they have a greater need for taking pauses in their daily lives. Learning to successfully pause and be mindful may greatly impact a child or teen’s overall emotional and behavioral functioning. Know When to Pause Anytime is a good time to take a pause! Initially, however, it’s a good idea to introduce pauses when your child is calm. He will be much more focused and compliant, and more likely to be successful. If you try to teach a pause when your child is already upset, he may not be able to properly process what you are trying to teach him. Be aware of the emotional and behavioral triggers in your child. For example, if your child struggles with homework, remind him ahead of time about taking a pause or two. If he starts to get

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The Power of the Pause: Helping Your Child Learn About Mindfulness in This Stressful Time 2020-04-01T19:40:22-04:00
Illustration sloth playing guitar and a sleeping rabbit