Q: I am sixteen and I often find myself extremely angry with my parents and siblings. I can’t really pinpoint anything that makes me angry – but sometimes I just need to escape to my room or else I will explode. Is there something I can do to calm myself? Is this kind of anger normal?
A: First, I want to say that it is great you are asking these questions. Your desire to control your anger shows an emotional maturity that you should be proud of.
Let me start by answering your second question “is this kind of anger normal?” Actually, a lot of teenagers experience anger that often seems wild and explosive. Many doctors and psychologists describe this anger as an integral part of growing up. Adolescence is a time of physical and emotional change – and with that change comes uncertainty. Meanwhile, everything in the house you grew up in remains relatively similar. Therefore, tension arises between the changing teenager and the seemingly unchanged family.
With this in mind, it is easy to see where this anger comes from and why it is indeed normal. As adolescents feel themselves becoming individuals who are separate from their families, they experience conflicting emotions. They love their families, but also see things that they might disagree with. They want to spend time with their parents and siblings like they used to, but they also need much more space in order to grow and develop into their own people. So, yes, this anger is normal – and even healthy – because it indicates that you are growing and developing your own individual persona.
However, just because anger is good and healthy, does not mean you have to express it in a destructive manner. Below are some tips on how to control your anger and turn it into something positive:
Maintain perspective: Separate the true grievances from the petty annoyances. Take a moment to think about whether what’s angering you is truly terrible or simply a passing irritation. This will give you the ability to better deal with the “big” stuff when it comes along.
Time management: Stress definitely contributes to anger. When you are in a rush, you feel like your friends, parents, or siblings are slowing you down and you just have to get away from them. A great way to avoid these feelings is to manage your time effectively. Try not to leave big assignments or studying for the night before they are due. Being sleep-deprived will only make you more likely to snap at those around you.
Redirect anger: It’s possible to get angry at a parent or sibling because of another issue that occurred earlier in the day with friend or teacher. It often helps to take a step back and ask yourself, “Why am I really angry?” Then, you can redirect your feelings towards the appropriate source.
Avoid triggers: Everyone has pet peeves, or actions that make them particularly frustrated. If you know that it bothers you when your sister constantly asks to borrow your shirt, prepare yourself before you interact with her. Rehearse your answer (whether you decide to say “yes” or “no”) so you can handle the situation in a calm fashion.
Talk it out: Calmly speaking to others is a great way to work through your anger. When not in the heat of the moment, it might help to talk to your friends about what is frustrating you. Also, consider whether your parents would be receptive to speaking with you. If so, ask them when a good time to sit down and talk would be. Setting aside time for your relationship will strengthen your ties with your parents and ultimately smooth out the bumps in your relationship.
Thanks for asking – and good luck. Adolescence is full of all sorts of new and therefore challenging experiences!