How to Deal with an Angry Teen

Learn how to deal with an angry teen in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.

When we think about teenagers and adolescents there’s actually a lot going on for them. And we sometimes forget what it was like when we were teenagers.
Basically there’s a couple of variables you want to think about when you’re thinking about how to help your teenager.

One is a lot is going on physically for them in terms of changes. So not only do they feel all different on the inside, they might not quite know what to do with who this new person is, physically. So there’s a lot of just changes in terms of how they look and also how other people are responding to them. Then the things that are going on emotionally are that they’re trying to separate, become independent people and those teenage years are when they’re trying to figure out who they are, figure out their identity. And if it’s successful, really, to have some separation and independence from their parents.

When teenagers are acting angry it can actually be for lots of different reasons. Some of them are normal and what we expect, and some of them might be worrisome. So when you’re dealing with an angry teen, first of all, you want to pick your battles, and when you’re doing that you want to think about what’s going on and understand that sometimes that anger is about asserting themselves, trying to separate in maybe the only way they know how, which may feel rejecting but is actually a way to try and be on their own. You have to know what’s important is to still be that safe and secure home base, no matter how old your teen is. So when they’re going out and testing out these new identities in the world, they know where to come back.

The anger may also be an expression of some other things that are going on with your teen. You want to think about, and really pay attention to if it’s a sign of other kinds of problems. When you’re dealing with an angry teen, it’s often important to make sure you keep lines of communication open. What you want to do with that anger is sometimes turn it into talk and conversation and dialogue. Angry feelings sometimes automatically get people to shut down the communication when in fact you want to increase it, and understand and listen to each other rather than just criticize or disagree with each other.

Now, the last thing you want to make sure you think about is what else might be going on, and if that anger is actually about something that’s more difficult for that teen. So angry teens may be kids that are having difficulties with substances; maybe they’re abusing drugs, maybe they’re actually trying to manage and self-medicate some other emotional problems that they’re having. So you want to keep an eye on and think about if you need some other kinds of help to understand and then manage that angry teen.