Jul 18, 2016

Dr. Gellner: Face it. There are times we all let our tempers flare. But if your teen is more angry than you think they should be, it's time to put the fire out. I'll discuss ways to tame their tempers on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner. Announcer: Health tips, medical news, research and more for a happier, healthier life. From University of Utah Health Sciences, this is The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Your teen walks into the room and you can see it happen: they're volcano ready to erupt. It's true. All those hormones you hear so much about can indeed cause mood swings and confused emotions. Teens are under more stress today than ever as well.

They might be also one of those kids who really feel emotions intensely. But no matter what pushes their buttons, one thing is certain, there are times that they are going to blow a fuse. Anger is a normal emotion and there's nothing wrong with feeling mad. What counts is how they handle it.

Anger can be a really powerful emotion. So teaching teens how to manage it is sometimes a challenge. It takes plenty of self-awareness and self-control to manage those angry feelings. And these skills take time to develop. Little kids aren't very aware of what they feel. They just act it out in their behavior. That's why you see them having tantrums when they're mad.

But teens have the mental ability to be self-aware. They also have the ability for self-control, although they don't' know how to use it. Teens, or anyone, really, when they get angry, there's also another emotion that's the real reason for the strong emotion, such as hurt, guilt or frustration.

Help your teen figure out what else is going on. This is a great time to open up a discussion about feelings since teens usually won't open up on any day ending in "Y" unless they're forced to.

So there are five steps as a parent that you can tell your teen about that will help them manage their temper. First, have them identify the real problem. Did you just tell them no because they wanted to go out with friends and you said they need to clean their room? What are they really mad at? You, because you're being unfair? No. They're mad because they have to clean their room.

Then, help them think of potential solutions. This is where that self-control pause button comes in. Have them stop and think about the reaction, but don't just react out of anger. Ask them three things that they could do. They could yell at you and throw a fit. They could clean their room and then ask if they can go out or they can sneak out and run to their friend's house as fast as possible.

Third, they need to consider the consequences on each of these choices. Yelling at you will probably get them grounded. Cleaning their room takes work and they may miss out on some fun, but you'll probably let them hang out with their friends and then the bonus is they get to clean room. Sneaking out really ends well. When you do catch them, look out.

Next, have them pick a choice that they actually act on. By the time they've really thought this through, chances are you won't be yelled at and they haven't run away yet if they're still they're talking to you. So cleaning the room and getting to the fun is the best choice for all.

Finally, after they've made their choice and, hopefully, cleaned their room, then have them think about all that just happened. Did they feel they made the right choice? What did they learn about the decision-making process? Can they make the same positive choices on their own? Be sure to praise them for thinking things through before acting. Sure, these five steps sound like a piece of cake when you put them out there and everyone is calm. The real test comes when your teen is in full hothead mode.

Make sure your teen knows that there are other ways to manage their anger too. Lots of research had shown that exercise is a great way to improve your mood and decrease negative feelings because it raises endorphins, those happy hormones in our brains.

Listen to music. Have them wear headphones if their musical styles clash with your own. Writing, whether poetry, song lyrics in a journal or in a letter that they plan to rip the shreds and throw away, writing helps release intense feelings so they don't stand inside. Same with doodling. That's why adult coloring books are so popular right now. Some teens find that meditation and deep breathing helps.

Sometimes, anger is a sign that more is going on. Sometimes, it's a sign of depression. Sometimes, it's a sign that there is too much stress in your teen's life and they may be overscheduled or pushing themselves too hard.

Again, anger is a really strong emotion. It can feel overwhelming at times. Helping your teen learn how to deal with strong emotions without losing control is part of becoming more mature. It takes a little effort, a little practice and a little patience, but your teen can learn how to douse the flames and chill out with help and support from you.

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