Anger is a normal emotion, however, both adults and children alike find it difficult to deal with effectively.
When working with children on helping them to manage angry feelings I often use externalised images of emotions, like the anger gremlin or anger monster to help families get a handle on anger, and this is why.
When families first come to see me, they talk about their child’s anger issues in this way: ‘Jay is so angry, he’s always been an angry kid and now he’s out of control’. Through these statements, we unintentionally contribute to the fusing together of our child’s identity with the anger, to the point where the child thinks that they’re a problem kid, and there’s no hope for them.
In CBT with kids, creating an image with the child, to represent their emotion, anger in this case (but works well for worries and sadness too), helps the child to begin to create a distance between the anger and themselves. What does this do?
Through this, the child begins to feel like they themselves are not the problem, or the sole cause of the problem. ‘Oh it’s The Anger Gremlin making his appearance again’. This reduces guilt/shame, instantly gives hope and makes the problem much easier to look at, figure out and tackle.
Crucially, externalising the problem allows parents and child to unite to wage war against the anger monster, rather than parent waging war against their child. The child feels that his parents are on his side, and feels more confident in tackling the problem. Parents are supporting and no longer blaming the child, resulting in a much improved parent-child relationship (which will in itself have a powerful impact on everyone’s stress levels and angry feelings). You can try this with your own kids. Draw up an image together to represent a feeling that your child is struggling with. Learn more about grumpy gus or the angry monster, or the worry monster.
*In which situations does he/she make an appearance?
*What does he sound like?
*What makes him tick/ become angrier?
*When has your child been able to show him who’s boss? How?
Give this powerful method a try and let me know how you get on.