Dealing with anger and acting out as a symptom of anxiety/uncertainty/fear
Your usually cute, amenable, easy going little person may suddenly have turned into a little, or not so little, erupting volcano and you are more frequently dealing with anger and emotional outbursts over this corona time.
Anger is a fruit of powerlessness, anxiety, uncertainty and fear. And as adults we are experiencing these emotions, and our little ones are too! They hear our conversations, they aren’t allowed to go to school, see their friends, go shopping and they are interacting with key, important people in their lives on a cell phone or via a screen. They now have a mask they must wear when they go out, be continually doused in sanitiser, not hug and bump elbows instead.
It’s overwhelming for us, and even more so for them. They know, see and hear on the outside, but inside it is all very confusing and they are powerless to change anything. The usual routine has been forced out by this new way of doing things, which started out as fun but now the absence of the familiar and the usual is causing uncertainty. A lot of the adults in their worlds are very anxious and fearful that they are going to get infected by “ the scary virus” that kills people – anxiety spreads just like the virus and breeds more anxiety and fear in the people around them – even the children.
Anger outbursts and emotional meltdowns are the only way a child will respond to the chaos they are seeing and therefore experiencing on the inside. It is a sign that something in their world is not as it should be and they do not have the emotional maturity, or the language to express what they are feeling inside in a regulated, appropriate way. They are powerless to do anything about it, so they will try to be in control of some things that they can control by fighting against their parents over food, clothing, bed time etc. and explode if things don’t go their way.
- understand what they are going through and be intentional about connecting and chatting about what they are thinking and what they are feeling in their hearts. Give them appropriate words for what they are feeling and in a calm, loving debrief after the meltdown, help them find or learn words that can help you understand. Then you can also chat about more appropriate ways of expressing this emotion. Validate the emotion – NEVER tell them they are silly for thinking those thoughts or feeling those emotions, and lead them to healthy thoughts and expression;
- Don’t punish children if they are acting out – there may be consequences i.e. if they broke something they now will have to fix or replace it i.e. “fix their mess” , but don’t punish them;
- The trigger isn’t the issue – it could be something small and seemingly inconsequential i.e. you gave them the red cup instead of the pink one – don’t make it about that – dig a little and find out what’s going on on the inside;
- Find opportunities to empower them in little things whenever possible so that they are not feeling completely powerless and out of control, i.e. ask them if they would like to wear the blue shirt or the white shirt, drink from the blue or yellow cup, walk to their bed or hop like a bunny, have grapes or a banana for their snack? There are lots of opportunities – we just need to be creative and intentional;
- Most importantly….. look after you!! Deal with your anxiety and uncertainty – find a way to ground yourself in your heavenly Father and the truth around what that means (chat to a friend or me if you need to). When you do this, it will positively affect the atmosphere in your home and the fruit will be peace and certainty in yourself and this will spread to the other people in your home. Read up on the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer – and decide what you will be in your home and what the fruit of that will be!!
Feel free to private message me or contact me if you would like to chat more!