I’ve talked in the past about how we have two children with mental health issues. My oldest has ADHD and our youngest has ODD. With those, we constantly have a lot of anger and stress in the home. We deal with it the best that we can, though it’s not always easy. For a while, I thought that I was the cause of my ids ADHD & ODD. After lots of therapy and talking with those who have studied ADHD & ODD for years, I know it’s nothing I’ve done in my parenting. Anger and stress in children aren't easy to work with, however, it's not impossible either!
However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t having problems with stress more or less than any other child.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned that there are also different types of ODD. Just like ADD/ADHD, it’s not a one size fits all diagnosis. Some kids are in constantly noncompliant, others have issues with males, while others have issues with anyone in authority and it doesn’t matter the gender. Just like ADHD, ODD is a neurological health issue. It’s not something that stems from not being disciplined or being abused. It’s not because they are “millennials” and don’t understand the concept of “No”. It’s quite the opposite.
My boys are both products of broken homes. Yes, that’s plural. My boys have different fathers. Neither stayed around. Raising my boys to be strong men, has been extremely difficult. Not only do we have to deal and work around the normal stressors, but we also needed to add in their ADHD & ODD stressors as well.
How do you know if your child has stressors?
One great way to find out if your child has any type of stressors that would cause them to become angry, you can Take The ACEs Quiz. What are ACEs? ACEs are “Adverse Childhood Experiences”. Adverse Childhood Experiences means damaging life events like emotional or physical abuse, neglect, parental addiction, and mental illness. Experiences that can be life altering for a child. The list below isn’t exhaustive, but if your kid has experienced ACEs, they may be at risk for toxic stress. But even if this is the case, don’t panic! There’s a lot you can do as a parent. Knowing what’s happening is the first step to getting help. And the earlier we’re able to help a child, the better the outcome over the long run.
Children may not even realize they are hurt and upset about family situations. They may have stuffed their feelings so far down inside that they don’t even notice them anymore. These kids are just as surprised as everyone else when they suddenly snap, yelling, hitting, or fleeing a conflict-based situation at home or at school. Our job as parents is to help them learn how to handle those feelings and how to recognize their triggers and how to deal with them daily. It's important that they know they can rely on their parents, whether they are married or separated. A lot of the stress in children does stem from an absence of trust. They trust that their parents are always going to be there, so if there is a separation in the family, there is also a decline in the trust.
Helpful Tips for Dealing With Anger and Stress in Children
Quality Time Together
Another way to help your child work through anger-provoking issues is to provide daily quality time for sharing thoughts, experiences, and moods in a quiet place where other family members will not intrude. Give your child plenty of hugs and be a good listener to learn more about his or her personal needs and concerns. One thing my youngest and I do is have “mental health days” and it’s just me and him. We’ll go to the park, walk through the woods, or check out some local attractions. The boys will also have a day that is just with them and my husband.
Quiet & Personal Time
Processing daily issues rather than waiting for them to build up and explode can help your child retain control of his or her temper. Think about it, when you have stress, what do you want to do? Hide in the bathroom with a candy bar or in your bedroom with a good book. Give them that time also to extinguish their anger or to take a breather from stress. Anger and stress in children are no different. They typically have the fight or flight reactions we do. Sometimes having that quiet and personal time helps them sort through their stress before it leads to anger. Let them have it and encourage it.
If your child demonstrated signs that they have a hard time controlling his or her anger or attitude, you may want to consult an anger and stress management specialist who can advise you about whether your child might benefit from counseling or group therapy. When stress & angry behaviors materialize, it is best to schedule a consultation with a therapist who can provide a satisfactory intervention plan to help your children learn how to deal with frightening emotions.
If you are a parent of angry or stressed children, you may be unsure about where to find information or help. One way to find free useful information is by browsing the Internet. Check out sites like https://www.stresshealthnow.com/ that can provide resources and support as you work through this challenging situation of coping with the anger and stress.
504 or IEP Support
You will also want to work closely with your child’s teacher to provide assistance in recognizing and avoiding triggers. Children may not even realize they are angry or stressed, so this will require diplomacy and discretion on both parents’ and teacher’s parts. The school psychologist can help you obtain referrals to anger management therapists who specialize in anger or stress in children and help them learn to deal with uncomfortable emotions in socially acceptable ways.
Just a week ago Adweek published an article This Stark PSA Shows How Childhood Stress Can Linger as an Adult. In the article, they quoted something that really hit home for me. I wish I would have known this 19yrs ago when I was pregnant with my oldest. My story turned into both of my son's stories, which is now their biology.
“Toxic stress is a health issue where children’s biography becomes their biology. That’s why the primary goal of Stress Health is to help parents recognize the powerful force they can be in preventing and reversing the impacts of toxic stress in their children,” explains Jabeen Yusuf, Director of Marketing and Communications at Center For Youth Wellness and overseeing the Center’s public education initiative.