Supporting your child with anger
If you need support to respond to your child’s anger or aggression, here’s our advice on what you can do and where you can find help.
Everyone feels angry sometimes, and this is a normal and healthy reaction when things go wrong, life feels unfair, we get overwhelmed, or people upset and hurt us. Anger can act as a positive force for change, letting us know that something is wrong or not okay with us.
Anger can start to become a problem for your child if it is overwhelming or unmanageable, making them unhappy, or being expressed through unhelpful or destructive behaviours – either towards themselves or other people.
Angry feelings and aggressive behaviour can be really hard to deal with as a parent, and can have a big effect on family life. But there are things you can do to make the situation better, and places where you can find support.
How can I respond when my child gets angry?
- Try to separate your child’s feelings from their behaviour, remembering that all feelings are okay, even though some behaviour is not. Make it clear that you’re not dismissing their anger by letting them know that it’s okay to feel however they feel, and that it’s normal to feel angry sometimes.
- Try not to get angry yourself, as this will only escalate the situation. Focus on keeping a calm manner, neutral voice and open body language – for example, not folding your arms.
- Avoid asking them lots of questions when they’re feeling very angry or distressed. Acknowledge that they’re feeling angry, and let them know that you’d like to talk with them about what’s going on when they feel ready.
- If it feels appropriate, offer them some time and space to calm down. Especially with older teenagers, sometimes just having half an hour to listen to some music, go for a walk or do an activity they enjoy can help them feel calmer – making it more possible to have a conversation about what’s making them feel this way.
- If you need to, explain why their behaviour is not okay so they understand – and hold consistent boundaries around consequences. For example, you might say that while it’s normal to feel angry, it’s not okay when they shout at you. Remember that while your child might resist boundaries and consequences, they can actually help them to feel safe, contained and cared for.
- Once things have calmed down, try to open up a conversation about what’s going on. A young person’s anger can boil over for all sorts of reasons – and sometimes there might be other feelings such as stress, sadness, hurt or worry underneath it. A person who’s feeling angry a lot of time probably isn’t feeling very happy – and while it might not be obvious, what they often need is support. You can find our tips on starting a conversation with your child here.
How can I help my child to manage their anger?
- Try to open up a conversation about what’s going on. If your child doesn’t know why they are feeling angry, think together about what might be causing these feelings. You might begin by saying that you have noticed they don’t seem happy, and you’re wondering if anything is worrying them or stressing them out. You can find more tips on starting a conversation with your child here.
- If your child is prepared to talk, focus at first on listening to them and empathising with how they’re feeling. Anger can be a difficult topic for young people to talk about, so reassure them that it’s normal to feel angry sometimes, and that you’re glad they’re sharing these feelings with you.
- Stick to consistent boundaries and rules around their behaviour. When young people are angry they can also feel frightened about how out of control things seem. While they might not like it, they do need stability and consistency from you.
- Help them to recognise the patterns around when and how they get angry. Think together about what triggers their anger, and whether there are things that would help them to realise this is happening before situations become overwhelming.
- Support them to find ways of channelling their anger and calming down. This could be as simple as taking deep breaths, or listening to music. It might also help to do something physical like playing sport, running or going for a walk, or to do another activity they enjoy - whether it’s painting, colouring, reading or skateboarding. Some young people like to find creative ways of expressing their feelings, for example by drawing, writing it down, writing poems or keeping a journal.
- Give yourself and your child some time for things to get better. Things don’t always change straightaway, and sometimes young people just need their parents to notice and acknowledge that things are hard for them.
Young people tell us it helps to
- Think of the bigger picture: will this bother you in a year?
- Try and say why you're angry, and remember that time alone to calm yourself down is okay.
- Take some time to think about how your actions are affecting others, and try to remember people are usually trying to help you!
- Apologise if you have harmed someone – and if you have hurt yourself, apologise to yourself.
- Figure out why you reacted like that so you can recognise it next time before it's too late.
- Tell someone if they’ve made you angry, or talk to someone else about it.
- Remind yourself that the emotion is valid.
How can I respond to aggression and violence?
When a young person is really angry and is struggling to manage this feeling, they can be verbally or physically aggressive, or violent. Sometimes you might not feel safe, and if this is the case it’s important that you reach out for help.
In these situations:
- If it is safe for you and your child, remove yourself and any other family members from the room.
- If not safe to remove yourself, and you feel that you or anyone else is at immediate risk of harm, warn your child that if the aggression does not stop you will need to contact the police. Follow through and call the police if the aggression continues and you do not feel safe.
Calling the police in a situation that involves your child is an incredibly difficult thing for any parent to have to do. But if your safety, or the safety of other family members, is in question, this may be the only course of action.
A young person who is behaving in this way may need professional support to help them understand, and find ways of coping with, their anger. It's a good idea to speak to a professional if your child's anger is at this stage, and you can find out who to speak to below.
Where can I find professional help?
GP and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
It’s a good idea to speak to your GP if your child’s anger has been going on for a while, and it is negatively affecting their day-to-day life, wellbeing or relationships. You may also be concerned that their anger is part of a bigger struggle they are having with their mental health.
Speaking to your GP is usually the first step to accessing mental health services and support. Together you can discuss whether referral to CAMHS, an assessment by a mental health specialist or referral for another kind of support is needed. You can speak to your GP with or without your child.
Counselling and therapy
Counsellors and therapists can provide emotional support and help your child to make sense of, and find ways to cope with, their anger.
You can find local counselling and therapy services by:
- Speaking to your GP
- Asking your child’s school whether they provide a free or subsidised counselling service, and whether they can make a referral for your child
- Searching online for free counselling services in your area, and/or using the Youth Access directory to do this
- Finding a private counsellor, therapist or family therapist using the directories listed in our guide
Emotional support services
If your child needs to talk and they would find it helpful to open up to someone outside of the family, let them know about the phone, webchat, email and text support they can access from the services listed at the end of this guide.
More information and advice
- If you have a younger child, and you need support to respond their behaviour, you can find our advice and strategies here.
- If you need support to start a conversation with your child about what's going on, you can find lots of tips here.
- If you have a teenager who's struggling with anger, they may find it helpful to hear about other young people's experiences.
- If your child has a developmental issue or disability and is struggling to manage their anger, organisations such as the National Autistic Society and Contact can provide advice to help you support them.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
Phone: 0800 1111
Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
Supports students to look after their mental health, and provides information and advice for parents.
The website provides details about local services offered by universities, and young people can also access their peer and group support programmes.
You can call or email for more information (this is not a helpline).
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 0113 343 8440
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
Text: YM to 85258
Opening times: 24/7