June 4, 2024

How to Deal with Anger

As parents, we can experience anger on a more frequent basis than we did previous to having children. If we leave our anger unchecked and we don't learn how to deal with it, we can cause lasting emotional damage to our children, friends, and family. 

Parenting can have many challenging moments every day and it's crucial that we learn how to regulate our emotions so that our children can learn from us and begin working on their own emotional regulation as well. 

Recognize Triggers

When you begin to feel the emotional shift into anger, ask yourself what caused it and try to figure out why that was so emotionally triggering for you. 

For example, let's say your toddler spilled their milk. Your first reaction could be to scold your child, possibly even raising your voice at them. Notice the emotions that come up for you. Annoyance, frustration, and anger could all be present. 

Before you react, figure out where in your body you are feeling those emotions. Are you clenching your hands into fists? How do your head and chest feel? Has your breathing changed? 

Once you recognize your physical reaction to feeling anger, see the situation for what it is. In our example, milk has just been spilled. Whether your child did this intentionally or not, it can be cleaned up. You can say out loud “You spilled your milk. Let's get this cleaned up,” and grab a rag for you and your child so they can be included in cleaning the spill. 

When you are more level-headed, question why you had that emotional response. When you were a child, what would happen if you spilled a drink? Would you get in trouble and reprimanded for it? Do you think that was an appropriate response for the situation? Is spilled milk really that big of a deal? 

Coping Techniques 

When we are angry, it can be challenging to behave in a way that is considerate to others. Anger can make us want to yell, be aggressive, and say hurtful things. Before you react, accept what you are feeling and try one or more of these coping strategies to have a more level-headed reaction. 

  • Walk away- it's okay to walk away from a situation that may cause an explosive reaction. You can say “I need a moment to calm down. I am walking away for a little and will come back in a few minutes.” 
  • Deep breathing- box breathing can help regulate the nervous system when we are feeling angry or anxious. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for another four seconds, exhale for four seconds, then hold for four seconds before starting again. Repeat this as many times as you need. 
  • Move your body- somatic shaking can help you literally shake off your emotions. Stand with your feet firmly planted to the ground and start shaking your hands, arms, shoulders, and torso. You can also jump up and down. This can help our bodies get out of fight or flight mode. 
  • Talk to someone- talking to a neutral third-party could help you release anger. If you're unable to talk to them in person, you can call a trusted friend or family member and vent your frustrations. 
  • See the truth- when we are angry, we can have thoughts that are unhelpful and can keep us in our anger. Instead of ruminating on those thoughts, we can see the truth of the situation. In our earlier example, milk was spilled. Our angry thoughts could say “This milk is going to ruin our floors,” but if we can instead recognize it for what it is we can tell ourselves “Spills happen. It can be cleaned up. It's okay.” 
  • Make sure your needs are met- if you are feeling burnt-out, it can lead to more anger and resentment. If you can make sure your needs are being met, you will have an easier time regulating your emotions. Get an appropriate amount of sleep, eat well, and enjoy some quality time with yourself.

It's important to practice coping techniques and calming yourself in advance so that it doesn't feel foreign, and you know exactly what to do. Depending on the situation and how angered you are, you may have to employ a few different strategies to get calmed down and that's okay. The important part is that you don't react in a way that can cause lasting emotional damage and you give yourself grace as you learn and heal. 

Reconnect

No one can deal with their anger perfectly every single time, we all slip up and react badly sometimes. It's all part of the human experience. Instead of ruminating on your reaction to anger, acknowledge your negative behavior, remind yourself that you are growing, and growth is not linear, then apologize for your behavior. 

Reconnecting after a bad anger reaction is important for everyone involved, but especially for children. These moments can teach them empathy, self-reflection, and show them that it's okay to make mistakes and they can learn and grow from those mistakes. 

When to Seek Help

If you are struggling to manage your anger and nothing seems to change despite your best efforts, contact our midwives to have a mental health assessment. If your anger is being caused by postpartum depression or anxiety, the midwives can help. 

Dakota Collins
Author
Dakota Collins is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of two precious little girls who is passionate about freedom in pregnancy and childbirth.
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