Family Therapy: When Children are Angry

As a parent, you might suddenly find yourself with a child or a teen who refuses to answer you, slams the door a lot, locks him/herself in their room and doesn’t open when you knock, refuses to do chores he or she never had a problem with before, or screams at you. Maybe you know they might be mad about something, maybe you don’t have a clue what’s going on.

Children in Families Have Little Real Power

It’s important to realize that, as parents, we have the power in the family. It may seem as if children have power when they act in the ways I’m writing about above, but if they really did have true power, they wouldn’t need to act like that. The only way they have power is if their parents give them power, by giving them real age-appropriate choices, asking for and listening to their feelings and opinions and helping them be a real, important and necessary part of the family .

Sometimes Decisions Need to be Made by Parents Alone

Unfortunately, there are situations that arise where parents need to make decisions for the whole family that children and teens can’t influence. For example, when a parent loses a job or gets transferred and the whole family has to move to another city for a new job. This disrupts everyone’s lives. Children lose their friends, after-school activities and their school. For teens, this is especially difficult, because it’s a time when social life is so important. With great effort, they’ve created their circle of friends, they’re involved in sports that may help them get into college, and maybe they’ve developed relationships with favorite teachers. Moving somewhere else suddenly ends all that, and their new environment in anew citywill probably not be very welcoming at all. Teens, especially, are very reluctant to allow new people into their social circles. Sports teams are all set up already, and hard to break into. And who knows if new teachers will react as positively as the old ones. Imagine the fear, frustration, feelings of helplessness, loss, grief and also anger that would naturally arise in the child or teen in such a situation.

Teen Anger Might Seem Like the Only Option

I recently saw a family where the parents had to make a unilateral decision like this. One of the children relatively quickly came to see the need for the decision and was able to make peace with it. But the other child was very hurt, felt trapped and thus really angry with the parents. Because he had no choice about the decision, he was also trapped with his feelings. What an agony! So he started “acting out” in the ways I mentioned above.

Family Therapy Can be Helpful for Teen Anger

It turned out that the solution for everyone was for the teen to be able to let the parents know that he was still angry about having his life disrupted, even though he understood why it had to be. He could give up “acting out” because he was allowed to freely vent his hurt and anger directly. What a relief for everyone.

For more information on how I work in family therapy and relationship counseling, check out my Family Therapy and Relationship Counseling pages.