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  • Writer's pictureAlba Macareno

Parenting and Anger: How to survive being angry as a parent

I believe you have been more than once in a similar situation: you have been working all day or have been taking care of your child, it has been a hard day, you come home and your child is screaming and shouting because you didn’t let her do what she wanted and you are just exhausted. You need a break, even if it’s just 5 minutes, but at this moment you can’t. Your child doesn’t stop crying and your barrel has overflown. You feel anger and maybe you want to start crying, too.

There are many triggers that can lead you to feel angry, and as parents we reach our limits multiple times during a day. In those moments it’s not easy to be calm, appreciative and loving. And that’s O.K., because we are humans, and it’s okay to lose control (I’m talking here about shouting at your child or just going to another room and shouting there - not hitting or something similar).

As adults we have experience in dealing with our emotions, and knowing on how to deal with them - the problem is that we often ignore the first signs of feeling overloaded, and just continue with our doing, until it’s too late, and we cannot control those emotions and just explode. This can be a problem, because we can’t control our emotions and just shout at our child(ren), which is not fair for them.

Instead, we should do small exercises and take care of our wellbeing so that we can do something when it’s too much for us.

We can feel anger, which is a normal feeling just like being afraid, feeling disgust, happiness, hate, shame, sadness or surprise - but we have been told that we should not feel anger. Emotions are important in our life, they are the salt in the soup of the human being. Emotions can be felt differently, sometimes strong, sometimes less distinctive, but they are always there. There is no life without emotions.

As mentioned before, we as adults have had over the years many opportunities in dealing with our emotions, we can, normally, recognise what we are feeling. On the contrary, children have to learn to give their emotions a name, and to regulate and manage their feelings. For that, they need us. Therefore, it is important that we start with ourselves first and learn how to regulate and manage our emotions in difficult moments.

To control or manage our emotions means that we have to perceive our emotions and recognise what they produce in us. We should ask ourselves the following questions when we do not feel well:

-How am I feeling right now?

-How am I doing?

-What do I need?

-How can I react calmly?

On many occasions, we feel that something is wrong, but we do not pay attention to it and just continue with what we are doing.

Where does anger come from?

Here are some examples of situations of why we get angry. An outburst of anger rarely comes out of nowhere. The anger often gradually increases "to 180" until it "knocks”.

-Unattained needs: it can be when you are hungry or thirsty, tired or any other need that you cannot satisfy. When you have to back down on your own needs because your family comes first.

-Being overtired: we all know that not getting enough sleep makes us feel tired and cranky. When we have to work or we cannot take a nap, it gets worse and we do not have the same patience as when we get sufficient sleep.

-Feeling overwhelmed or helpless: in some situations we do not know what to do to make it easier. We reach our limits and anything can be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

-Stress: when we have to be somewhere at a specific time and our little one is dawdling, this can be a behavioural pattern that causes us aggression.

-Insecurity: I guess we all want to do everything right. That insecurity or fear of not doing the things right, can make us feel angry.

Jill Bolte Taylor, an American neuroscientist, explains in her book "My Stroke of Insight”, that it takes 90 seconds in which the program is triggered in the brain, the anger figuratively speaking flows through you and is finally flushed out of your body entirely. Then this automatic body reaction is over. It takes 90 seconds to surf that emotional wave, we have the time to handle it and see how we can manage it. If we stay after that time angry, then it is because we have decided to stay that way. I think that it a good start to see that feeling angry can disappear and that you have time to do something to not react to it.

So what can we do when we see red and we can’t control it?

-Walk out of the room / Gain distance: it can be helpful to sit your child in their stroller and just go outside for a walk. When you feel calm again, it is easier to clarify the bad situation.

-Breath in and out. The best is to do this in front of an open window. Aggression makes it difficult to think clearly, oxygen promotes blood flow to the brain and also the ability to act calmly and deliberately.

-Throw objects: if you are more lively, you might need to throw things to calm down. Choose a soft object and not a coffee mug - you do not want your little one to do the same as you and throw your good porcelain. You can use a pillow and throw a pillow fight, where you will end up laughing a lot.

-Physical contact can relieve tension. Sometimes it helps to hug your child tightly.

-Count backwards: sometimes it helps you count from 10 to 0.

If these solutions do not help and you start yelling at your child: You should insult the behaviour, not the child. Don't tell your child, "You're bad," but rather, "What you did is bad”. Otherwise, your child will think that it is not worth your love and that will hurt their self-confidence. You have to apologise to your child right after an angry outburst. It is important to explain to the child again why their behavior made you so angry, and that it is not their fault that you reacted the way you did.

It is important that if you should hit your child, you need to seek help. There are many places where you can receive educational advice. Do not be afraid that they will take your child away from you. It takes more than hitting your child once. Social Services want children to be with their parents and stay at their home, and not change their familiar environment having to face changes.. Therefore, they will help you to get the help you need so that you can take care of your child.

If you need help in your day-to-day to have time for yourself, you should look into options like having someone from your family taking care of your LO for a couple of hours (only if you have this option and you trust them with your child), a babysitter or a nursery. You do not have to feel guilty for having someone helping you with your child - you do not have to do everything alone if it is too much for you. It is important that you are feeling good, so that your child feels good, too - HAPPY MAMMA, HAPPY CHILD.

I was in this situation that I was not feeling good and I needed some time for myself. As we do not have any family members living nearby and we wanted our daughter to be surrounded by children, we chose her to go to a nursery twice a week. That way I would have two full days a week to work and most importantly take care of my wellbeing. The rest of the week she is with me and we go to courses or on playdates.

Our LO is surrounded by other children her age at nursery, she can move and play all day long. Something that I cannot give her always because I do not have her energy level. She loves to go to nursery and will ask every day if she is going there again 🙂

Take Me-Time

You should aim to take at least 30 minutes every couple of days to do something good for yourself. And I do not mean that by going shopping or taking a shower, these are things that do not fall under self care. I mean do something that you really like so that you have a balance to your everyday life with your child. Do whatever makes you feel happy and recharges your battery 🙂

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Exercise: if you like to go for a run, practice Yoga, Pilates or dancing, anything that makes you happy. You will release endorphins, which will make you feel happier.

  • Go to the hairdresser or get your nails done: If this is something that makes you feel happy, then do it whenever you can.

  • Read a good book: Sometimes we are too exhausted in the evening and we do not want to read a book, during the day it might be difficult with your LO because they want all your attention. So do this during your Me-Time.

  • Painting: it is scientifically proven that painting reduces stress and supports your emotional wellbeing. It also develops your creativity and will build your problem-solving skills. It does not have to be that you paint a painting, you can also just use a mandala.

  • Drink a coffee or a tea: You might drink coffee or tea, but what I mean here is to really take the time to take the time and not drink it while you are having a quick breakfast or forget to drink it and eventually you take it cold. Sit down and enjoy your hot beverage without any other distraction.

Furthermore, what prevents strained nerves and provides the necessary balance: good sleep, sport, walks, good conversations.

If you do things that do good to you, it will be easier to stay calm in triggering situations.

Remember that anger is a valid emotion and you should not be ashamed of feeling it.

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