Anger is one complex emotion. Anger comes from feelings of frustration, sadness, displeasure, irritation and a host of other feelings jumbled together. The thing is, anger gets a bad reputation; it’s just not nice to be angry… Especially children are expected to not get angry, but really anger should not be ignored, forgotten or squashed deep down.
Festering anger can lead to a host of difficulties like sleep problems, headaches, moodiness and low-self-esteem. Learning to deal with our anger as well as helping our children learn to recognize, accept and process their anger is very healthy.
Having healthy outlets to explore and release the feelings is a great way for children to build emotional intelligence. Below are 6 ways to encourage children to deal with pent up anger and discover feelings through creativity and play.
These games are not intended to substitute how you support your child in the middle of an aggressive fit of anger. They are intended as tools for children and parents to explore anger and learn alternative coping ways.
SPLAT!: Gather up some wet sponges, or fill water balloons. Choose a place that can safely become wet like the lawn, shower stall or the bath tub. Throw sponges/balloons against the ground/wall and encourage your child to say something that bothers them with each throw. A child may say “It made me angry when I had to stop painting and eat lunch” SPLAT! “It made me so mad that I had to share my snack with Johnny.” SPLAT! This is a powerful activity for times when angry feelings have become pent up and need some releasing. Play can be started just for the sake of throwing and then eventually move into talking about feelings.
Angry art: Give children some art supplies like paint, crayons or markers and encourage them to create art with their feelings. “Let’s draw like the crayon is happy. Now let’s draw like the crayon is sad…mad…angry” and so on. The art may turn out to be a specific picture which you can then talk about or just angry scribbles – either way the idea is just to give a chance to put some feelings onto paper.
Rolling Out Anger: If you have access to a grassy lawn, rolling in grass can be incredibly grounding and calming. Encourage children to say something that they are angry about and then have them “roll” out the anger onto the lawn. Children usually end up enjoying the rolling so much they can soon move on from feeling anger into a lot of laughter which is often very healing.
Pillow fight: This is a classic, but it can be such a wonderful release for children to hit mom/dad with a fully pillow. It makes children feel powerful and confident, especially if mom/dad tumbles down or waves the pillow case in defeat ;) It’s helpful to set some ground rules before playing like no tackling, no hitting with pillows on the face and everyone should respect the word “Stop”.
Pounding play-dough: Most children love tinkering with play-dough but this game goes beyond sculpting, cutting and modeling clay. Pounding play-dough is about really smashing, throwing and pounding a big chunk of play-dough while being encouraged to vent any frustrations or angry feelings. A final step to finish the process is to after pounding out the anger, encouraging your child to re-shape the play-dough into a shape or sculpture that makes them feel happy again. It’s a great exercise in moving through feelings and then moving forward!
Animal Breaths: The way we breathe has an incredible impact on how we are processing our surroundings. When a child is feeling angry, if we can help them breathe through their thoughts, it can be incredibly grounding, empowering and eventually calming. A giant Lions breath with roaring included is a great way for children to release anger. Short, shallow bunny breaths can help children focus again and long snake like slithering breaths are very calming.
During these games, don’t worry about solving any problems or offering solutions in that moment, a simple “I hear you” or “would you like to share anything else” can keep the communication open. There may be some tears, laughter and a host of other feelings to go through…try to simply be present and acknowledge the feelings and words your child is sharing and gently guide your child through the activity.
Does your child get angry? How do you support your child in dealing with anger and other big feelings?
Peace & Be Well,
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