Of all the emotional ways that your child will react to the news of your divorce, anger is probably going to be the most challenging one to deal with. Not only because of the impact that it has on your eardrums, but because it will be the most hurtful response that you have to deal with.
In a previous blog, we spoke about how to tell whether or not the anger that your child is expressing can be classed as ‘normal’. This guidance is designed to help parents manage normal, reactionary angry outbursts from your child, that are all part of the grieving process.
While it may be incredibly hard to hear the things that your child has to say in these fits of rage, particularly as they will probably hone in on the disruption to their life that your divorce has caused, it’s so important that you don’t take these words said in anger to heart.
Child or adult, when we are angry, we attack, lash out, scream and shout out things that we don’t really mean. When it comes to temper tantrums that make the earth shake, children have absolutely mastered the art.
But, before you panic about the fights to come, we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we’ve outlined some key parenting techniques, plus some words of advice to ensure that your parenting style leaves you well-equipped to handle your child’s angry outbursts in the best possible way.
When these angry outbursts do crop up, you’ll be prepared – so you can don your battle armour with confidence.
You may be feeling a little nervous about sticking to your usual no-nonsense parenting practices, particularly given all of the emotional upheaval that your child is going through right now. However, giving your child clear discipline and rules during this difficult period becomes more important than ever.
Be firm – let them know what is good behaviour and what is not acceptable. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to being a parent is that you have to suck it up, take the rough with the smooth, and work with your child to help them to grow and mature.
If you don’t correct any behavioural issues that your child is showing, nip it in the bud ASAP. If you try to turn a blind eye to it (out of guilt about the divorce) your child’s button-pushing traits will only continue to get worse.
So be consistent in your parenting and discipline, and make sure that your child has a clear, consistent set of boundaries and consequences put in place – the majority of children respond very well to this kind of organised, predictable and structured form of discipline.
If your child is kicking off, don’t give in, try to stay calm as you discipline them and then, once they have had some time to cool off, open up a conversation with them about how they’re feeling and what made them so angry.
Your child, particularly if they are quite young, is probably finding their angry outbursts confusing, and difficult to control. So help them to work through these feelings, and encourage them to develop their emotional intelligence, so that they grow up into mature, well-rounded adults.
Take time out to sit with them and talk about their feelings. Encourage them to open up to you without fear of judgement. That way, you can speak about their emotions, and help them to understand the way that their angry outbursts are caused by these feelings.
If you find that your child is struggling to verbally open up to you, you could try opening up the conversation by writing letters to each other instead.
Once you and your child have worked towards finding the root cause of their anger, you can help find activities that help them to calm down and, ultimately, reduce the number of tantrums that they have. This could involve physical extracurricular activities like football, tennis or athletics – these will get them running around and letting out all that pent up energy.
If we can give you one imperative piece of parenting guidance, let it be this.
Even if some of the things that your child says in the heat of the moment are really quite nasty, try not to let yourself take it personally. Remember, they’re only trying to provoke a reaction, so don’t let them disrespect you, but equally, don’t internalise their words or let them get you down.
As you try to tackle your child’s latest tantrum, push their harsh words to the back of your mind, and focus on the matter at hand, i.e. disciplining your child. In these instances, you’re effectively putting your child’s feelings and wellbeing above your own.
With you, their other partner, and their extended network of family and friends to hand, your child will be able to draw on these connections to reassure themselves, and feel confident in the stability of their life, even amongst the unanticipated changes that they face as a result of their parents’ separation.
In fact, the best thing that you can do is to continue to show your child how much you love them. For your child, being able to depend on your love and support will do them no end of good.
Parenting is a rollercoaster, to say the least, and that trend certainly isn’t about to change. As you navigate the fallout from your divorce with your child’s other parent, dealing with your child’s emotional outbursts is a battle that you’ll have to face on a fair few occasions.
We won’t sugar coat the matter – it won’t be an easy one. But, we can say that this angry phase of emotional responses are just that, a phase. Your child is bound to be stressed and unnerved by the huge amount of change that they are experiencing in their lives, and on occasion, it’s perfectly understandable that this discomfort will show itself in the form of frustration.
Continue to be there for your child, as a dependable source of reassurance, love and support and, with your help, they will get through this turbulent time.
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