Anger or Anxiety?

As parents, we expect to deal with tantrums during the toddler years, but we are often less prepared when angry outbursts continue well into childhood. However, anger can actually be a symptom of anxiety in children.

Melinda Le, PhD, counseling psychologist at Le Psychological Services, LLC, says anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders affecting children and adolescents. Temporary fears and anxieties are considered developmentally appropriate, however. “The physiological mechanisms are the same for anxiety and anger. Anxiety is a fear of the unknown. For children, any unfamiliar and stressful situation can be interpreted as a threat,” Dr. Le says.

Such threats trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response. Hearts beat faster, muscles tense up, blood flows away from the digestive system, and breathing quickens. “The physical symptoms of distress are uncomfortable,” Dr. Le says. “These symptoms are difficult for adults to manage, and in children, it can be even more confusing.”

Children react to fight-or-flight differently. Some respond by avoiding and clinging, others respond with irritability, tantrums and angry outbursts.

Learning to understand emotions like anxiety and dealing with them is part of growing up. “Caregivers can play a major role in helping children navigate their world,” Dr. Le says. “Patience, encouragement and support are needed.”

Modeling appropriate ways to handle emotions is an important way parents can help children develop emotional maturity. “How you deal with your own frustrations and distress will have an impact on how they respond to their distress,” Dr. Le says. “An important point to remember is that they are children. Children are new at managing their emotions. As they mature, they will become better at it.”

Dr. Le recommends reinforcing positive behaviors, validating feelings by listening without judgment, helping them find ways to self-soothe, teaching them relaxation techniques, and helping them use self-compassionate language.

“When children are provided with age-appropriate information and given clear expectations, they are better able to manage their distress,” Dr. Le says.

When you need support, Dr. Le recommends first speaking with your pediatrician to decipher what may be developmentally appropriate behavior and what may be more problematic. A mental health professional can help if difficulties are more serious.

Be the first to review this item!

Bookmark this

20 Jan 2020

By Mari Walker

Recent Articles more articles

Out and About with Jami and Katrina

in Things To Do, Family Life

Baton Rouge’s very own dynamic duo, Jami Redmond and Katrina Liza, are the Capital’s most sought-after influencers. Through video, live reports, and tutorials, Jami and Katrina are going exploring to share what’s new in Baton Rouge and the surroundin

Hang In There, Camper! Tips for Helping Anxious Kids Enjoy Summer Camp

in Health and Wellness, Family Life

As May approaches, school children typically have one thing on their mind, summer break. Thoughts of school are replaced with what they are going to do or where they are going, with some going on vacation; some visiting relatives; and some staying ho

What Type of Camp Should Your Child Attend?

in Health and Wellness, Things To Do, Family Life

When we were kids, life was simpler. Many of us just hung around the house during the summer and played with neighborhood friends or maybe attended a local day camp sponsored by our school or city.

Rankin Ranch in Caliente, California

in Get Out of Town

If you’re considering a trip to California, the thought of crowded freeways, crowded amusement parks–crowded everything–can be rather daunting, yet, there are pockets of paradise in the Golden State, like Rankin Ranch. The ranch has been in operatio

Featured Listings more listings

Oooh! Aaah! Productions

Oooh! Aaah! Productions

in Party Entertainment

We are professional clowns who live only to help enhance your celebration events with fun, laughter and joy. We are Balloon Twisters and Face Painters, and we perform Comedy Magic Shows for children. Call to discuss your package and/or to confirm ava