Do you have an angry child? Is your child like a powder keg ready to explode? Is everyone clueless as to what will set him off or when? When he explodes do you need to brace yourself for hours or even days of irritability?
I meet hundreds of angry kids each year in my child therapy practice. Some have self-regulation issues. Some have family issues. Some have school issues. But some have anxiety.
You might think what does anxiety have to do with anger? But they have a great deal to do with each other.
Some children are uncomfortable expressing emotions – especially fear and anxiety. They quietly stuff their anxiety until they can’t stuff any more emotions inside.
Instead of imploding (like most anxious kids) they explode. Leaving everyone in their wake baffled and confused. Why did he explode? What just happened?
You might be thinking, why is this writer only talking about boys? Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten the girls.
But in my practice, boys struggle with this issue twice as often. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t angry girls out there stuffing their anxiety – it is just less common.
So how can you tell if your angry boy (or angry girl) is actually an anxious kid in disguise?
Here are some possible signs:
LOOK FOR PHYSICAL SIGNS
Anxiety doesn’t only impact the mind – it takes a toll on the body as well. Often this is the only indicator that something is amiss. Below are some ways anxiety can manifest into physical symptoms. For more on this topic, you can read Are Your Child’s Worries Making Them Sick?
IS THE ANGER SEEMINGLY RANDOM?
Look at when your child gets upset. Does the situation warrant such a reaction? Is your child’s anger out of the blue? Does he lash out at everybody indiscriminately?
When anxious children are in need of exploding – it doesn’t take much to set that in motion. They just need one small spark to ignite the tinderbox of emotions they have stored up. The more anxious they have been – the larger the explosion.
IS THERE ANGER TOWARDS NEW SITUATIONS?
Are you met with an angry little face every time you sign your kid up for something new? Are you dragging him to soccer practice? To parties? Even to school – sometimes? I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me, “He fights so hard to avoid new things, but once he goes he really likes it.”
Anxious kids often have a hard time with new situations. With a worried mind, the unknown can be scary. Unfortunately, angry boys don’t typically vocalize their fears. Anxiety is usually the last thing anyone suspects.
ARE THERE SLEEP PROBLEMS?
Sleep issues are one of the core indicators of anxiety in children. Not all anxious kids have sleep problems – but most do at some point.
IS YOUR CHILD AN ANGEL EVERYWHERE ELSE BUT HOME?
I frequently hear, “Everyone tells me how sweet and well behaved my son is with them. I wish we saw that kid more often at home.”
Typically this isn’t because home life is horrible. Rather, anxious children store up their anxiety throughout the day. They work so hard at keeping it together – that they come unglued as soon as they walk through the door (lucky you).
Parenting an angry child isn’t easy. If the underlining issue is anxiety – the anger won’t go away until the anxiety is addressed.
If you recognize your child in this article – seek out some further guidance. This is just a broad description of some potential indicators of anxiety and it is not meant to be used to diagnose.
These signs can also be indicators of other issues, so get a full assessment by a child therapist.
Do you have a child at home that conceals his or her anxiety with anger? Share your experiences in the comments below.