Advice to help children and young people deal with anger

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic goes on, you might feel frustrated that your life is on hold. Feelings of irritation and anger are an instinctive response to threats so it’s perfectly natural to have them – the important thing is that you know how to manage them.

Recent research by Kooth found that many young people feel trapped and are having issues with sibling relationships, for example.

In this article, the Good Thinking team helps you to spot when you’re starting to feel angry and provides advice on how to manage your emotions and behaviour. You might also find our guide to reducing stress, our article about exam results and our advice for children and young people useful.


Recognise how you’re feeling

It’s useful to see anger as being on a scale from calm to extremely angry. Try to understand what triggers your anger at the moment – it could be something that happens (e.g. someone in your family annoying you), a change to your daily life (e.g. missing your girlfriend or boyfriend) or a long-term worry (e.g. whether you’ll be able to go to university or get a job after the pandemic). As you move along this scale, you might experience the following:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Wanting to run away from the situation
  • Resenting other people and refusing to speak to them
  • Feeling anxious
  • Getting upset or aggressive
  • Finding it hard to sleep

You might also experience physical signs of anger, such as:

  • A headache or a stomach ache
  • Clenching your fists
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Feeling hot, sweaty or dizzy
  • Pacing around or rubbing your head
  • Shouting, crying or swearing

Find ways to cope

Because you’re at home a lot more, your usual coping mechanisms – such as having some time on your own or talking to your mates – might have been taken away. If your anger is affecting you and your family, there is lots you can do to get it under control.

1. Keep talking

Explain to your parents and siblings how you’re feeling so they can support you – they might also be feeling frustrated!

As a family, you might find it useful to set some new boundaries so you all know where you stand. Could you each make a list of five things that really irritate you at the moment and discuss ways to make things better? Create a schedule for each person’s TV time or kitchen time? Agree a safe space where you know you’ll be left alone? You might like to write some of these things down and stick the list on your fridge.

Stay in touch with your friends too, on the phone and online, so you can chat about everything that’s going on. With lockdown restrictions being changed, you can now see more people although social distancing rules, including the 'rule of six', are still in place – find out what you can and cannot do on the UK Government website.

2. Burn off energy

As you might not be able to do all your usual sports and other activities, you’ll need to find some alternatives. Make the most of your daily exercise outside of the house – go for a bike ride, a walk or a run.

Keep moving at home as well – there are lots of great online workouts, like #PEWithJoe and BBC Super Movers. If you’ve got a garden, can you jump on a trampoline or kick a ball around? If you don’t have any outside space, how about doing some star jumps or ‘fast feet’ running on the spot in your room?

Focus on eating healthily too – food can be very comforting in a crisis but it’s important that you have a balanced diet. Read Good Thinking’s advice about healthy eating and check out the NHS Better Health website.

3. Distract yourself

When you start feeling angry, turn to something that makes you feel better. Listen to your favourite playlist. Play on your games console. Watch a funny video. Write in your journal. Call a friend. You could even create a list of things you enjoy doing that you can turn to when you’re feeling frustrated or angry.

Try to balance screen time with other activities and focus on healthy habits rather than unhealthy habits – avoid turning to alcohol, smoking and drugs.

Want to develop a new healthy habit? Follow these tips from Good Thinking.

4. Get enough sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, your brain enters survival mode and you feel more anxious and sensitive to threats. In turn, this could make you more irritable.

During lockdown, you might have had a different sleep routine (e.g. gone to bed later and got up later). Now that you're back at school, it's important that you get enough sleep. An hour before bed, start to unwind and leave your digital devices out of the bedroom.

Listen to Good Thinking’s podcast about sleep.

5. Take a moment

If everyone is still at home more than usual, there might be times when you feel like you have no privacy and that your parents are on your case or being critical of you. It’s really important that you take a step back and reflect on what’s happening and why emotions are running high.

If you feel angry, go to another room for a while so you can calm down. Write down how you’re feeling then have a conversation with your family a bit later. This is a pressure cooker situation for everyone – being kind and understanding can go a long way.

Fancy trying a quick breathing technique? Check out our podcast about mindfulness.


Useful websites

If you experience any other symptoms and you’re worried about your mental health, there is lots of help available.

Childline

Ditch the Label

Place2Be

Samaritans

Shout

The Mix

YoungMinds

If you're a student, you might find Good Thinking's podcast with Mhairi Underwood of The Student Room interesting.