Dealing with an angry child can be exhausting, particularly when the issues seem relentless. But very few parents look for moral support and many just trudge on endlessly in the hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Several UK charities, such as the YSS, offer free services to families who need a hand. Teams of qualified volunteers are there when you want them — if only more people reached out.
Anger isn’t all bad of course. Each of us have expressed it in a range of ways throughout our lives and it’s a vital tool in our own survival. It can help us to identify problems and motivate us to make a difference. However, for some it can become destructive.
Continually living with intense anger can create misery for everyone who connects with it.
Problem anger in adulthood has been linked with various physical, mental and social issues, including heart disease, stroke, depression, increased risk-taking and substance abuse. If left unchecked, it can also fuel criminal activity and destroy relationships.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that “Almost a third of people polled (32%) say they have a close friend or family member who has trouble controlling their anger”. It also explains that the situation is getting worse.
“Public polling carried out for this report indicates that a majority of the population believe that people in general are getting angrier. Influential authors quoted in this report have examined life in 21st century Western society and stated recently that we are getting angrier, and that despite 50 years of economic growth in the UK, we are no happier.”
Tackling anger in childhood is complicated as the underlying cause is not usually that obvious. For some, it could be a sign of anxiety or stress — for others, a defence mechanism to mask certain feelings. Children rarely express a full range of emotions and an inner sadness can translate into an angry outburst. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is to try and help the child to channel it in a positive way, rather than repress it.
Options tend to be limited for those looking to get help, as problem anger hasn’t historically been treated in the same way as other issues regarding mental well-being. Often, it’s only identified when it surfaces through the criminal justice system in adulthood — in the form of aggression.
However, for the last 30 years, a team of experienced volunteers at the YSS have been offering families across West Mercia new ways of dealing with the issues they face. In Shropshire, the council commissioned the YSS to deliver its “EnHance” service, which aims to improve a child’s prospects by supporting families at the earliest opportunity.
The majority of referrals to EnHance arrive through schools, particularly primaries. Following a referral, and with full parental consent, the team visits a family to offer support and create a plan to work towards. Ongoing help is then delivered for a 12 week period, which can be extended if required. Meetings tend to take place in the home, at school or within the community.
Operations Director, Angela Parton explains, “We tend to focus on the basics, such as consistency, routines, reward and praise — but we don’t preach. Families sometimes get stuck in a track and never get the chance to get to the bottom of what’s actually going on.” Feedback from parents, children and teachers has been consistently positive.
The majority of behavioural problems in childhood dissipate with age. But for some, they could signal the start of something serious. Getting help from a local service can make all the difference. Not only does it improve the potential of the young person, but it also gives parents some much needed respite.