Anger as a Secondary Emotion
Updated: Sep 27, 2018
blog post from Elly Hall
There are things in our students’ days that can cause them to feel angry. Anger is a secondary feeling that layers on top of other uncomfortable feelings, such as fear, frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, worry, loneliness, and jealousy. In my experience, kids have limited success working on managing their anger unless they are able to identify and address the feelings that underlie it. A child’s sense of self is still developing, so this can be difficult for children to identify.
So, how can we positively guide children in their experience of anger?
Acknowledge the anger. Whether or not you agree with the student about what is making them angry is almost irrelevant. They clearly see it as real and potent, so recognize that.
Give the anger language. Listen, while they talk it out. Often when people feel heard and understood, that is enough. Language is a healthy way of doing that.
Exercising, dragon/belly breaths, tense-relax are all coping strategies to help the student return to a calmer state.
Teach kids about the nature of anger. Discuss the image of the anger iceberg. Encourage them to start digging into what is triggering their anger. The aim is not to make the anger go away. It is normal so kids need to learn to acknowledge it, accept it for what it is and let it pass in its own time.
Anger can sometimes trick us into generalizing our feelings. This recognition also helps students understand that when others react in anger, they, too, are experiencing some kind of hurt that causes them to react that way.