Last night 20/20 aired an almost entire episode about “Anger in America”. The television show spent a good bit of time attempting to dispel myths the general public believes about anger and the best way of dealing with it. However, one part of the show that hit pretty close to home with me was the portion on kids and anger. How do you deal with your child when they are so angry that they become physically aggressive to other children or animals in the house or even you and your spouse?
In my experience as a mental health specialist in a residential treatment facility I had to deal with a variety of extreme emotions from the children there, not the least of which was anger. Even though in my time in that position I learned a good many techniques for dealing with difficult situations, when a friend approached me recently for advice about their own child, I was at a loss for suggestions.
One problem I have with just doling out advice about these kinds of situations is that I have never witnessed that particular child’s behaviors. Not seeing the behavior first-hand makes it difficult for me to ascertain the cause of the behaviors and the situations which cause the child to escalate into full-blown physical aggression and violence. In my experience, these are keys to figuring out the best ways to try and avoid the physical outbursts and if it does come to blows, what are the best ways to de-escalate the situation. Since a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in these types of situations, I think the best advice I can give is to have someone observe the child, in order to ascertain the circumstances under which the behavior presents itself. This person would then be able to make suggestions about techniques to try with the child and how to deal with acute physical outbursts when they do occur.
Okay, you say, that’s all well and good that someone needs to observe my child to determine how to best deal with the situation, but where can I find this specific kind of help short of calling in Supernanny?
First and foremost, if you child has regular, aggression and violent behaviors, talk to your family physician about what to do. He/She should be able to offer advice and referral for diagnostic and treatment services for your child’s specific problem.
If you don’t have health insurance to see a doctor or still need more information, a good place to start is the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. This site lists state-specific resources to go to for more information about services offered in your area. To access information for your area simply click on the “Resources” heading on the top left of the website and scroll down to “Mental Health Services Locator”, which will allow you to search for mental health services in your state. As an example, by clicking on Georgia and then selecting for Atlanta, I came up with a list of mental health facilities in Atlanta and more specifically, facility type (outpatient, hospital care, etc.). In addition, also under the heading “Resources”, you can scroll down to the “For Kids” section and then click on “Other Kid Sites”, which will bring up a list of mental health sites and government sites to check for information pertinent to the area in which you live. One of the other sites I was re-directed to Georgia’s department of health and human services, so you could also check your state’s department of health and human services website.
Still need more help?
• Check out this about.com website which has several links to find resources in your area.
• Is there a support group in my area for parents who have the same problems I do? By typing “Georgia parents mental health support” into the yahoo search box I was able to locate the Georgia Parent Support Network. Simply enter these search terms into yahoo replacing Georgia with your state.
• Also, try the site meetup.com if you are looking for a group of parents that meets regularly in order to discus specific issues in parenting and mental health. When I searched my area I was able to find the meet-up group “The Atlanta Parents of Special Needs Kids”. If you can’t find a group in your area, you can always start one yourself.
• Also, in order to deal with an acute mental health crisis situation, call the US Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-273-8255 and ask for a crisis hotline for your area. The Atlanta crisis number they gave me is 1-800-766-6094.