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Healthy Boundaries for Angry Feelings During Quarantine

Part of learning how to manage anger is accepting that we will get angry.  That anger is OK and even healthy! Anger can signal that something is wrong, and needs to get fixed.  But anger can cause bigger problems.  That's when the FEELING anger (which is ok) gets expressed in harmful BEHAVIORS (not ok). 

As we adapt to living together in close quarters, our families may deal with more anger.  It is helpful to set up clear boundaries around what is and is not ok when it comes to expressing anger.  That's where in therapy I love to teach families the simple but powerful guidelines called "The Anger Rules".  The Anger Rules provides space to feel and express anger, but it also protects us from harmful behaviors.  Through establishing clear ground rules about what's not OK in your home, you also teach what is healthy and helpful. This sets the foundation for healthy emotional expression where people can move through their upset feelings without hurting themselves or others.

4 Steps to take to establish safe boundaries around expressing anger in healthy ways:

  1. Sit down with your family during a calm time and explain that you understand that everyone gets upset sometimes.  Part of being in family is working through disagreements and bad moods.  Explain that you want to set up some simple rules for how to handle anger and problems.  (**Click here to get the free Anger Rules printable to fill out and hang it up on the fridge as a reminder!**)
  2. As a family, review the rules and decide together what's NOT OK.  Screaming, throwing, kicking, hitting, name calling, are examples of ways we can hurt each other when upset.  Throwing and breaking things destroy property.  Decide together what how you DO NOT want to respond in anger.
  3. Then brainstorm together HEALTHY ways to move through that anger.  Explain that talking about how you are feeling is a healthy way to express it, and commit to being willing to listen to each other when things get heated.  Come up with a list of other acceptable ways to move through anger -- punching a pillow, having alone time, making a very angry face, getting some fresh air, squeezing your hands into fists, writing a letter, whatever works for your family.
  4. Write your family's Anger Rules down and hang them on the fridge where everyone can see them.   Refer back to the list as a reminder. 

Having a plan about how to handle anger promotes healthy emotional regulation skills.  It also promotes safety.  We are going to have Big Feelings, it helps to have a plan to know how to handle them so we can feel better, not stuck. If you're interested in more ways to handle Big Feelings, check out my Toolkit for Helping Your Child Manage Big Feelings.




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