Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Moving to a new community triggers anger overload

Good day Dr. Dave.

My family has recently moved out of the country, and this transition seems to have triggered anger overload with my 10 year old son. We think all the changes happening have affected him a lot more than we thought they would (leaving friends, family and pets, new home, new school, new culture, etc.). I’ve been reading about this condition and most of what I’ve read is reflected in my son’s behavior. We are trying to apply all the suggested actions, but are very concerned about his possible actions. He has threatened to run away at night, hurt himself and other unpleasant things to hear. He is violent verbally and physically towards us when having episodes. Is it very hard for him and ourselves in this situation, since there is currently not many people for him/us to reach out to since we’re in this new environment.

In this particular situation, do you think this could fade away once he’s adapted to this environment?

Hi, When a child is making repeated statements about running away or hurting himself, it is usually a sign that he is under significant stress.  An exception is when a child is being manipulative to try to get what he wants.  That does not seem to be the case here.  You mention in your letter the number of changes that have occurred since your move.  I would recommend listening empathically to your son's underlying concerns.  You may want to help him put it into words before or after a tantrum.  The idea is to help him verbalize what has changed and how hard it is for him.  But during a tantrum, try to say as little as possible.

Is there a counselor at school or in the community he can talk with as well?  Sometimes children can voice their concerns  more easily to a neutral person, rather than a family member.  For other children, it is easier to talk to a parent.  Which do you think would be easier for your son?

I would expect his tantrums to lessen, once he adapts more to the new community.  See if you can replicate some of what he liked in the previous community.  Was he into sports or the arts? Did he like hanging out with friends? Can you find avenues to meet these needs in your new community?  

Other suggestions for dealing with angry outbursts can be found in my parent's manuals and children's workbook on anger overload, or in other posts on this blog.

Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb

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