Tuesday, March 12, 2019
My 9 year old son is sweet, kind and calm most of the time. However he has very explosive anger, which mostly we see at home. He will go months without any issues at school, and then have multiple episodes of anger in a row at school. For example this year, he was fine at school from August thru the second to last week of Feb. Now for the last few weeks he is having anger episodes multiple times a week.
He had the same issue at his previous school, and we had to home school him on and off throughout the second half of the school year. The last month of school, they threatened to suspend him due to an episode of rage. At this point, it seems he is going to get kicked out of his new school as well, or they want some sort discipline plan?
We have no idea what to do... The anger is sporadic, unpredictable and explosive. How do we even find the right psychologist or resources in our area? Should we home school him or put him in private school?
Any insights would be helpful.
Hi, Private schools generally do not have the mental health resources to help children with emotional problems, unless it is a special education type school specifically set up for children with emotional issues. Home schooling is a temporary option but I would not recommend it long term because your child would miss out on developing social skills with peers, and because home schooling puts a lot of pressure on the parents to be both teacher and parent.
What I would recommend is first making a chart of when your son loses control at home and at school. What is going on right before he loses it? Look over time for themes for some of the triggers. Then think are there ways to work around the triggers, i.e. avoid them. Or could you or the teacher forewarn your son that a potentially difficult situation will be occurring and help him think about it differently. In my manuals I encourage parents to develop mantras, or sayings, that help the child to look at situations differently and to stay calm. For example, if losing a game is a trigger, the mantra could be "everyone loses sometimes" or "even (the name of a person he admires) loses sometimes."
Also if you can catch the anger before the overload phase, which is hard to do, you can use emotional distraction, which I explain in earlier posts and in my manuals. Some children do better with a verbal label for their feelings rather than emotional distraction or mantras. For example, if you catch it early, suggest to him "that's frustrating." In other words, you would empathize and give him a word that is socially appropriate to use when we are angry.
See what works for your child. If the outbursts don't slow down at all, ask your doctor for mental health professionals in your area that work with children and families.
Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb