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Feeling angry, mama? Look beneath the anger—to overcome it

It’s about sending kindness to yourself.

Feeling angry, mama? Look beneath the anger—to overcome it

Which of your emotions is the hardest to deal with? For many parents, it’s anger.


And children seem to have an ability to trigger anger in ways we didn’t know were possible. Our anger often comes on fast and catches us by surprise. Sometimes it catches our children by surprise too—and even scares them a little.

So how can mindfulness help?

Become aware: “Ah… I am angry”

Mindfulness means noticing our experience, moment to moment. The sooner we become aware that we are feeling angry, the less likely it is to spiral out of control and find us saying or doing something we wish we hadn’t.

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Have you heard the expression “name it to tame it?” As far as the brain is concerned, once you name an emotion, you automatically reduce its intensity. With anger this is very useful—mindfulness brings awareness and the ability to name what we are feeling, cooling it down just a little. It also brings a reminder that all emotions come and go. Anger arises… and anger subsides.

Accept it: “Okay—like it or not, that is what I’m feeling”

Like everyone else, we experience the full range of human emotions (as do our children by the way, but without our maturity and experience to handle it) including anger. Denying we are feeling any particular feeling just makes it more difficult for us to manage it well.

Instead of judging our anger as right or wrong, good or bad, should or shouldn’t, mindfulness helps us to simply accept the reality that this is what we are feeling. We don’t have to like it, we just have to accept that it is what it is.

Soothe yourself: “This is hard. It’s okay, I’m here”

We are harder on ourselves than we are on others. We often speak harshly to ourselves, particularly if we feel that it is wrong to be angry or if we are upset with what we have said or done in anger.

If instead we can soothe our fire with kindness, rather than desert ourselves in horror—support ourselves through this difficult moment—we can calm our anger and regain a sense that there is something helpful we can do in this situation.

Scan your body, softening any obvious signs of tension. Invite it to let go, even a little. It’s natural for our bodies to tense against the storm of anger.

This kind of mindful self compassion is my “go-to” practice for soothing any kind of difficult emotion, including anger. It involves sending kindness to yourself—empathy for what this feels like for you. “This is hard. It’s okay, I’m here.”.

Soften into this kindness. Stay with it a while. Don’t try to change anything or make anything go away. Just surround those feelings with kindness and understanding. Let it be what it is. Don’t run away with it or push it away.

Look underneath anger: “What’s driving my anger?”

Just as it is helpful to try to get underneath any outburst from our children to see if they are tired, hungry, frustrated or in pain so that we can understand how to help them, so too it is good for us to look at our own anger in this way.

Why does what has happened upset us? Is it just this one instance or are we being triggered by something that happened previously?

Mindfulness can help us sit with the question of what is driving our anger, without blaming anyone, until we gain insight.

Slow down: “What do I need?”

If ever there was a time to slow down, it is when we are feeling angry. Mindfulness not only brings awareness and soothing acceptance to the feeling of anger, it develops the life-changing skill of being able to slow down so we don’t react impulsively but instead regain our ability to choose how to respond wisely.

We can ask ourselves,”What do I need?” Pausing to breathe deeply and mindfully to tune in to what we need helps us understand our anger.

Connect: “I am angry so please give me some time to deal with it, okay?”

Anger has enormous power to damage relationships and cause ruptures between us and the people we care deeply about. Mindfulness develops our ability to own and express our anger without blaming others, without hurting others and without damaging our relationships.

If it is something our children have done that has triggered anger in us, then it is important that we communicate “You and I are okay, but your behavior is not,” so that our children do not feel rejected or that their relationship with us is at stake at any time.

Act: “What will I do about this?”

Anger is a call to action. If we can soothe, support and calm ourselves, we are more likely to choose wise action, if any action is required to put things right. Even asking ourselves this question and tuning in mindfully to the answer can take the heat out of our anger, because we feel back in the driver’s seat and capable of doing something that will make a difference.

Remember, if anger is less like the weather, which comes and goes, but more like the climate – “I feel like I am almost always angry” then it might be helpful to talk about what’s going on with a qualified mental health professional. So often past experiences can trigger emotions we can’t quite manage and we can feel stuck in automatic reactions. It doesn’t have to be that way and you don’t need to go through that alone. Seeking help with difficult emotions is a gift to you and your family.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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@9_fingers_/Twenty20

As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.

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