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If your girl is angry, there’s probably a good reason why. Anger is the emotion that tells us when something doesn’t seem right or fair or that we feel threatened in some way—and in today’s world, there are lots of things that might fit the bill. From school dress codes to injustice to climate change, her list of “things I’m mad about” might go way beyond your family’s screen-time rules, not making the team, or the curfew she wishes were a little later.
But even if she’s angry over something that seems insignificant and not one of the larger problems facing society that feels more appropriate to you to be angry about, it’s important that she learns how to acknowledge and manage her anger instead of keeping it all inside. Here are five ways you can support her through these tough times.
- Do encourage her to share her feelings.
Let her know that if you make her angry, she should talk to you about it so you can hear her out, acknowledge her feelings, and discuss the situation together. You won’t always have a change of heart, but seeing things through her eyes gives you the opportunity to course correct when it makes sense to do so. Plus, it gives her practice communicating her feelings and standing up for herself, all of which will serve her well in relationships, at school, and in her career.
- Don’t blame hormones.
Yes, if your girl is in her teen or tween years, the hormones in her body are changing and can affect her moods, but that doesn’t mean her feelings and opinions aren’t valid. Just don’t go there.
- Do talk about the difference between feeling angry and being mean.
Anger is a completely normal and healthy feeling, but being mean is an action and a choice—one that can actually amplify her anger and spread it to others. Calling people names, spreading rumors, or purposefully excluding another person to hurt their feelings won’t accomplish anything and almost always makes things worse. On the other hand, expressing her feelings with an “I” statement, like, “I feel angry when [fill in the blank],” can lead to greater understanding and problem solving. Believe it or not, honestly admitting anger can even deepen friendships.
- Don’t tell her to “let it go.”
Although a certain ice princess found freedom in letting it go, it’s almost always healthier to pause and think about the emotions we’re feeling, what they’re telling us, and what changes would make us feel better. Ignoring anger or brushing it aside without processing it doesn’t make the feelings disappear. In fact, when we don’t deal with our emotions in a responsible way, they can come out in other more destructive ways down the line.
- Do celebrate the power of angry girls and women.
The thought of expressing anger makes many girls (and even women!) feel super uncomfortable. Think about it: have you ever seen a classic fairytale princess get good and mad? Nope, even if the prince or villain expresses anger, the princess herself is limited to feeling happy, romantic, scared, lost, or grateful. Read that list again: happy, romantic, scared, lost, or grateful. There’s not a drop of power in any of those emotions. And this trope isn’t limited to cartoons, either. Rom-com heroines are almost never portrayed as angry—and if they are, it’s the type of anger that people find adorable or endearing. Think more “awww” than “uh-oh.”
Anger is powerful because it can often be the first step toward creating meaningful change to make things better. So be sure your girl knows the stories of the angry girls and women who’ve used their emotions to change the world. Rosa Parks was angry and channeled those feelings into actions that propelled the civil rights movement. Dolores Huerta was angry, and it fueled the commitment and dedication that eventually secured better protections for farm workers. The girls and women of the #MeToo movement are angry, and they’re changing society to keep us all safer. Greta Thunberg—a 16-year-old living in Sweden—is angry about climate change, and her outspokenness and fearless leadership recently earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
With your support, your girl can go beyond managing her anger to actually using it for good.