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OUR ADULT DAUGH­TER HAS ANGER IS­SUES

Q Our daugh­ter is get­ting mar­ried soon and as her par­ents we’re wor­ried. She is nice and po­lite with other peo­ple, but within the fam­ily she of­ten causes prob­lems with her anger is­sues. She has a lot of at­ti­tude. We are wor­ried that this could com­pro­mise the mar­riage. Our fear is that she will em­bar­rass her­self and our fam­ily. Can you help?

A Pre­par­ing for a fam­ily wed­ding is stress­ful enough with­out these con­cerns. These feel­ings of ap­pre­hen­sion and con­cern are com­mon for par­ents pre­par­ing to see their off­spring marry and two fam­i­lies unite. It can feel as though your sphere of in­flu­ence on her per­son­al­ity, be­hav­iour and ac­tions will now be judged by all.

You don’t elab­o­rate on how her anger and her general be­hav­iour have af­fected your fam­ily, but I imag­ine her at­ti­tude has the ca­pac­ity to start ar­gu­ments and cause fam­ily ten­sion. I also sus­pect you fear that, while in­ter­act­ing with her new fam­ily, her anger is­sues might af­fect her re­la­tion­ship with them also? And that you’re also anx­ious her be­hav­iour will re­flect badly on your own par­ent­ing?

Anger is­sues can be de­struc­tive and emo­tion­ally drain­ing, but they can be tack­led and brought un­der con­trol. By ac­knowl­edg­ing that your daugh­ter has an is­sue with con­trol­ling her tem­per, you can work to­gether to help her de­velop meth­ods to curb and dis­si­pate her on­com­ing rage.

Sit down with her, in a calm and col­lected man­ner, and talk through your feel­ings and ex­plore hers. Calmly pro­vide her with ex­am­ples where her anger had a detri­men­tal ef­fect on fam­ily life, and you can also ex­press how this anger made you feel, as par­ents.

Gen­tly re­mind her that if repli­cated it could have wider con­se­quences for her mar­riage and the fam­ily. Ex­plore with her what spe­cific things make her feel an­gry and why. The key word here though is ‘calm’.

By un­der­stand­ing the ‘trig­ger’ mech­a­nisms of her anger, she can learn to man­age her emo­tions and in turn her be­hav­iour pat­terns.

You know your daugh­ter bet­ter than any­body, there­fore the process of ef­fec­tively managing emo­tions must also in­clude you – by re­main­ing calm, mea­sured and im­pas­sive when these neg­a­tive feel­ings over­come her, you send out a clear mes­sage her own be­hav­iour is un­usual and not in keep­ing with your val­ues.

Whereas in fam­i­lies where ev­ery­one rises an­grily to bad be­hav­iour and ar­gu­ments flare up, it’s dif­fi­cult to back down and deal with the is­sue in a com­posed fash­ion, as your calm­ness has al­ready been lost.

I have learnt to un­der­stand the ‘man­age­ment of emo­tions’. And, as emo­tions go, we do tend to think of anger as be­ing an un­wanted, or even an un­nat­u­ral feel­ing – and some­thing which is con­sid­ered so­cially un­ac­cept­able. Anger is, of course, a com­pletely nat­u­ral reaction to feel­ing threat­ened or hav­ing our per­sonal bound­aries in­vaded. So, it isn’t al­ways a bad thing – it can be a use­ful tool for self-ex­pres­sion when we are truly wronged. But be­ing overly ag­gres­sive out­side of this con­text can have detri­men­tal so­cial ef­fects. Like so many is­sues it’s all about strik­ing a bal­ance. Of course, your daugh­ter will still get an­gry, but the im­por­tant thing is that she re­serves her anger for the right rea­sons and only at the right time.

Bear in mind she could also be ap­pre­hen­sive over her fu­ture as a mar­ried woman. She un­der­stands the pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tions to be­have in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner with her new in-laws, but this pres­sure, could in turn, be man­i­fest­ing it­self as anger and frus­tra­tion at home. Once you have spo­ken to her and she ac­knowl­edges the is­sue and un­der­stands she’s sup­ported, it’s un­likely she’ll do any­thing to em­bar­rass you or jeop­ar­dise her own fu­ture hap­pi­ness.

You men­tion the word ‘com­pro­mise’ in your ques­tion and I think that word is fit­ting in this con­text. Af­ter all, suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ships must be built on a de­gree of com­pro­mise from all sides.

I’m con­fi­dent that your daugh­ter and her fu­ture hus­band, will go on to dis­cover, that in mar­riage and in the new fam­ily re­la­tion­ships they build; will be, hon­our, pros­per­ity and mu­tual re­spect for all.

RUS­SELL HEM­MINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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