Teens are stereotypically known to be hormonal, impulsive, and irrational. Certainly teenagers are all of these things at times, however, we often fail to acknowledge how remarkably resilient they are. Adolescents are capable of developing some very effective emotional coping strategies. I have heard accounts from teenagers, for example, who in the midst of a verbal altercation with a teacher or another student, storm out of class in anger. Sometimes they will run to their room in rage midway through a stern lecture from parents. Frequently teens will be condemned for such impetuous emotional reactions; however, these responses are quite effective emotional regulation strategies.
You might wonder how storming out of the room is an effective anger management strategy? Certainly it is not always helpful. Working through an issue in a calm and respectful manner is ideal; but it is not always realistic. During an emotionally charged conversation leaving the room is an effective strategy when an individual senses they are near their boiling point and cannot control themselves any longer. By leaving the situation a teenager may be demonstrating impressive self-awareness of one’s emotional limits. Ultimately, teens should not be discouraged from leaving the room when they are mad. Instead, they should be instructed to inform others before they leave. Teens can be taught short assertions like, “I cannot talk about this right now, I am too upset” or “I need to leave because I do not think I can control myself.” By encouraging this kind of response teens are learning to be assertive and self-aware.
In teaching this response it is important that teens know this is not a “get out of jail free card.” They are not allowed to leave and never return. The purpose of this strategy is to leave in order to gather composure and sort through some of their thoughts, always with the expectation of returning. To teach teens otherwise would be teaching them to walk away from problems when they arise. Adolescents must know that in walking away they will have to walk back eventually and face the conflict.
This article has discussed an emotional regulation strategy with reference to adolescents. This strategy, however, is relevant to individuals of all ages. By simply removing oneself from the situation and calming down one can return to tackle problems with respect and composure at a later time.