Our youngest was VERY angry when they arrived (they had previously at the foster carers, pulled two – full size doors off their hinges!). When I say angry, I mean 6 – 8 hours a day of screaming, punching, kicking. If you’re experiencing this now, you’re not alone and with perseverance and patience (and wine, friends, and YES you need it, a break from the kids sometimes) you will get through it! We struggled at first to find a constructive way for them to express their anger. By chance we discovered punching balloons!!! Cheap, effective and allowed them to just make lots of noise and get out some of the anger! Handy Hint: Add rice to them before blowing them up and they then also make great noises!
However, punching balloons alone were not going to get us through.
About 7 months into our placement I had the privilege of attending a seminar with Johnathan Baylin PhD, co-author of Brain Based Parenting.
In the seminar I started to learn (and remember I’m only a parent, trying to learn here!!) about trauma, and it’s effect on the developing brain. In particular about Oxytocin (a chemical in the brain) that helps develop those feel good connections. Oxytocin is released a ton of ways, but includes: Hugs & Squeezes, kissing, soothing comfort “it’s OK” etc but also from rhythmic movement. As such we invested in a trampoline and our youngest (the one with the anger issues) found it another GREAT release. He would bounce for ages, really angrily (and not always of his own choice, sometimes I would ask him to do it when he was melting down) and then slowly we could physically see his body relax and the bouncing would move into a more steady soothing bounce and he would be back in control of his feelings.
We also invested in some books about ‘feelings’, a series called “Your Emotions:”. One really good one about anger (Your Emotions: I Feel Angry) started to give us the words, to give to our youngest, to describe the feeling they was exhibiting!
I would read the book and then say things like, “when I get angry I like to be alone” or “sometimes when I’m angry I yell, but I don’t like it when I do this” etc. I would also express my anger “I feel angry because you’re yelling at me all the time” so that I showed them it was OK to feel angry, but reaffirm it’s not OK to yell (or kick, or bite, or scream etc).
At times of stress (like the past two weeks of holidays) or when they are tired, we experience all the temper again. So it is a moving target but honestly, compared with 18 months ago we’ve moved on MASSIVELY and POSITIVELY. The periods of anger are briefer, we’re more resilient at coping…. although on BAD days we do ebb low! But I’m confident that another year or two from now, we’ll be in a much better place and hopefully our youngest (coming up to 5) will be better able to regulate his anger!