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Say 'Aaah' | Kid Health

Before You Blow Your Top, Take a Breather

February 19, 2001|EMILY DWASS

Everyone gets angry from time to time. But some people, especially kids, tend to act without thinking, and their anger can make them say or do things they end up regretting.

"It's really important to make the distinction between feeling angry and acting aggressively," says Dee L. Shepherd-Look, a psychology professor at Cal State Northridge. "Feeling angry is OK, but to act impulsively and aggressively and to destroy someone else's property or feelings or give them a black eye is not OK."

The first step in controlling your emotions is to be aware of how you are feeling. It's usually pretty easy to tell when you are angry, because your heart beats faster, your muscles tense and your breathing changes.

When you get upset with an event or person, tell yourself to stop before taking action. Shepherd-Look says you can even imagine a stop sign in front of you. Then take a step back from the person who is making you lose your temper. Remember, you can always walk away from a situation that is uncomfortable.

Another anger-management trick is to wear a rubber band around your wrist. When you find yourself getting angry, snap the rubber band against your skin. When you feel the snap, tell yourself: "Now I have a choice," says Shepherd-Look. You can choose not to let your anger make you behave inappropriately.

Sometimes kids argue over things such as deciding what game to play or whose turn it is. You can flip a coin to decide who wins or you can choose to do another activity. Working on school projects with other students sometimes leads to fights. It's all right to ask an adult to help if you can't resolve a conflict.

If you are always angry, it's important to find out what is really bothering you. Talk to your parents, doctor or school counselor as a first step in getting help.

"It's not good to walk around like that all the time," says Shepherd-Look, explaining that constant stress from unresolved anger can cause symptoms such as skin rashes, headaches and stomach trouble.

Some experts believe that kids' frequent exposure to violence, either real or on film, can cause aggressive behavior. If anger is a problem for you, you might want to consider the kinds of movies and TV shows you watch.

* Kids and other readers can reach Emily Dwass at emilydwass@yahoo.com.

* Do you like to draw? If so, we have an opportunity for you. Send us your artwork about amusement park safety (next month's topic), and we just may use it to illustrate the February column. If your art isn't selected, don't worry. We'll have a new topic every month, so you can try again.

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Send submissions to Kid Health, Health section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Include age, grade and school. Sorry, but submissions cannot be returned.

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