They get angry when they’re ignored by their friends. They get angry when teachers pile on homework and they don’t understand what is being taught or is expected of them. They get angry when a sibling takes something without asking. They get angry when they are not chosen to be a part of a team. They get angry when someone bullies or victimizes them.
While anger is a normal part of life, many young people do not have positive opportunities to practise dealing with their anger. There is nothing wrong with anger in itself, but poor coping skills, or a complete lack of them, can lead to hurtful conduct such as vandalism, bullying, self-harm and violence. Teaching students how to manage their anger can significantly reduce the amount of violence in a school and a community.
Since 2007, The Salvation Army has been partnering with schools and parents with Red Cap, an anger management program for elementary school-aged children. With the success of that program, youth workers, parents and educators asked for something similar that they could use with high school students. To meet that need, the Canada and Bermuda Territory has developed a new program, TASK—Teen Anger Management Skills.
Created in partnership with Captain Kristen Jackson-Dockeray, divisional youth secretary, British Columbia Division, and Major Patricia McInnes, director of spiritual care, Toronto Harbour Light Ministries, TASK is an eight-week program that helps teens learn to express their anger in healthy ways. It follows the topics of Red Cap but digs deeper with age-appropriate activities and content. It uses games, small group discussions, role-playing, journaling and more to help students learn and apply the lessons.
TASK begins by showing students how to recognize that they are angry. It looks at the physical signs of anger and the “anger buttons” that trigger those feelings. The program teaches students that anger is a secondary emotion—there is always another emotion that precedes it. That underlying emotion can be fear, frustration, loneliness, insecurity, sadness, depression, a lack of self-worth, and so on. TASK also helps students identify their own anger style—the way they express their anger—by taking a quiz.
Armed with a better understanding of their anger, the students then learn how to cool down using PAUSE:
- P: Positive actions, such as performing a random act of kindness
- A: Allow distractions, such as watching TV or playing a game
- U: Unwind, for example by relaxing, finding a quiet place or listening to soothing music
- S: Separate yourself from the situation, for example by walking away or giving yourself a time-out
- E: Express yourself, for example by talking to someone, writing or creating art
After they learn to “pause,” the students acquire the skills they need to communicate their feelings with others so they can move forward in a positive manner. In the final lesson, the students review what they have learned and receive participation certificates.
Today, more than ever, young people need to learn to identify their feelings and talk about them before they become angry. When students are unable to name their emotions, they cannot express them in healthy ways, and if they are misunderstood, they can become angry and lash out at others. They risk hurting themselves and others through their words and actions.
TASK helps students learn to manage their anger and the emotions that are hidden underneath. It challenges them to stop, think and problem solve. It takes the guesswork out of identifying how they’re feeling, and trains them to name their emotions and express them properly, reducing self-harm and alienation from others.
When young people learn to manage their anger, everybody—youth, families, schools and communities—wins.
To learn more about the program, contact your divisional youth secretary or email email@example.com.
Valerie Pavey is the children’s ministries consultant in the territorial children and youth ministries department.
TASK in Action: Kelowna, B.C.by Kristin Ostensen
After representatives from The Salvation Army in Kelowna, B.C., took the TASK training in November 2018, they were eager to put it into action. In partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club, Kelowna Community Church ran the program in January-February, while Renew Church in West Kelowna offered it in April-May. Combined, the two corps taught 21 young people how to better manage their anger.
“It was really successful,” says Lieutenant Jennifer Henson, corps officer, Renew Church. “This is the first free teen anger management course that’s been available in Kelowna for a long time.”
TASK participants came to the program for a variety of reasons—some had been in trouble at school, others were encouraged to attend by their parents, and some came through the justice system, completing TASK as part of diverting charges.
Reflecting on their experience with the program, both Lieutenant Henson and Darrel Murray, who led the program at Kelowna Community Church, say that the lesson on anger styles made a particularly strong impact on the participants.
“I saw the lights go on when they understood—this is how I get angry and these are the underlying emotions that go along with it,” says Murray.
“They became more self-aware of how they processed anger,” Lieutenant Henson adds. “For some of the kids, it was surprising. For others, it was empowering for them to recognize their style and then learn some helpful ways to respond once they notice that they’re getting angry.”
“I found it helpful to know the steps to calm down and use PAUSE, like how I can allow distractions when I’m angry,” says one participant, “and how I need to listen to other people’s perspectives when I move forward.”
Looking beyond TASK, Lieutenant Henson sees the program as an opportunity to connect participants and their families to other Salvation Army programming, such as camp, youth group or church services. “After eight weeks, you’ve developed a relationship with the teen and their family, and you are more able to identify the needs that are present in your community that you might not otherwise be aware of,” she says. “It’s a helpful program.”
Feature photo: benschonewille/stock.Adobe.com