Many things can happen in a young person’s life that result in trauma, anxiety, distress and depression. Rangatahi / young people’s feelings can be affected by puberty, difficult social situations, bullies, school, and home life.
Let the young person you're helping know it's normal to feel a range of emotions
Let them know many young people find it hard to control their emotions
Help them to work out the things that make them feel the way they feel. What makes them sad? what makes them happy?
Encourage them to try a range of things that might help them when they are feeling sad
Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling and listen carefully
Emotions like fear, sadness, and anger are all a normal part of life. Sometimes rangatahi / young people struggle to deal with these emotions because they might not have experienced them before and they might feel they’ll never stop.
People respond to difficult events in different ways. Some of the harmful ways that a rangatahi / young person might deal with challenging emotions are:
They might refuse to accept something is wrong or they need help. They may deny their feelings, which get bottled up to a point where they end up ‘exploding’ or acting out.
They might stop doing activities with friends and family they usually enjoy. They may be feeling overwhelmed or worried that others don’t like them / want them around or they may feel embarrassed about their behaviours.
They might be triggered by seemingly small things. When they’re aggressive or angry it can be hard to engage with them. If they are angry and lashing out, give them space to calm down, keep them and others safe and once they’re calm, talk with them about the incident and what they could do differently next time they’re worked up.
They might use force against or threaten others. People generally bully because they don’t feel good about themselves. They think making someone else feel bad will make them feel better about themselves.
Self-harm can be many things, including cutting or starving themselves, eating lots then being sick on purpose, drinking too much or other dangerous behaviours. Many people self-harm because they want a feeling of control over their emotional pain. If someone is self harming they need professional help. Talk to them about who can help them.
They might be using alcohol or other drugs excessively to feel better or block out painful or sad situations. This can damage the brain, make them feel worse, and in some cases, lead to suicidal thoughts or addiction.
Rangatahi / young people need skills to deal with emotions. If you know someone who is struggling with their emotions, help them follow these 4 steps:
Step 1: Pause
Ask them to stop and think things through. Encourage them to count to 100 or say the alphabet backwards, then think about what might be making them feel this way.
Step 2: Acknowledge
Let them know that it’s ok to be sad or mad. Whatever it is they’re feeling, let them know it’s normal to feel that way. Helping them name the feeling is a useful starting point for them to understand what is happening.
Step 3: Think
Once they know how they feel, get them to think about how they can make themselves feel better.
Step 4: Help
Give them ideas for positive actions based on what they think makes them feel better.
The best way for rangatahi / young people to deal with emotions is to talk about them. You can show them it’s ok to talk about emotions by talking about your own emotions. Remind them that all feelings are normal, healthy, and ok.
The following ideas can help:
Focus on the young person you’re helping, show them empathy, and remove distractions.
Accept their feelings, even if you don’t understand them.
Help them understand that all emotions are normal and healthy.
4. Problem solve
Encourage them to come up with ways to cope.
Praise them for opening up.
There are hundreds of ways they can improve their moods and deal with emotions.
play with a pet
have a shower or bath
draw a picture
go for a run
punch a pillow
let themselves cry
talk to someone
listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook
unplug their phone, tablet, and/or computer for an hour or so
read a book
meditation, karakia, prayer or a moment of silence
Although anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it's important to know how to deal with it. Knowing how to cope with anger and expressing it in an appropriate manner are important skills for rangatahi / young people to learn.
Anger vs. aggression
Teach them the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behaviour. Angry feelings are acceptable, but aggressive behaviour isn’t. Make it clear that it's never ok to hurt people. Rangatahi / young people need to know that aggressive behaviour can have serious consequences. For example, making threatening comments on social media could be against the law and make others feel very sad, unsafe or even suicidal.
Physical signs of anger
Rangatahi / young people can’t always tell when their anger is getting out of control. They can work themselves up to a point where they’re so angry they have to lash out.
Help them recognise the warning signs of anger in their bodies, like a rapid heartbeat, clenched fists, or flushed face. Encourage them to act when they notice they’re getting angry. This could be taking a break, taking some deep breaths, or counting to 10. Teach them that if they’re feeling this way – it’s best to leave others until they calm down.