Dear David Coleman: My son has been flying into terrible rages. What can I do to help him?

Question: My son started big school last month. I know it’s a huge change and tiring for him, but he has become absolutely horrible to live with. He started having rages, where everything is a problem, endless screaming at me, throwing things at me, hitting me. I am so stressed by the time I get to work that I feel like my head is going to explode. Please help!

David replies: Starting National School is an enormous change for children and change most often creates anxiety. Anxiety often leaks out in misbehaviour. Based on your description of your son’s radical change in behaviour, I wonder if he is anxious and overwhelmed by the transition to school.

Even if he is coping OK in the classroom, he may “fall apart” when he is home, allowing the tensions and stresses of the day to overflow in the rages you describe. If he does still fly into a rage, it is important to protect yourself and others from being hit or hurt by him.

I’d suggest that you focus your energy on offering lots of understanding about how much effort he is probably putting into being in school and how he probably feels exhausted by it. I think if you can show this kind of understanding, it will help him to process his feelings about being in school, leading to a reduction in the rages.

I do think that the rages will pass as he adapts to the new routines, and finds his balance with the new academic and social pressure that may have come with starting school. Talking with his teacher may help with that adaptation.

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