Friday, May 17, 2013

Anger Management Is Easier With Family Support

Dear Tazi:

I have issues with anger management. Every little thing sets me off, from someone tapping their heels on the floor and making an annoying noise to crying children. I used to drink to take the edge off of my anger, but that backfired and made me even easier to anger. I didn't realize I had a problem because my family always accommodated me; I thought they truly were the ones with the problem and were right to apologize for angering me.

Last week, my youngest daughter told me that she is planning to come in from California for a working vacation (she is self-employed) and would like to visit with me and her mother. I told her how excited I was to be seeing her and that I was looking forward to seeing my six-year-old granddaughter when she told me that there was a problem with that. She told me that "Johanna" said she is "afraid of Grampy" because the last time I saw her - two years ago - I yelled at her for singing a dilly song while I was trying to catch the sports scores on TV.

Tazi, I had no idea how harmful my behavior was, or that it would make such a lasting impression on such a young child. Nobody made a big deal of things at the time, and I thought no further of it. My wife and I have always sent birthday and Christmas cards to Johanna, and even talked with her on Skype and my daughter has never let on that Johanna was afraid of me. My daughter explained that while looking through pictures of her last visit Johanna remembered how badly I had scared her.

My daughter has told me that she will not keep Johanna from me, but that we need to meet on neutral territory - like at a playground or other child-friendly location. Tazi, I would do anything to undo the damage I have done to my granddaughter's psyche. I seriously and truly regret the way I snapped at her two years ago, and have offered apologies to her, telling her I was "a mean Grampy, and won't do it again". However, I am afraid that will not be a promise I can keep if I am placed in a child-friendly area like a playground or children's restaurant. Groups of loud, unruly children set me on edge.

I have asked my daughter if we can meet at my house or even a regular restaurant, but she is firm in keeping the location "child friendly". I am seeking counseling for my anger issues, but I am not sure I have reached the point where I can be around such a large trigger. Must I forego a visit with my granddaughter until I am ready to be in a child-friendly atmosphere? I have no idea how long this will take, and I desperately want to see my grandchild.

(Reforming) Mean Old Grampy

Dear (Reforming) Mean Old Grampy:

I give you a lot of credit for accepting your role in this whole scenario; accepting responsibility for your actions is one of the major steps to managing your anger. Rather than ditch the idea of meeting your granddaughter, I suggest that you talk to your daughter in terms of your recovery. Nobody would blame a recovering alcoholic for refusing to meet someone at the hotel bar, yet your daughter is asking you to step into a loaded environment - similar to how a hotel bar would affect a recovering alcoholic.

Would you make this guy angry on purpose?

Explain to your daughter that you are seeking help for your temper and have made strides towards both understanding and controlling your anger, and that it is because you understand your triggers (such as groups of loud, uncontrolled children) that you recognize that a child-friendly environment like she has in mind would not be the best place for you to reconnect with your granddaughter.

Would a picnic in a wide, open park area be a good compromise for you? A park offers enough space that the noise of other children would not carry as it does in an enclosed space (like a playground or child-friendly restaurant) and would allow your granddaughter the open space she needs to feel safe. Maybe an afternoon fishing at a local lake would be a nice way fore you and Johanna to reconnect? You could make it a family affair, with your wife and daughter, too. I suggest that you and your daughter settle on a quiet, relaxing, but fun-for-all-ages activity that would defuse the stress of the situation for both you and Johanna.

Recovery is not a process that can be undertaken alone; with your daughter's support, you will be able to build a relationship with Johanna...and even rebuild your relationship with your daughter, who I am certain bears emotional scars of her own.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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