When Anger at Your Children Triggers Mindless Eating
If you’re a parent, much as you love ‘em, your kids might trigger your unwanted eating. They may be thoughtless or careless. Sometimes when they’re upset, they take out their distress on you. Other times, you hurt their feelings and they lash out and try to hurt you back. Whatever the reason, you can learn to avoid getting so angry at your children that you mindlessly seek food to re-regulate your emotions by understanding your usual triggers.
“Learn what’s causing your anger” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman (Sarasota Herald Tribune, p. B3, 4/11/16) provides tips to discover what’s going on inside you when you feel angry at your kids. Their point is that it helps to dig below the surface to find out what’s really triggering you. Ask yourself, is what you’re feeling due to:
1. A sensory issue, in that you’re already overwhelmed, wiped out, dead on your feet, in physical pain, or in any other way feeling physically uncomfortable. Any of these temporary states of being may cause you to overreact or reacting without thinking.
2. Injustice because you feel wronged, invalidated, undervalued, mistreated, misled or unappreciated. If you’ve had a great deal of injustice befall you in life, especially in your childhood, it’s highly likely that you’ll be sensitive when you’re slighted.
3. Interruption of process, which means you’re trying to get something done (pick up your mom from the airport, cook dinner, or be on time for a parent-teacher meeting) and your child gets in the way of that happening. If you’re goal-driven and a perfectionist, this is the kind of interaction which can really rankle.
4. Unmet expectations, as in you want your children to be one way and they persist in simply being themselves. Sometimes your expectations should be met, especially when children may be putting themselves in danger, but other times you’ll need to rethink your wish for how you want your child to be versus who he or she really is.
5. Fearfulness for your child’s physical or emotional safety. When you’re scared of harm befalling your child, you might erupt in anger. Better to settle down and understand what set you off and express your fears calmly.
You and your kids will be better off if you know your triggers. We all have them, so give up trying to be the perfect parent and, instead, reflect on what sets you off so strongly that you head straight for the cookie jar. By acknowledging your triggers, you can then learn how to prevent or manage them. You can remind yourself that something within you needs attending to and that food will not do the trick. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to avoid the anger that can drive you to mindless eating.