Coached to control emotion

TEACHING CHILDREN how to give themselves "emotional first aid" can guide many away from a life of frustration and anger, delegates in Glasgow heard last week.

Robyn Hromek, of the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, in Australia, ran a workshop at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's educational and child psychology division, in which she explained how children could be coached to control emotion.

The coaching taught children that there was a physiological response to emotion, Ms Hromek said, and helped them to identify the body's early warning signs.

Children might be asked where they first feel anger, and to take heed of this warning sign. They might have to think about how long it takes to "blow their fuse". They then identify ways of calming down, such as going for a walk or having a drink of water.

The method includes games and reflection sheets with "tricks" and "spells"

to help children to calm themselves. One game has cards showing insults that bullies might use and another set of cards with humorous replies.

Ms Hromek said: "The techniques are based on the belief that children are a work in progress and, with early intervention, most have the capacity to change. The reflection sheets and games reinforce teaching around the themes of friendship, teasing, anxiety, anger, depression, schoolwork and happiness."

She added: "This is not about eliminating emotion. It's about managing it in ways that are pro-social."

The system is best for children with mild to moderate emotional difficulties and can be used with individuals or groups.

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