“Calm Down. Just Take a Deep Breath”
Emotion regulation isn’t easy. Even for adults, it can be incredibly challenging to recognize how we’re feeling, know what to do in intense moments of anger or anxiety, and act in a way that is appropriate and effective. How often are we left aggravated, upset, and full of regret about what we did or did not say after a negative interaction? These sorts of feelings and responses are normal. They are also the reason that even though we cognitively know what we are supposed to do to feel better (for example: take deep breaths or go on a walk), it is incredibly hard to actually remember to do so in the moment.
This is why being able to identify emotions and know how to calm down is important, but isn’t everything. There will still be moments when our natural instincts take over. When this happens, we cannot simply think our way into feeling better or tempering our actions. We jump to what is a natural reaction and what is oftentimes not a helpful one.
We often hear from families who are just beginning to use Mightier: “He knows what to do. He’s learned about deep breathing in counseling. He just can’t do it when he actually needs to in the moment.”
Early Play – Setting the Stage for Automaticity
Since Mightier is grounded in practice and routine, we recommend playing Mightier 3 times per week for 15-20 minutes at a time, every week for 90 days. 87% of Families report a positive change in 3 months after consistently playing each week.
It is important during the first stage of your journey to help your child become excited and engaged in playing Mightier. For some kids, this will be an easy task, while others may need some encouragement. For the first few weeks your child should spend time making observations, experimenting with their heart rate, and, most importantly, having fun. Your child will most likely spend the first few weeks figuring out how to play the games and trying out new techniques to raise and lower their heart rate. It is during this time that they start to learn and process that manipulating their physiological response is something within their control.
Academic research indicates that it takes at least 3 months for the brain to form the neural pathways that allow a new behavior to become a habit. In these early weeks of play, your child is just beginning to engage in new cool down behaviors that will, with enough regular practice, become habitual.
Continued Play – Developing Automaticity and Signs of Progress
As your child progresses through their Mightier Journey, the practice and hard work that they have been doing through play will help to bring awareness to their body and what they can do to control their heart rate.
It is unlikely that they will be able to intentionally translate cool down strategies into real life right away, and you might not see much change in their behaviors or emotional response to stressors outside of game play during the first few weeksThis is expected.
Developing a new skill takes time and practice. As long as your child is in a routine of playing at least 3 times a week for 15 – 20 minutes at a time every week, they’re on the path toward developing automaticity.
Here are in-game signs of your child’s progress that show they are learning and on the right track:
- They understand that the gizmo reflects their heart rate rising and lowering
- They’re experimenting with different calming strategies to get their heart rate up and down (even if they don’t get it right at first)
- They’re practicing cooldowns and collecting lavalings by bringing their heart rate down from their red zone
- They’re playing at least 3 times a week
As children progress through the program and they practice regularly every week, we see children building confidence and showing signs of progress outside of the games. This may not look exactly how you would expect. Not every child will take a deep breath automatically. This is okay. Each child has their own way to calm down and personalizing this experience shows expertise and confidence.
This process and timeline is different for every child however many children begin to show signs of progress around 3 months of consistent playing every week.
Here are signs of their progress outside of game play that can show your child’s learning and that they are on the right track:
- Naturally seem to be recovering and calming more easily
- Able to persevere in situations that they normally wouldn’t be able to tolerate
- Able to recognize escalating emotions and cool down intentionally
- Talk about feelings and heart rate
- Taking a pause or using a coping skill in a real life situation
- Being more open to the suggestion of using skills from adults or peers.
Play should be fun, and many children need to feel ownership over this part of the process. Be curious about what your child is doing during play, and show your excitement for their accomplishments if they will let you. Have them teach you how Mightier works and let them be the expert. Overall, don’t worry too much. Their brain, body, and self-esteem need this part of the process.
The “Right” Amount of Parent Involvement
All children are different in terms of the level of support they’ll need while playing Mightier, as well as the level of support they’ll WANT while playing Mightier. Kimberly Siefkes, LISW and Senior Program Specialist, talks about the importance of supporting your child in the way that works best for them.
Structuring Mightier Time
We recommend that kids play Mightier at least 3 times each week for 15 – 20 minutes at a time, every week for 90 days. This can be difficult, so here are strategies other families have found to help make sure there is time for Mightier every week:
- Build Mightier into a set routine so it’s easy to remember
- Separate Mightier time from other screen time
- Get creative with where your child plays. Bring it in the car or with you when you are on the go.
- Keep everything charged and out in the open so it’s ready for use whenever they’re ready
Contact our Family Care Team if you notice that your child is frustrated while playing, feels that playing is too difficult, or if you have questions about how Mightier works. Every child and every family is different, and there is not a “one size fits all” approach to learning. Our clinically trained team is happy to help your family get the most out of Mightier.