When students have poor emotional regulation or anger management, there are actually several areas of social and emotional skills that you can teach them in order to help. As a School Psychologist, I work almost daily with students that have emotional, social, and behavioral issues at school related to their difficulty controlling their emotions. From hitting and biting peers on the playground, to screaming tantrums under their desks, I’ve seen it all.
Difficulty controlling emotions can significantly impact parts, or even their whole school day. It can also impact their self-esteem and ability to make friends. This is because their continual screaming, crying, hitting, or other aggressive behaviors will keep most kids away. It will, however, often draw other children with similar difficulties towards them, which can magnify the problems.
Typical Age Group of Students with Poor Emotional Regulation
I work in two Elementary Schools at the moment and have worked in middle schools in the past. I also have three children of my own, ages 4, 9, and 11. Based on research and my own years of experience, I can confidently say that poor emotional regulation is typically an issue for younger children. However, it can remain an issue for older children if not addressed early with intervention.
It is also a common difficulty for children of all ages with disabilities, including students with Autism, ADHD, or Emotional Disturbance. While I have observed over the years for it to be less common in students with cognitive delays or learning disabilities, poor emotional regulation can also be an issue, as learning can be frustrating and lead to emotional difficulties or low frustration tolerance.
Whatever the cause, difficulty controlling emotions can be challenging for not only the child, but also for his or her teacher and parents. My own son, Gavin, had difficulty in his pre-school class this past school year. In fact, he and my students have definitely been an inspiration for some of the counseling games, worksheets, and social stories that I have created this past school year. Unfortunately, his preschool “teacher” was unwilling to use some of the tools that I created for her to support him. This is a long story and a bit off topic, so I’ll save it for another day. However, at my schools of employment, my teachers were more than happy to use the tools that I provided and were happy campers based on their feedback.
Tools That Can Be Used for Teaching Emotional Regulation and Anger Management
If you’ve read some of my other articles on the tools that I use for small group and individual counseling, you are probably well aware that I use mostly videos, games, and social stories. I find these activities the most engaging for students, particularly male students. However, other tools, such as calming tools, worksheets, and arts and crafts activities can also facilitate learning through engagement and facilitate discussions in your counseling sessions.
In my experience, the key to progress is providing a variety of activities, as this keeps kids engaged and wanting to come back to the counseling office each session. If you are new to counseling kids, it might come as a surprise to you that children do not always want to leave their classroom to participate in counseling. But, trust me. It can happen on occasion if your lessons and activities are not engaging or if you are not able to build good rapport.
If you are struggling with building rapport, please check out my article, 4 Ideas for Counseling Students that are Resistant to Counseling!
A Little Summary Of Some Of The Tools That Can Be Used:
(Click on any counseling activity picture for the link to purchase for your own counseling 🙂
Calming Tools with Video Lesson
One of the first activities that you can do with a student is a Calming Tool with Video. These tools are like a fire extinguisher for students with significant behaviors. They don’t completely put out the fire, but they can be quickly taught in one session, and then given to the student as a tool to use that will teach them the habit of using a strategy. The secret is, however, to go over the tool also with their teacher or behavioral aide. This is because it will take the adult to remind them to use their tool for many weeks often before they are able self-monitor and use it independently.
Here are two examples of tools that can support de-escalation of BIG EMOTIONS:
Here are the videos that go with each calming and emotional regulation tool:
You’re not misreading this. Some of the best YouTube counseling videos are actually games. In these videos, your students can learn calming strategies, practice coping skills, and answer questions related to anger in an interactive way that is engaging and fun for them. These games are great for whole class activities, as they can be put up on the smartboard to play. When playing in my office, I will just use my laptop or even my extra monitor screen for small groups. When using these games, however, be prepared to pause often, as your students will need to answer questions and may need to have you engage in discussion at times.
Here is an example of Video-Games for counseling students for Anger Management:
Games for Teaching Self-Regulation
There are several counseling games out there to help facilitate discussion and learning of calming strategies for your counseling sessions. Because I have had many students on my case load with anger control difficulties, I have used and also created a variety of these types of games over the years. The first of which was the “Anger at the Beach Ball” game.
Another game that I created last school year is the “Frustration Game.” When making a game, I generally think it’s best just to go with the name that explains exactly what skill or emotion I want to target.
Other games are a little less focused on anger, and more broadly focused on emotional regulation. By broadening the focus, the game addresses additional emotions, such as anxiety, frustration, and sadness. In other words, its focused on more broad coping skills, that can be used for a variety of emotional states that children can and will experience.
Role-Playing and Social Skills Games
One social skill related to instances of emotional outbursts is the topic of Conflict Resolution. Children with poor anger management often have conflicts with peers due to their difficulty regulating their emotions and problem solve. These students often have difficulty with skills, such as sharing, compromise, and handling loss when playing games. When these kids loss control of their emotions, they often hurt the feelings of their peers and friends by saying or doing things that they typically regret later.
To help them build their conflict resolution skills, it’s best to start with videos on how to resolve conflicts. After a few videos, move on to other games and activities that reinforce your lessons, discussions, and videos that can help them practice conflict resolution skills. Role play games are great for this. This is because they provide opportunities for students to make decisions, practice calming their emotions, and determine a solution for a variety of typical school-day conflicts.
Here are some of the conflict resolution focused games and activities that you may find helpful for your students (click on resource to purchase):
It might not be a game, but social stories can target a specific skill that your students may be struggling with, such as conflict resolution, calming strategies, personal space, conversation skills, controlling behaviors, or playground rules. There are many short stories out there and even stories on video in YouTube.
When doing a social story activity, I will often pair a video about a certain topic with a social story coloring book that each student can color and personalize as the counseling activity. Then they can keep it and take it back to their classroom for their teacher to read and review with them on occasion when needed. This can be helpful for students with poor emotional regulation because they can refer to their story to determine the strategy that they can use.
These two stories are similar, but the one on the left is slightly more focused on aggressive behaviors. It also includes a frontloading card for the teacher to use prior to recess and other unstructured play times to help remind the child of the strategies. Click on products to learn more in my TpT store!
The OVERARCHING GOAL…
The purpose of all of the activities that you can provide to your students is to teach them the needed skills that can help them self-regulate and control their anger. These are such important life skills because they will help your students with not only functioning in the classroom, but functioning in LIFE as they grow up. These skills will help your students to make and keep friendships, have healthy romantic relationships, and keep employment as they become and are adults.
For me, this is always my overarching goal as I work with students. Although I technically have IEP goals that last a year or short-term behavior goals for my students, I always have in the back in my mind that these children will one day be adults. I want to help them be functioning humans, not just well-behaved students. I want to help kids become members of society that contribute positively to the lives of others and society as a whole. This is the point of education, after all, and what I am sure also inspires you to positively impact the lives of humans, little humans that is.
You Can Get Counseling Activities Today… for FREE!
If you are hoping to find not just inexpensive, but FREE Counseling Activities, then you are in the right place!
Subscribe to CounselingFannyPack.com and gain access to the Free Resource Library! In it, you will get new counseling activities that are updated monthly for subscribers! Just Click HERE to sign up for access!
If you are OK with spending $3-$5 on a few fun counseling activities for your students, please just click the pictures within this post and they will all link you to the product in my Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun store.
If you’d like Provide your ENTIRE SCHOOL with Social and Emotional Learning for grades PreK/TK through 6th grades for under $299, please click HERE to learn about the Summit SEL Program.
If you’d like to check out any of the games featured in this article…
Please just click on the picture and it will take you to the product in my Teachers pay Teachers store. If you’d like to check out other topics in my store, please click on the topic below to see what I might have for you and your students. Happy Counseling!
Looking for more information on working with children with Autism? Click Here!