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Hot Headed: A Game to Calm Anger

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Hot Headed: A Game to Calm Anger

hot headed game board

One of the most common presenting problems I see is anger outbursts in children. Most adults can agree that it's hard to keep your cool when someone is pushing your buttons! This game helps children learn about their bodies and how they respond to anger to better control their outbursts.

hot headed is a game to help kids manage anger and aggression

This game touches on many different aspects of anger including triggers, body responses, thoughts, and needs. It offers ways to calm the body's response by implementing coping skills, finding support figures, and by creating a plan of action for when anger strikes.

Everyone has different body signals when the fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered. As kids learn what their signals are, they can use it as an early warning sign to take action to avoid blow-ups. It also brings comfort to kids to understand why they are experiencing these responses and to know that it is normal. The earlier kids can use coping mechanisms, the better the chance of avoiding a major explosion. Game cards are included to help kids recognize these responses and challenge them to make a plan for how to respond when they feel them.


CBT skills are introduced to help children recognize that their thoughts will trigger an emotional reaction, which will lead to a behavioral response. If they can learn to control their thoughts, they can then control their emotions and behaviors. This is a fundamental skill needed to help kids overcome their stuck points and learn better responses to triggers. If they continue to have negative or irrational thoughts, they will continue to struggle emotionally.

Finally, kids need to learn how to use specific skills to calm down when triggered. I tend to focus on 4 main categories of coping skills and have kids pick their favorite activities from each of them to build a solid skill set. First, breathing exercises should be the first response to anger, as it helps to turn off the fight, flight, or freeze response. It is generally the most effective and fastest way to calm anger. The second group is communicating emotions. This could be done by talking to someone, journaling, art, etc. Kids need to know how to process what they are feeling. The third group is some sort of distraction to allow their body to calm down. It could be anything that holds their attention such as reading a book, watching a movie, or playing with toys. The final group is exercise. Angry energy needs to be released in a healthy way so that kids do not act out in aggression.

play therapy interventions for anger

In addition to coping skills, kids also need to put together a plan of action for when they feel triggered. This would include seeking out support figures, finding a calm safe place to go, and deciding which skills to use in different situations. It is hard to think rationally when the fight, flight, or freeze response is triggered. Having a plan and support figures available will help children implement the plan more effectively. Part of this plan should include avoiding talking about the problem until the child is calm.

It's amazing how much work you can accomplish while playing a simple little game! This game is jam-packed with tools to set kids up for success!

The telehealth version will be coming soon!


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