For over 60 years, play therapy has been a well-established and popular mode of child treatment in clinical practice. One reason play therapy has proven to be a particularly useful approach with children is that they have not yet developed the abstract reasoning abilities and verbal skills needed to adequately articulate their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. For children, toys are their words, and play is their conversation.
Play therapy can be defined as an interpersonal process wherein a trained therapist systematically applies the curative powers of play (e.g., relationship enhancement, role-playing, communication, mastery, catharsis, attachment formation, etc.) to help the clients resolve their current psychological difficulties and help prevent future ones. Yet there are several techniques which can be undertaken in a home environment by parents/caregiver to curb certain psychological issues.
One of the most popular issues in the millennial generation is “Aggression”. So in this blog, we are going to share a simple technique which could be undertaken by parents/caregivers at home for dealing with aggression and anger in young children.
Name of technique: Balloons of anger
It is crucial to help children understand what anger is and how to release it appropriately. The play therapy technique: Balloons of Anger (by Tammy Horn; see Kaduson & Schaefer, 1997, pp. 250–253) is an enjoyable, effective technique that provides children with a visual picture of anger and the impact that it can have upon them and their environment. It allows the children to see how anger can build up inside of them and how, if it is not released slowly and safely, anger can explode and hurt themselves or others. The most important material required for this activity are balloons. Below are seven steps that describe this play therapy technique
The step by step guide to this activity is as follows:
- The child blows up a balloon, and then the caregiver helps tie it.
- The caregiver explains that the balloon represents the body and that the air inside the balloon represents anger. The caregiver asks the child, “Can air get in or out of the balloon?” “What would happen if this anger (air) was stuck inside of you?” “Would there be room to think clearly?”
- Then the caregiver tells the child to stomp on the balloon until it explodes and all of the anger (air) comes out.
- Now the caregiver explains that if the balloon were a person, the explosion of the balloon would be like an aggressive act (e.g., hitting a person or object). The caregiver asks the child if this seems like a safe way to release anger.
- Next, the child blows up another balloon, but instead of tying it, the child pinches the end closed. The caregiver tells the child to slowly release some of the air and then pinch it closed again. The caregiver asks the child, “Is the balloon smaller?” “Did the balloon explode?” “Did the balloon and the people around the balloon stay safe when the anger was released?” “Does this seem like a safer way to let the anger out?”
- At the end of the activity, the caregiver again explains that the balloon represented anger. By talking about what makes us angry and by finding ways to release the anger appropriately, the anger comes out slowly and safely. The caregiver reminds the child that if he/she allows anger to build up inside, it can grow and explode and possibly harm the child or someone else.
- Lastly, after this activity, the caregiver can discuss various anger- management techniques.
The activity of balloons of anger described above is an effective for aggressive children who have difficulty controlling their anger and for withdrawn children who internalize their anger instead of expressing it. Try this activity at home with your children and teach them about feelings and emotions and how they can be skillfully regulated.
Source: Kaduson, H., & Schaefer, C. (Eds.). (2001). 101 more favourite play therapy techniques, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. Hall, M., Kaduson, H., & Schaefer, C. (2002). Fifteen Effective Play Therapy Techniques, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice