A lot of children I work with and support express their frustration in ways that are violent and dangerous to themselves, others and our environment. For example in punching or hitting others, or in swearing , or in throwing things…often through windows. When these occasions occur, it leaves the recipients, both adults and children scared and emotionally drained. Their security has gone. Very often the child perpetrating the violence is also left drained and usually full of remorse. They don’t always have the words to express their feelings and they certainly don’t always recognise that their stress levels are increasing to such an extent that they explode like a volcano.
I was discussing anger management support strategies with an SFL teacher today and asked if they had a copy of ‘A Volcano In My Tummy’ by Whitehouse and Pudney. This is a classic book enabling teachers to support children in addressing their anger management issues. The problem is that the children who need this type of support usually run a mile from a worksheet, and although the book is full of great discussion ideas, everything is presented as a worksheet to complete.
The whole volcano idea is excellent and I really believe it is a great metaphor that parallels the experiences of sudden disintegration of personal control and the consequent explosive power as shown in an eruption of anger. But how to make this metaphor more accessible to children?
Create a model of a volcano using papier-mache. In the middle of the volcano plant a plastic tube, (like the ones that contain sterilisers for false teeth or even a baking powder pot.) Build the papier-mache around this and allow it dry. You can get really quite creative with this with the child. Take as long as you need and even build up a village around the base of the volcano perhaps even with a river or stream! This activity also throws up some wonderful sensory experiences when mixing the watery glue or wall paper paste with the paper and gently plastering the paper up. Finally paint the model, make some mini people and you have a lovely scene in which to play and act out role play.
But back to how this can help us with anger management. Once the model is complete, you could introduce the child to a little experiment and discuss that we are a bit like volcanoes. When the pressure builds up we explode. Using vinegar and baking powder you can demonstrate the volcano (us…or more to the point the child!) in action. (You might like to cover the model in clingfilm first to avoid any upset over the model getting damaged.) You can talk about the ‘explosion’ and how it affects the people around us…maybe people in the village run away/get hurt by the lava/have their homes destroyed. This is all in metaphorical language and with support, the child will come to understand the consequences of their actions affecting everyone around them.
Over time you can encourage the child to ‘play’ with the volcano and you can encourage the child to start using the volcano to ‘express’ their own anger or frustration as it is developing. By leaving some powder and vinegar around, they can add as much as they think they need for the explosion that is literally building inside them. They can learn to use the model volcano to explode their feelings before the reality of violent anger occurs.