Many Mightier parents ask when they should expect to see results, and when their children will begin translating their Mightier abilities into real life situations.
Because we are talking about human behavior and humans are complex. Because no one child learns at the same pace as another. And because regulating and controlling our emotions and reactions is not always a choice we have. By playing Mightier, your child is working to change some very deeply ingrained and powerful internal processes. They are shifting their physiological and automatic response to stressors. This takes time, and practice, and practice, and then some more practice.
In order to best understand when your child is likely to show signs of improved emotion regulation, it's important to also understand why intense emotions are difficult to manage in the first place. For kids and adults alike, there's a difference between knowing how to calm down and actually being able to calm down. Jessica Ragnio, MSW, LICSW and Associate Clinical Director, explains the inner mechanics why emotion regulation is so difficult, and what happens to our brains when we experience intense emotions.
This is the background for why emotion regulation is tricky, and also why the traditional therapeutic approach for teaching emotion regulation can be really challenging for children. The traditional approach relies on focus and clear thinking, which are skills that live in a part of the brain that is often inaccessible in the heat of the moment. Suzanne Wintner, PhD, LICSW, gives an overview of Mightier's method toward teaching children self-calming strategies, and the automatic internal process that develops over time with weekly play and practice.
Discovery (month 1)
The first few weeks of Mightier are all about discovery, experimenting with heart rate control, and building awareness of the connection between heart rate and emotions. Children tend to learn and engage best with Mightier when they feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment in their play. In those first few weeks, they need to figure out a few things:
- How to play Mightier games, catch lavalings and use the Mightier Gizmo
- The connections between their heart rate and breathing
- The skills and strategies that work best for them in bringing their heart rate down
You won't see much in terms of translation of strategies to real life situations in these first few weeks, but you can focus on their in-game signs of progress. Kimberly Siefkes, MSW, LISW and Senior Program Specialist, describes what to keep an eye out for in the early weeks of your child's Mightier play.
Awareness and Confidence (month 2)
Still in this early stage and the first few months of play, your child is really finding their rhythm with their Mightier play. They are figuring out which cooldown strategies work best for them, taking on increased challenges during gameplay (the games and system get harder as players get better), and hopefully feeling a sense of ownership and accomplishment in their play. As long as they are getting at least 3 play sessions in a week, or at least 45 minutes of play total throughout the week, they're on track. You might notice the following signs of progress in their gameplay:
- More quickly identifying when they are in red and blue
- Choosing to pause (or not pause) in order to cool down from the red zone
- Testing out new cooldown strategies, or sticking to their favorite strategy
- Developing a deeper level of awareness of what their body feels like when they are excited, mad, or have an elevated heart rate
- They're able to explain how Mightier works, or teach someone else how to play
Early Translation (month 3)
Remember, it takes at least 3 months for the brain to form the neural pathways that allow a new behavior to become a habit. For children who have been playing regularly, it is often around this 3 month mark that we begin to hear parents noticing those first, subtle signs of behavioral shifts. Most of the time these are unintentional shifts on the child's part, and they might not even know or notice the difference. Keep an eye out for these signs of real life translation:
- Improved frustration tolerance
- Improvements in reactivity
- An improved ability to communicate when upset or frustrated
- Naturally seems to be recovering or calming more easily
- An improved ability to pause or utilize calming strategies when reminded or prompted
Later Translation (Ongoing)
The more your child plays Mightier, and the more your family is able to integrate Mightier play and language into regular family life, the easier it will be for your child to more actively and intentionally translate their Mightier skills to real life scenarios. Remember, because of those shifts in how our brains function during stressful situations, intentional use of calming strategies is not always a choice. A child must have regular practice bringing their heart rate down in order to rework those more automatic responses to stressors. Their Mightier play is essentially laying that foundation. Once those physiological and automatic responses shift, it becomes easier to identify emotions and access calming strategies in the moments they're needed. Here's what you can do to continue to support your child's play and learning later in their Mightier Journey:
- Keep them playing! Keep Mightier as part of the regular routine
- Play as a family. Have your child be the expert and teach you how to play
- Talk about emotions, or try using Mightier vocabulary in real life situations to help your child build that emotional awareness outside of gameplay
- Model your own emotion regulation, or expression of emotions. Emotions are normal and reactions are normal.
- Try Mightier Family Games. This helps bring gameplay and calming strategies off the screen and into your living room.
Our commitment to you
Emotion regulation isn't simple or easy. It takes time and can be hard work. Contact our Family Care Team if you notice that your child is frustrated while playing, loses interest in Mightier, or if you have questions or concerns about your child's play and progress. Every child and every family are unique, and there is not a “one size fits all” approach to learning. Our clinically trained team is available to celebrate all of your family's Mightier Moments, and help your family overcome any challenges that stand in the way of your child's growth.