Irritability is a common emotion. It can be triggered by general stress or frustration, or by an underlying condition (depression, PTSD, anxiety, ASD, chronic pain, etc) that makes it difficult to manage frustrating or unexpected situations. Irritability can also be the result of having diminished capacity for managing stressors because of lack of sleep or hunger. Irritability can look like frequent anger, and can manifest as developmentally inappropriate temper outbursts and a grouchy mood. It is a diagnostic criterion for multiple disorders in youth, including anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). (Leibenluft, 2017).
We all experience irritability from time to time, especially when navigating triggering situations. Throughout a child’s development, there is a typical trend related to irritability and proneness to anger, peaking in the preschool period, then declining for a number of years then increasing again during adolescence (Leibenluft, 2017). If this irritability increases or causes problems with peers, family, or at school, it may be helpful to talk with a professional about potential options for additional support.
Mightier can help children who struggle with irritability
Mightier helps children who struggle with irritability by teaching their brain and body to respond differently when they feel increased stress. Through a process of repetitive calming during gameplay, children develop an ability to remain in better emotional control from the start, return to a state of calm more automatically, and think and communicate more clearly despite stressful situations in real life.
Families who use Mightier report observing their child taking deep breaths when upset, calming down more naturally, managing big emotions better than before, and interacting in a more positive way with family members.
Adults can help make Mightier even more impactful for children who experience irritability
Playing Mightier on a regular basis, outside of moments of irritability, is the key to strengthening a child’s ability to better manage increased emotion in a way that translates to real-life situations. Families can also implement additional strategies to make Mightier even more applicable to a child’s real-world emotions. Talking about Mightier and making connections between Mightier and real-world situations are two ways that parents can help their kids get the most out of the program. For caregivers of kids who demonstrate irritability, this would include conversations about how emotions such as frustration or irritability work in the body to raise the heart rate and physiologically activate us (fight or flight response), and how Mightier helps us lower our heart rate using deep breathing and other calming skills.
Caregivers of Mightier players who struggle with irritability have found it helpful to work with their kids on identifying potential triggering situations and pairing Mightier play to those situations when possible and when it feels appropriate. For example, some caregivers have their kids play Mightier before school as it allows the child to strengthen their calming abilities first thing in the morning. For kids who feel easily frustrated with peers or siblings, playing Mightier before or after these interactions can be helpful.
Integrating Mightier into a child’s care system can also be beneficial. The concept of how Mightier works, as well as its unique and gamified vocabulary for emotions, are often easier and more comfortable ways for children to talk about emotions and coping skills. By sharing Mightier with a child’s teacher, therapist, or other family members, children’s care providers can find a consistent and common language across settings.
Mightier offers a different way to support children who struggle with irritability
Many kids struggle with traditional therapeutic modalities that involve an authority figure (parent, teacher, or a therapist.) Mightier is an opportunity for kids to practice emotional regulation in a self-directed way. Through emotion regulation practice during Mightier gameplay, children are able to practice and find success on their own terms.
Leibenluft, E. (2017). Irritability in children: What we know and what we need to learn. World Psychiatry, 16(1), 100–101. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20397
Yale Medicine. (2019). Anger, irritability and aggression in kids. Yale Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/anger-issues-in-children-and-teens.