My first car was pretty basic – no frills whatsoever. Cruise control: nope. Bluetooth: forget it. My steering wheel featured a horn. That’s it. Today’s cars have so many gadgets, and in many cars you can control them without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel. Music, cruise, phone calls – all at the push of the button.
That’s the idea behind this easy, and inexpensive, “In the Driver’s Seat” craft, which will help kids remember how to be in control of their emotional expression. Kids make a steering wheel complete with buttons that describe their favourite coping strategies, which they can then take home to help them remember how to handle their emotions. I like this activity for reinforcing anger management strategies, simply because so often anger can feel like an out-of-control emotion. But you could do the activity for anxiety, depression, or any emotion or behaviour that a child would like to control better. This activity can easily be completed by small children, within the time limits of a typical session.
Paper or foam plate
Paint and/or markers
1) Spend some time working with the child on strategies for managing his emotions. These should be discussed and practiced so that the child will know how to do each strategy on his own. You can find a good list of coping strategies here.
2) Use the scissors to cut out sections of your paper plate so that it looks like a steering wheel. Any kind of disposable plate should work, although you will get a smoother line with a paper plate than with a Styrofoam one.
3) Draw or paint buttons onto the steering wheel. Make sure you test out your markers/paint ahead of time. I used paint as markers just wiped off my foam plate.
4) Once the plate has dried, write the coping strategies that the child finds most effective for managing his anger on the buttons (or whatever emotion/behaviour you are making the plate for). Discuss the fact that these strategies help the child to remain in control of his anger, just like the buttons on a car help the driver stay in control of his vehicle.
5) Add any additional decorations that the child likes to the steering wheel.
6) Let the child take his plate home. Encourage him to share his steering wheel and strategies with his parents, either in session or at home, so that they can help him to remain “In the Driver’s Seat” when it comes to managing his emotions.
This craft is great for the middle stage of counselling or at the end to reinforce the strategies the child has learned. Happy driving!