At the heart of Mighty Cards is our mission to enhance children's emotional literacy and self-compassion. We want children to know that every single emotion is normal. Happiness, excitement, anxiety, disappointment, anger - and so many more. It's okay to have any of these feelings. Being able to recognise, understand, express and manage a range of feelings is what we call 'emotional literacy' and it's a really important part of positive mental health. We know, however, that some emotions can get too big and feel pretty horrible. They can make children feel really overwhelmed and their parents/carers feel powerless to help. We call these emotions “tricky feelings”, because, while no feeling is fundamentally bad, there are definitely some feelings which can be tricky to understand and tricky to manage. Mighty Cards help children to cope with these tricky feelings.
Your questions answered...
1. How do I introduce Mighty Cards to my child?
An important question! Start by simply showing the cards to your child; it sounds obvious but give your child a chance to explore and get a feel for them. Explain that the cards contain three different types of activities (breathing, creative, and movement exercises) and that doing these activities helps to invite emotions like happiness, joy and calmness into their lives. You may want to talk with them about the concept of ‘tricky feelings’ – emotions like worry, anger, sadness or disappointment that sometimes get in the way of friendships, learning, and other things. You could let them know that Mighty Cards can help them to make those feelings less overwhelming. They can’t get rid of these feelings completely because they are a normal part of life – but the activities can help to make them feel less powerful.
2. Should my child use the cards alone or with an adult?
Both! This partly depends on your child – their age, their needs, and what you and they think will be most helpful.
Offering your child calm, empathic understanding, acceptance and guidance when they are struggling with tricky feelings is a key part in helping your child develop skills in recognising, understanding and managing their feelings. This is called co-regulation, which is an important step towards self-regulation. Using the cards together is part of this process, and also provides opportunities for meaningful conversations about their feelings and the things that are troubling them. You may also find that doing the activities yourself is a powerful way to model emotional regulation.
The cards have lovely illustrations and simple language, meaning that many children will be able to use them independently. In doing so, we hope to help children develop their sense of competence and autonomy, and to skill them up with strategies that they can use whenever they need, as they grow. We often hear that children have been helping their siblings and friends use the Mighty Cards, which is such a lovely act of connection, kindness and supportive co-regulation.
3. When and how often should my child use the cards?
There is no single right way or right time to use the cards. The important thing is to explore and experiment with what works best for your child. Your child may want to pick a card at random, or they may prefer to select a particular activity. Some children select just one activity, while others like to do a few in a row. Some suggestions for when your chid could use the cards:
In the mornings, to start the day with a sense of peace
At bedtimes, to calm their busy mind and help them get to sleep
Before schoolwork, to help them feel more focussed
After school, to let off steam and release some energy
When their internal negative self-talk is loud, to help them be kinder to themselves
When feeling troubled by something, to better understand what's bothering them and help them feel less overwhelmed
When feeling happy, to practice their skills and have fun
It can be really beneficial to help your reflect on how they feel after they engage with the activities, as this can help to embed the strategies in their minds.
4. When my child is extremely upset / anxious / angry, they won’t listen or engage in anything I suggest. I don't think the cards would help, so what can I do?
This absolutely makes sense. When children are at the peak of an emotional 'crisis' - whatever the tricky feeling is - it is much harder for them to reason and to engage in activities. Essentially, they are in fight/flight mode at this point and it can be really difficult to access and use the 'thinking' part of the brain. Grounding activities that involve breathing, the body and the senses can be really helpful, but the key is to remain calm (however hard!), offer lots of empathy and understanding, and ensure their safety. When you can see they are over the peak, gently remind them about their favourite Mighty Cards strategies and perhaps offer to do them together.
Over time, you and your child will begin to notice the little signals that let you know their tricky feeling is getting bigger. These might be increased irritability, more tearfulness, tummy aches, or many other things. At these times, Mighty Cards can help to de-escalate and keep the tricky feeling from getting too big. Even still, entering fight/flight mode is a normal response to certain triggers, so don't despair! It's all part of the journey.
5. What if my child doesn't want to use the cards?
We have had wonderful feedback from children and parents about Mighty Cards. However, we know that every child is different and what works for one child, may not work for another. The cards contain a range of different activities, so it may be that your child needs to experiment with them for a while to see which they prefer. However, if you find your child is a little resistant, that's okay. You could leave them in a place they can easily access them, removing all expectation that they must use them. In their own time, they may choose to look at the cards, hold them, explore them. Cards are often associated with fun and games, for example Top Trumps, Uno or (for my son!) Monopoly Deal, so you may find your child wants to play around with the Mighty Cards or use them to do magic tricks. That's great - after a while, you can use that playful approach when encouraging your child to do an activity e.g. 'pick a card, any card!'
Above all, it’s best not to force the issue - you can always revisit at a later date. Remember to go through the cards yourself – you will then have 36 ideas that you can tentatively suggest when you feel the time is right and this may help you feel more confident in helping your child with their tricky feelings.