Salvation Army Red Cap Program Helps Children Deal with Their Emotions

student graduates with their red caps
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As children reach their pre-teen years, they become more likely to face personal challenges and, while everyone is different, some may have more trouble than others when it comes to adjusting to situations that alter their emotions. The Salvation Army’s Red Cap Program, at various locations across the country, focuses on giving participants a guide on how to identify their emotions and how to express them in a healthy way as a form of anger management.

“This program helps children identify their emotions, especially with anger. We may not always know it, but there are other emotions underneath the anger. So, we help them learn to identify and label them,” said Valerie Pavey, territorial children’s ministries consultant for The Salvation Army.

“This program helps children identify their emotions, especially with anger.”

Red Cap is an eight-week program open to children between the ages of 8 to 12. The program uses different techniques in its lessons to help them understand what emotions might precede anger. Different adverse situations can cause a child to have anger issues; however, in the pre-teen age range a very common factor that leads to anger is bullying.

“Anger is what we feel when something we value is being devalued or threatened. So, in a bullying situation, you may feel threatened, or someone could be making fun of something you created or participated in at school. That would be an anger button,” Valerie added. The opportunity for children to learn emotional skills at a young age sounded interesting to Andrea, who enrolled her two boys aged 10 and 12 in the program last year. She believes both of her sons benefited by becoming more empathetic.

In her youngest son’s case, it also helped him deal with the emotions that came from the bullying he previously received at school.

“Last year, my younger son experienced at times some pretty extreme bullying. One of the things that we have been able to work through and talk about is how usually a lot of the times when someone is hurting you, it is because they are hurting inside. It doesn’t justify what they are doing, but helping my kids process that emotion prevents from letting it fester into something that becomes hurt or anger for themselves,” Andrea said.

“I recommend the program because it develops a child’s knowledge about their emotions and how to handle them.”

When it comes to learning, Andrea believes that hearing from other people is beneficial for children as it gives them different perspectives. Also, she says that the program can help parents by providing some additional support.

“I recommend the program because it develops a child’s knowledge about their emotions and how to handle them. Sometimes dealing with that as a parent can feel overwhelming. Sometimes as a parent when you are struggling with your own things it can be hard to be that support person 100 per cent of the time for your kids, so it is good for them to not only go through the process but to also have another person that they can talk to and learn from and discuss,” she said.

The Red Cap Program is run by Salvation Army volunteers who are well-trained and screened. The sessions are one hour and 30 minutes long, and they take place at schools either during lunch or at the local Salvation Army. Teaching students how to cope with their anger and process their emotions can prevent future aggressive or violent reactions.

By Juan Romero