A card game designed to help young children resolve conflict could help educators nip the problem of bullying in the bud, its creators say.
“We were approached by a group of Personal and Social Development (PSD) teachers, who wanted us to help them come up with a tool to address the issue. There is no age limit to conflict and emotional distress,” Julian and Joanna Sant Fournier told this newspaper ahead of the launch of Friendship Cards – Resolving Conflicts.
Available in the coming weeks, the card game targets children aged eight and older. Each pack comes with four different sets of cards, guiding the players through a simple process of resolving conflict, encouraging them not to resort to physical confrontation.
The pair believe the card game could be a useful tool for teachers, who can incorporate it in their lessons without putting too much pressure on the children. With comic-like illustrations, the game masks its true purpose, something the pair believe is a crucial element for the game to be effective.
“When I was young, I would never openly tell anyone I was sad or feeling confused about something. Boys just didn’t do that.
“These brightly illustrated cards make speaking up easier, since the children can playfully share their problems with their peers without making a big deal about it,” Mr Sant Fournier said.
The rules of the game are simple: children identify how they are feeling and then move through a process of trying to understand what caused the problem, how it can be resolved and what needs to be done to make up.
There are simply worded tips on the back of each card to help the children understand what they could be feeling and how to address the problems which were causing them to feel that way.
On why the couple decided to create such a game, they said that after working on a similar project for adults – Couple Cards – many had for years asked them for a similar one aimed at children.
A number of teachers, the pair said, approached them with concerns that they often struggled to find ways to help their students open up and express their feelings.
“While it seems that many more children are coming face-to-face with social problems, which they then take with them to school, they often find it difficult to come to terms with what they are going through and then they resort to bullying or other negative ways to vent their frustrations.
“As a learning support assistant, I see this happening every day. Children with problems at home come to school and instead of opening up with their friends or teachers, they resort to bullying and causing trouble,” Ms Sant Fournier said.
To make the cards attractive to young children, the pair worked with a group of some 20 volunteers, mostly PSD teachers, as well as a number of illustrators. Their ultimate goal is to make the cards available in most schools, and the design had to reflect this.
“During the design stage, we had to keep in mind, for instance, that classrooms are often made up of children from different countries, with different beliefs, as well as different abilities,” Mr Sant Fournier said.
After months of brainstorming, the team settled on five main characters to feature in the game, one of which uses a wheelchair; another wears a hijab.
The game is being launched by the couple’s voluntary organisation Relationships are Forever. All the work put into creating it was done on a voluntary basis.
While the next step will be getting the game out to as many schools as possible, the pair have launched a website where parents can sign up to attend a workshop with their children and learn how to make the most of the game.
Children attending the workshops will be given the cards, which will be available in Maltese and English, free of charge.
*More information is available on www.friendshipcards.org or the Facebook page Friendship Cards.