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- 3 Wellbeing at W B Newsletter March 2023
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The Zones of Regulation
One of the areas of wellbeing that we are teaching the children to manage is their emotions and feelings - one of the ways we approach this is through the 'Zones of Regulation'.
What are the Zones of Regulation?
The Zones of Regulation is a conceptual framework used to teach students self-regulation. Creating this type of system to categorise the complex feelings and states students experience improves their ability to recognise and communicate how they are feeling in a safe, non-judgmental way. It also allows students to tap into strategies or tools to help them move between zones. The Zones of Regulation categorises states of alertness and emotions into four coloured zones:
The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness, such as when one feels sad, tired, sick or bored. This is when one’s body and/or brain is moving slowly or sluggishly.
The Green Zone is used to describe a regulated state of alertness. A person may be described as calm, happy, focused, or content when in the Green Zone. This is the zone students generally need to be in for schoolwork and for being social – “ready to learn”. Being in the Green Zone shows control.
The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness; however, a person has some control when in the Yellow Zone. A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, nervousness, confusion, and many more slightly elevated emotions and states when in the Yellow Zone (such as wiggly, squirmy, or sensory seeking). The Yellow Zone is starting to lose some control.
The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness or very intense feelings. A person may be experiencing anger, rage, explosive behaviour, panic, terror, or elation when in the Red Zone. Being in the Red Zone can best be explained by not being in control of one’s body.
It is important to note that everyone experiences all of the zones – the Red and Yellow Zones are not considered as “bad” or “naughty” zones. All zones are expected at one time or another. The Zones of Regulation is intended to be neutral and not communicate judgment.
How will my children learn about the Zones of Regulation?
We introduce the Zones through discrete teaching lessons and through our PSHE curriculum. We also use the Zones language as part of daily school life so all staff will be referring to them, not just their class teacher.
Some children might prefer not to use the ‘Zones language’ but label the emotions directly – this is fine and encouraged!
During the last year, we have been exploring The Zones of Regulation with the children and unpicking the different emotions we might experience at school, at home, with friends and family and out and about etc. The children were very interested in understanding that it is ok to feel happy, sad, angry and were keen to discuss how they can learn to control these emotions.
All of these factors help our children to maintain a good level of wellbeing. We have done a lot of work on acknowledging how we feel and the children have become very good at identifying which colour they are and how they can help themselves to be ready to learn. Each of our classrooms have a colourful, interactive display, many created with the children, to remind children and staff of the Zones.
How can you help your child use the Zones of Regulation at home?
Identify your own feelings using Zones language in front of your child (e.g.: I’m frustrated. I think I am in the Yellow Zone.”)
Talk about what tool you will use to be in the appropriate Zone (e.g.: “I need to take four deep breaths to help get me back to the Green Zone.”)
At times, wonder which Zone your child is in. Or, discuss which Zone a character in a film / book might be in. (e.g.: “You look sleepy. Are you in the Blue Zone?”)
Engaging your child in discussion around Zones when they are in the Red Zone is unlikely to be effective. Maybe leave discussing the different Zones and tools they can use when they are feeling more regulated. When your child is in the Red Zone, let them know you are there for them, make sure they are in a safe space but leave them to work through their emotion, perhaps by providing a Calm Box (see Zones of Regulation Toolkit also on our website) or keeping the environment calm and relaxed. When your child is calmer, they could perhaps engage in some strategies such as breath work mindfulness meditation. See Toolkit for some ideas.
Teach your child which tools they can use, eg: “It’s time for bed. Let’s read a book together in the comfy chair to get you in the Blue Zone.”
Regular Check-ins. “How are you feeling now?” and “How can you get back to Green?”
Modelling It is important to remember to show the children how you use tools to get back to the green zones. You might say “I am going to make myself a cup of tea and do some breathing exercises because I am in the blue zone” and afterwards tell your child how using those tools helped you get back to the green zone.
Share how their behaviour is affecting your Zone. For example, if they are in the Green Zone, you could comment that their behaviour is also helping you feel happy in the Green Zone.
Put up and reference the Zones visuals and tools in your home. Some examples can be found in our Zones Toolkit section.
Praise and encourage your child when they share which Zone they are in.
Tips for practising the Zones of Regulation
Know yourself and how you react in difficult situations before dealing with your child’s behaviours.
Know your child’s sensory threshold. We all process sensory information differently and it impacts our reactivity to situations.
Know your child’s triggers.
Be consistent in managing your child’s behaviour and use the same language you use at home.
Empathise with your child and validate what they are feeling.
Have clear boundaries/routines and always follow through.
Do not deal with an angry, upset child when you are not yet calm yourself.
Discuss strategies for the next time when you are in a similar situation.
Remember to ask your child how their choices made you feel (empathy).
Praise your child for using strategies. Encourage your child to take a sensory break to help regulate their bodies.
Create a ‘calm’ box full of things which help to keep your child calm and alert.
Here is a "Zones of Regulation" toolkit, and a Powerpoint presentation from a Zones of Regulation workshop, which may help you explore this further:
Where can I find out more about Zones of Regulation?