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The Zones of Regulation


What are The Zones of Regulation?

The Zones of Regulation is an internationally renowned intervention which helps children to manage difficult emotions, known as ‘self-regulation’. Self-regulation can go by many names, such as ‘self-control’, ‘impulse management’ and ‘self-management’. Self-regulation is best described as someone finding their best state of alertness for a situation. For example, when your child takes part in a sports game, they would need to have a higher state of alertness than when, for example, they were working in a library.

From time to time, all of us (including adults) find it hard to manage strong feelings such as worry, anger, restlessness, fear or tiredness, and this stops us from getting on with our day effectively. Children who feel these emotions often find it hard to learn and concentrate in school.

The Zones of Regulation aim to teach children strategies to help them cope with these feelings so they can get back to feeling calm and ready to learn. These coping strategies are called ‘self-regulation’.

We are launching the Zones of Regulation throughout the whole school. We want to teach all of our children good coping and regulation strategies so they can help themselves when they experience anxiety and stress.

In the classroom, children sometimes panic when faced with a challenging learning problem or challenge. Teaching them how to cope with these feelings might help them become better at tackling learning challenges and build greater resilience, reducing the likelihood of giving up easily when faced with difficulty.

We want our children to grow into successful teenagers then adults. Teaching the children at a young age about managing their feelings will support them in later life so that they don’t turn to negative coping strategies which may affect their mental and physical wellbeing.

We aim to help children to:

• Recognise when they are in the different Zones and learn how to change or stay in the Zone they are in.

• Increase their emotional vocabulary so they can explain how they are feeling.

• Recognise when other people are in different Zones, thus developing better empathy.

• Develop an insight into what might make them move into the different Zones.

• Understand that emotions, and sensory experiences such as anxiety, lack of sleep or hunger and their environment might influence which Zone they are in.

• Develop problem-solving skills and resilience.

• Identify a range of calming and alerting strategies that support them, known as their personal ‘toolkit’, as we all have different strategies we prefer.

What are the different Zones?

The Blue Zone indicates a low level of alertness, which is not conducive to learning. Children in this zone typically feel sad, sick, tired, bored, or may exhibit slow movements.

The Green Zone represents a calm state of alertness, an optimal level for learning. Children in this zone typically feel happy, calm, okay and focused.

The Yellow Zone signifies a heightened state of alertness with elevated emotions. Children in this zone typically have some level of control and might feel frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited, or experience a slight loss of control.

The Red Zone refers to a heightened state of alertness accompanied by intense emotions. It is not an optimal level for learning and often involves feelings of being out of control, experiencing anger, terror, yelling, hitting, elation, or a sense of being overwhelmed.

We will teach the children that everyone experiences all of the Zones. The Red and Yellow Zones are not considered 'bad' or 'naughty' Zones. All of the Zones are expected at some point or another.

How will my child learn about the Zones of Regulation?

We will be introducing the Zones through discreet teaching lessons and through our PSHE curriculum. We will also be using 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!

How can you help your child use The Zones of Regulation at home?

You can help your child at home in the following ways:

• Identify your own feelings using Zone language in front of your child; for example, "I’m frustrated, I think I am in the Yellow Zone."

• Talk about which tool you will use to be in the appropriate Zone; for instance, “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; for example, “You look sleepy. Are you in the Blue Zone?”

• Engage your child in discussions about Zones. Discussing the different Zones and tools they can use when they are more regulated/calm is helpful, whereas when they are in the Red Zone, it's unlikely to be effective.

• Teach your child which tools they can use; for instance, “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 show the children how you use tools to get back to the Green Zone. 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/go into the Green Zone.

• Praise and encourage your child when they share which zone they are in.

Tips for practising the Zones of Regulation

Some ways to help you and your children practise using The Zones of Regulation:

• Know yourself and how you react in difficult situations before dealing with your child’s behaviours.

• Aim to understand your child’s sensory threshold. We all process sensory information differently, and it impacts our reactivity to situations.

• Aim to identify your child’s triggers and discuss strategies for handling similar situations in the future.

• Empathise with your child and validate what they are feeling.

• Establish clear boundaries/routines, maintain consistency and always follow through.

• Avoid addressing an angry or upset child when you are not yet calm yourself. 

• 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 filled with items that help to bring your child back to stay calm and alert.