The Zones of Regulation is an internationally-renowned intervention which helps children to manage difficult emotions, known as ‘self-regulation’.
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation can be described as the ability to adjust your level of alertness (including your senses, emotions and impulses) to fit the situation you are in and express this through socially appropriate behaviours. For example, the level of alertness required to read a book in a library and that needed to compete in a football match are very different, and the socially expected behaviours in each situation would also differ. It encompasses the skills of self-control, resilience, anger management, impulse control and sensory regulation.
What are ‘The Zones of Regulation’?
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 aims 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’.
At Red Rose, we want to teach all of our children good coping and regulation strategies so they can help themselves when they experience different emotions. In the classroom, sometimes children panic when faced with a tricky challenge. By teaching them how to cope with these feelings, we hope to make them better at tackling learning challenges and build better resilience so they don’t give up so easily when faced with difficulty.
What it is:
- A framework to simplify how we think about and manage our feelings and states
- A supportive teaching tool, which develops ‘tools’ that can help move between Zones
- A framework that categorises complex feelings and states into four coloured ‘Zones’
- A framework that improves the ability to recognise and communicate feelings in a safe, non-judgemental way
What it is not:
- A discipline model or behaviour approach
- Punitive or shaming of negative behaviours
- The Blue Zone: a low energy state where the ‘slow’ feelings reside, e.g. sad, tired, bored, sick
- The Green Zone: the optimum state for the classroom and includes feelings such as: happy, calm, focussed, proud
- The Yellow Zone: a high energy state where the ‘fizzy’ feelings are found, e.g. excited, frustrated, anxious, silly
- The Red Zone: an ‘out of control’ state including feelings such as: angry, aggressive, terrified, elated
- There is no ‘bad’ Zone, all Zones are ‘expected’ at different times and in different circumstances
- You can be in more than one Zone at a time
- Some emotions may fall into more than one Zone
The Colour Monster
In EYFS and KS1, this character can be used by the children to indicate that they are feeling ‘mixed up’ inside, experiencing many emotions at once or are not sure how they are feeling. The book will also be used as a way of introducing the idea of matching colours to feelings with our younger children and linking these emotions to the Zones of Regulation.
Through the use of Zones of Regulation, 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, sensory experiences such as 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’.)
Resources and Tools for Developing Coping Skills
Within each classroom across school, we have our Zones of Regulation displayed. Children are familiar with the colours and emotions that come within each zone.
As part of our Zones of Regulation approach, children ae provided with a toolkit of strategies that they may use to help them when in each zone.
Some children may wish to choose ‘tools’ to go in their toolkits.
These ‘tools’ aren’t just for school: they can be used at home too so you can help your child to regulate (manage) their emotions.
What would go in your Zones of Regulation toolkit?
- What helps you to calm down when you are stressed?
- What helps you to focus when you are tired?
- What do you do to calm down when you are angry?
Different tools work for different people. Can you help your child choose what works for them when they need to move from one zone to another?
Use the link below to explore lots of ideas for helping your child to regulate their emotions including:
- Sensory tools
- Breathing techniques
- Grounding techniques
- Calming activities
- Thinking techniques
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?”)
- Engage your child in discussion around Zones when they are in the Red Zone is unlikely to be effective. You need to be discussing the different Zones and tools they can use when they are more regulated / calm.
- Teach your child which tools they can you. (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 / go into the Green Zone.
- Put up and reference the Zones visuals and tools in your home.
- Praise and encourage your child when they share which Zone they are in.
Common questions about the Zones of Regulation
Can my child be in more than one zone at the same time?
Yes. Your child may feel tired (blue zone) because they did not get enough sleep, and anxious (yellow zone) because they are worried about an activity at school. Listing more than one Zone reflects a good sense of personal feelings and alertness levels.
Should children be punished for being in the RED Zone?
It’s best for children to experience the natural consequences of being in the RED zone. If a child’s actions/choices hurt someone or destroys property, they need to repair the relationship and take responsibility for the mess they create. Once the child has calmed down, use the experience as a learning opportunity to process what the child would do differently next time.
Can you look like one Zone on the outside and feel like you are in another Zone on the inside?
Yes. Many of us “disguise” our Zone to match social expectations. We use the expression “put on a happy face” or mask the emotion so other people will have good thoughts about us. Parents often say that their children “lose it” and goes into the Red Zone as soon as they get home. This is because children are increasing their awareness of their peers and expectations when in the classroom. They make every effort to keep it together at school to stay in the Green Zone. Home is when they feel safe to let it all out.