Thomas Jolyffe are very excited to have launched the ‘Zones of Regulation’ throughout the whole school.
At school, we recognise the importance of promoting positive mental health and emotional wellbeing with our children, families and within our wider community. Our vision is to create an open culture around the discussion of mental health and wellbeing and to empower our children to be able recognise, accept and regulate their emotions. By implementing the ‘Zones of Regulation Curriculum’, we strive to teach our children and give them the ability to identify emotions in themselves and others, whilst developing a bank of strategies to help them regulate their emotions, improving their wellbeing.
The Zones of Regulation is an internationally renowned curriculum that supports and teaches 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 the best state of alertness for a situation. For example, when your child takes part in a sports game or activity they would need to have a higher state of alertness than when, for example, they are reading or completing work. 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'.
Our aim is to teach all of our children good coping and regulation strategies so they can help themselves when they experience anxiety and stress, building confidence, self-esteem and developing resilience so they don’t give up so easily when faced with challenging situations.
We want our children at Thomas Jolyffe to grow into happy, strong and successful adults. Teaching children at a young age to manage their feelings will support them in later life so that they don’t turn to negative coping strategies which affect their mental and physical wellbeing.
• Recognise their different zones and learn how to change or stay in the zone they are in.
• Increase their emotional vocabulary to better explain how they are feeling.
• Recognise when other people are in different zones, developing empathy.
• Recognise personal triggers, developing an understanding of what might make them move into the different zones.
• Understand that emotions and sensory experiences such as lack of sleep, 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’.
Blue Zone: low level of arousal; not ready to learn; feels sad, sick, tired, bored, moving slowly.
Green Zone: calm state of alertness; optimal level to learn; feels happy, calm, feeling okay, focused.
Yellow Zone: heightened state of alertness; elevated emotions; has some control; feels frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited, loss of some control.
Red Zone: heightened state of alertness and intense emotions; not an optimal level for learning; out of control; feels mad/angry, terrified, yelling/hitting, elated, out of control.
Characters from the Disney Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’ can also relate to the Zones…
The Zones can also be linked to traffic lights…
We will teach the children that everyone experiences all of the zones. The Red and Yellow zones are not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ zones. All of the zones are expected at one time or another. We will show them that the Blue zone, for example, is helpful when you are trying to fall asleep and that the Green zone is the expected zone for learning.
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. You need to be discussing the different Zones and tools they can use when they are more regulated/calmer.
• 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 Zone?”
• Modelling. It is important to remember to show 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.
• 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 on 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 damages property, they need to repair the relationship and take responsibility for their actions. 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.
Understanding ZONES tools
As part of our learning about the Zones of Regulation, children will get 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.
Read through some of the strategies below to decide what would go in your Zones of Regulation toolkit? Think about:
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?
Sensory tools include anything which you can see, touch/feel, smell, hear or taste. They also are things which encourage you to move.
These include any activities which distract you or need you to focus to take your mind off worries and negative thoughts.
These are strategies to challenge negative thoughts and help a child to deal with problems.
Make sure you frequently praise your child for having expected reactions rather than just pointing out the unexpected reactions.
Inner Coach versus Inner Critic
I’m not good at this!
What am I missing?
I give up!
I’ll use some of the other strategies I’ve learned.
This is too hard!
This might take some time and effort.
I can’t make this any better!
I can always improve; I will keep trying.
I can’t do maths!
I’m going to train my brain in maths.
I made a mistake!
Mistakes help me to improve.
I’ll never be as smart as her / him!
I’m going to work out what they do and try it.
It’s good enough!
Is this really my best work?
Starting at the star, trace with your finger the sides of the hexagon as you take a deep breath in, feeling your shoulders rise as the air fills you. Trace over the next side as you hold your breath for a moment. Slowly breathe out as you trace the third side of the hexagon. Continue tracing around the bottom three sides of the hexagon as you complete another deep breath. Continue the Six Sides of Breathing cycle until you feel calm and relaxed.
Grounding techniques can help someone who is extremely anxious or scared, has lost control and is struggling to calm down.
If noticing each sense is tough right now, try an exercise just with sights. Create categories and have them name what they see. Here’s an example:
A-B-C Around the Room
This exercise will get the child connected with that place where they are right now. Have your child look around the room and name something they see that starts with A, then B, then C and so forth. See how far they can get through the alphabet and then check-in to see how they’re feeling once they reach the end.
Keep some unique items on hand with different textures and colours. These could be sensory items, colourful rocks, snow globes or something else. Children can hold an item in their hands and tune in all of their focus to the item. Notice the colours. Notice the textures. How does it feel in my hand? How does it feel when I squeeze it? What colours do I see? Just notice everything there is to notice about the item.
‘I am Here’ Hand Trace
For this exercise, you’ll need paper and a pencil, marker, or crayon. Children will trace a hand on the paper. You can take this in a few different directions. Children can simply press the hand into the space on the paper and feel the connection between hand and table. Alternatively, they can use the space inside the hand to write things they see or describe the room.
To re-orient to the moment, just have the child name facts about the moment. You can give them a card to keep with them to remind them of facts they can state and practice, practice, practice! It might sound like:
Pick one broad category and search the room. Name everything in the room that is green. How many stars can you find in the room? Say the type of shoe everyone in the room is wearing. Count the bricks on one wall.