The Zones of Regulation is a complete social-emotional learning curriculum, created to teach children self-regulation and emotional control. Nearly every school I have worked with has implemented Zone of Regulation for all their children and the benefits are felt across the school. So what exactly are the Zones of Regulation and how does it help children develop emotional understanding?
What Are the Zones of Regulation?
The Zones of Regulation framework and curriculum, developed by Leah Kuypers and her team, teaches students scaffolded skills toward developing a meta-cognitive pathway to build awareness of their feelings/internal state and utilise a variety of tools and strategies for regulation, prosocial skills, self-care, and overall wellness. The program starts with early emotional skills and advancing on to self-regulation and navigating social situations. Some of the skills covered in the Zones of Regulation are;
Developing coping strategies
Understanding the size of the problem and the size of one's reaction
Expected behaviour vs unexpected behaviour
What are the Zone's Colours & What do they Mean?
The Zones of Regulation creates a systematic approach to teach regulation by categorising all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete coloured zones. The curriculum helps children better understand their emotions, sensory needs, and thinking patterns. They learn different strategies to help them cope and manage their emotions based on which colour zone they’re in.
The Green Zone
The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness, where you're feeling just right. Being in the Green Zone means a child is calm, focused, happy and ready to learn. This is where you want children to be as it is the zone where the most optimal learning occurs.
The Yellow Zone
The Yellow Zone is where a child has a heightened sense of alertness and elevated emotions, though in this zone, they still have some control over their actions. In the Yellow Zone, children may feel frustrated, anxious, excited, silly or hyper.
The Red Zone
The Red Zone is an extremely heightened state of intense emotions, and this is where most kids feel during a meltdown. In the Red Zone, a child is no longer able to control their emotions or reactions. They may be feeling rage, anger or utter devastation.
The Blue Zone
The Blue Zone is where a child has a low state of arousal or alertness. When in the Blue Zone, a child may feel sad, sick, tired or bored. They are still in control of their emotions and actions, but with low energy.
Importance of Recognising Emotions
It is critically important for children to be able to recognise their emotions. Some learning conditions, such as autism, can cause significant difficulty in understanding and recognising emotions which can lead to further struggles in social interaction and communication. Even in neurotypical children, the ability to distinguish between two emotions will have an impact on their behaviour.
If a child recognises that, when they are angry, their heart rate increases and they get sweaty palms. So, if they notice these physiological changes, they may automatically react with anger and rage.
However, emotions such as fear and anxiety also cause the heart to race and the palms to sweat. So, if a child cannot distinguish between feeling angry and feeling afraid, they may react in the wrong way in relation to how they are actually feeling.
The Zones of Regulation help children recognise physiological changes in their body in response to a variety of emotions. This will ultimately help children regulate those emotions and respond to situations in an appropriate way.
Benefits of Implementing the Zones of Regulation
Inclusion: The Zones of Regulation provide a compassionate framework that supports positive mental health for all children. This framework also serves as an inclusion strategy for those pupils with SEND, SEMH needs or have experienced trauma.
Best Practice: This curriculum aligns with the core principles of Trauma Informed Practice . It provides a safe environment for children who have experienced trauma to understand their emotions and learn coping mechanisms.
Whole School Approach: Using the Zones of Regulation across the whole school creates a mindset shift towards using a universal development lens for the children as opposed to just behavioural or academic. If every staff member in the school, from the Headteacher to the LSA's, understand the importance of the Zones, there will be a healthy school climate and culture.
Common Language and Understanding: The Zones provide a neutral, simple and universal language and systematic framework that allows for effective communication amongst staff and students.
Effective: The Zones of Regulation have been shown to be effective in their desired outcomes. It improves both staff and pupil skills in social and emotional learning and has often led to the decrease in 'punishments' or the need for punitive measures.
If you want to know more about Zones of Regulation, I highly recommend the full book, written by Leah Kuypers, which comes along with worksheets and printables.