How to Help Your Child Regulate Their Emotions

Enrichment Therapies

January 25, 2023

Two children playing the leaves

By: Kacy Leuck, M.S., CCC-SLP

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” Implementing this motto into daily life is a lot easier said than done, and can be especially difficult for children who struggle with social and emotional learning. 

Social and emotional learning involves a child’s ability to self-monitor and self-regulate their emotions, which impacts their intrapersonal skills (i.e., within themselves) and interpersonal skills (i.e., between the child and others). Many children pick up on these skills naturally, while others may need more direct instruction and examples. Either way, there are tools you can use to help your child grow in their social and emotional skills.

Zones of Regulation

One helpful tool that can be used with any child is the Zones of Regulation. The Zones of Regulation are used to allow children to identify exactly what they are feeling at any moment. This first piece of self-awareness helps a child use words, rather than (potentially negative) actions, to label their emotions. There are four different “zones” that a child can use to identify their feelings:

  • Blue Zone = energy level is low – sad, bored, tired, sick
  • Green Zone = energy level is just right – happy, focused, calm, proud
  • Yellow Zone = energy level is heightened – worried, frustrated, silly, excited
  • Red Zone = energy level is out of control – angry, terrified, panicked, overjoyed

While none of the zones are considered “bad,” as we are all humans that are allowed to experience all emotions and cannot always be at complete peace, the green zone is typically the ideal state for a child to be in. Feeling calm and focused promotes success in a child’s learning environment as well as at home. 

Helpful Strategies

Well, they’ve figured out how they are feeling, but now what? Next, you can help teach your child strategies that lead them into the green zone. The following are some examples of strategies that may be beneficial:

  • Take deep breaths
  • Listen to music
  • Count to ten
  • Go for a walk
  • Squeeze a ball

How to Implement The Zones of Regulation

The best way to implement the Zones of Regulation into your child’s daily routine is to discuss each family member’s feelings at different times throughout the day. For example, on the way to school, you may tell your child, “I’m feeling like I’m in the blue zone right now because I’m really tired. Maybe we should listen to a fun song to help me get to the green zone!” 

Next, ask your child what zone they are in, and use any strategies that may help them get to the green zone if they are not there already. This same technique can be used if you notice your child becoming upset, shifting into the yellow or red zone. You might say, “I can see that you’re feeling upset because you’re yelling and stomping your feet. It looks like you’re in the red zone right now. Let’s use our strategy of taking deep breaths to help you get to the green zone.”

By using the Zones of Regulation for self-awareness and self-regulation, you can help your child improve their social and emotional skills.

The Zones of Regulation™ Curriculum by Leah Kuypers 2011, ©Think Social Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs. At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center, our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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