ZONES of Regulation at BMSA
At BMSA, students are trained to use the ZONES of Regulation language to help recognize and communicate their emotional needs. Staff work to reinforce the idea that each one of us is in charge of noticing our own feelings so that we can make a choice to help ourselves. To support this learning and encourage use of the common language, visuals like the one shown below are posted in every classroom. Parents and students are free to download this document to post at home. In sharing this common language, we can more efficiently communicate our emotional needs. If you choose to download it, make it your own by adding calming choices most likely to be chosen in your home.
If students want to communicate their inner state with their teacher, they have the choice to do so on paper using a ZONES Report. There are 2 versions of this, one more simple for younger students. You can find these ZONES Reports here to view and/or print at home to help your child fill out and bring to school.
ZONES versus Emotions
It's important to point out that the 4 ZONES identify the energy in our bodies. Our emotions are connected to different levels of energy. For instance, when we are sad, we have low energy (blue zone). When we are extremely upset, it can feel like too much energy (red zone). But some emotions can fall into more than one category. A good example of this is the feeling of frustration. I can feel frustrated and not have enough energy to try anymore (blue zone). If I have a little frustration, but actually enjoy it and feel motivated to keep at a challenging task, I'm in green zone. If I'm so frustrated that I yell, I'm in red zone. And I can feel frustrated in yellow zone if I'm feeling something in between the last two examples. Some emotions are more often only identified in one zone, but they are not tied to that zone.
Using the ZONES at Home
All ZONES are okay to feel, but obviously not all behaviors are okay. That's why we work to recognize acceptable/helpful choices for handling our energy and emotions. We can help children when we recognize and validate their feelings. We may say, "You look like you're in the ______ zone because ________." The mere act of identifying our experience in words such as a feeling or zone engages the part of our brain that thinks logically. This takes the intensity of the emotion down. We still have the feeling, but can feel less caught up in it when we begin to pull back and label the experience.
When adults model using the Zones language, it is a very powerful way to help students understand the Zones as a tool of communication. For example you may say, "I'm feeling in the blue zone this evening, I hope I can get to bed a little early." Or, after work when you're feeling stressed and the children's repetitive noises are getting to you, you can say, "I'm in the yellow zone right now so I'm more easily annoyed. Can you please make those noises in the other room?" When we're in the red zone, it's especially important to identify and verbalize something like, "I'm feeling in the red zone so I'm going to take a couple minutes in my bedroom cooling down." If you can't leave your children safely, you can say, "I'm in the red zone so I'm going to use my breathing tool."
A first step to introducing the Zones at home can be to post the Zones and ask questions. For example, during dinner or bedtime routines, ask, "Can you tell about a time you felt in Green Zone today?" or "When was it hard to act like you were in the green zone because your body felt like it was in blue, yellow, or red? How were you able to use self-control in that situation?"