Zones of Regulation

At Lancing Prep Worthing, we are committed to promoting positive mental health and emotional wellbeing to all children, their families and members of staff. Our open culture allows children’s voices to be heard, and through the use of effective initiatives, procedures and policies, we ensure a safe and supportive environment for all. 

However, we felt something was missing. Our approach needed more proactive methods as well as reactive, towards mental health issues that arise and to support our children’s social and emotional needs. 

Mental health issues among children and young people are on the rise and sadly our NHS Service, who are doing their best, are unable to cope with the vast numbers of referrals; we asked ourselves, what we can do to help our children?  

Our Wellbeing Team at Lancing Prep Worthing wished to help our children build self-resilience and teach them how to regulate from an early age. We wanted an approach which would increase and adapt, alongside a child’s natural growth and development.  Regulation is a skill that needs attention and practice; imagine as a young child, understanding your emotions and being able to vocalise them to others and be an emotionally literate teenager and adult. What self-power and self-confidence you would have! 

Regulation and emotions are something everybody faces daily, sometimes without knowing. We wanted our children to recognise, identify and verbalise their emotions and be able to have the tools and strategies to help manage their feelings and to feel empowered to ask for help. 

As Head of Wellbeing, trained ELSA and PSHEE teacher (Emily Brown), and Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead, Nursery and PSHEE teacher (Emma Street), we started researching and adopted an approach founded by Leah Kuypers called Zones of Regulation. The curriculum is aimed at increasing children’s skills in regulating their feelings, gaining emotional control, and developing problem solving abilities. We thought it would work incredibly well for the children in our school.

The Zones of Regulation is a whole school approach that we began implementing in September 2023. The teaching is across all year groups from Nursery through to Year 8 and has been adapted by us to suit the various age groups and needs within our school. 

The children have been taught about the four Zones: Go Slow (Blue), Good to Go (Green), Caution (Yellow) and Stop (Red). There is no Zone that is solely good or bad and they relate to emotions and energy levels. For example, a child can be in the Red Zone for high energy behaviour displaying either anger or excitement. Our children are beginning to understand the emotions and behaviours that relate to each Zone. They can identify ‘Good to go’ expected behaviour which encourages them to be their best self, achieve and perform at their optimum level. 

Giving 100% expected behaviour in a calm, relaxed state is only possible when we genuinely feel that way. We are teaching our children how to understand their Blue, Yellow and Red Zone emotions and energy, and providing them with a metaphorical toolbox which allows exploration of strategies and techniques to be able to process their feelings and return to the calm, green Zone.  

Our children at Lancing Prep Worthing have been incredibly positive and engaged with learning about their self and their emotions. Many children find discussing their feelings makes them feel vulnerable; our aim is to normalise conversations about feelings and encourage discussions about our emotional triggers. By introducing our children to self-reflection and helping them analyse their feelings, they are learning how to become emotionally literate people. Thus, comfortable to talk and share with trusted adults and peers. This is powerful. 

During our lessons, talking about emotions and vocalising feelings is becoming normal and natural.  The children have participated in discussions which have explored expected and unexpected behaviours. One of our aims has been to encourage our children to understand the emotion behind their individual behaviours and relate these to the four Zones. Once a child identifies their feelings, they can start to reflect on their behaviours and communicate these in a positive way to feel understood and heard. 

We are doing this by teaching the children self-understanding and providing our teachers with conversation skills and vocabulary to understand why an individual may be displaying behaviours that are unexpected for them, the situation or the environment. It’s important to take into consideration the reasons behind the behaviour; situations such as friendships, family illness, anxiety, understanding a lesson topic, or distractions, may inhibit a child’s ability to remain in the Green Zone. 

The desired Zone for our children is the Green Zone, where they can be calm, relaxed, focused and ready to learn, however we understand that this is not always achievable for all children. We are an inclusive school and understand that some children have heightened or low states of energy levels resulting in their individual ‘expected’ Zone being alternative to green. We pride ourselves on accepting individuality and uniqueness, and help the children understand that whatever zone is normal for them, is okay and natural. Depending on a child’s needs, our teachers differentiate their support and understanding and remind children of a calming strategy to help them focus. 

Here at Lancing Prep Worthing supporting the development of our children’s emotional literacy is the key to shaping emotionally, mentally, and physically happy and healthy children, who can be kind, love learning and go out into the world and do good. 

Emily Brown - Head of Wellbeing, ELSA and PSHEE Teacher

Emma Street - Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead, Nursery and PSHEE teacher