Feelings. They can be so fickle and difficult to manage, and they are so subservient to both our outer and inner experiences. They also linger, either adding to or sapping our energy. They are transient, moving from one state to another, sometimes slowly and sometimes faster than we have time to prepare for.
I've been teaching children about the Zones of Regulation, an emotional regulation curriculum that teaches kids how to manage and balance their emotions. The concept behind this framework is that our feelings and states of alertness can be categorized into four main zones, which are depicted by a color. The blue zone represents low energy feelings and states such as boring, tired and depressed. The green zone represents calm states such as peaceful, happy and ready to learn. The yellow zone describes heightened alertness and emotional states such as anxious, frustrated and afraid. The red zone describes extremely heightened states of alertness and very intense emotions like anger, terror and mania. While we all experience and transition through various emotional states, it is paramount to be able to manage those the feelings and bring ourselves back to the green state.
Sometimes the tools that help the most are the simple ones. Zones of Regulation provides individuals, young and old, with a practical and simple way to identify, organize and manage their emotions. So many times parents and educators focus on teaching children how to regulate emotions, yet forget that the best way to teach a child is to model the behavior they are looking for. For instance, in a conversation between father and child, the child stated, "Daddy, remember when you got mad. You went right into the red zone and started yelling at me, then you hit the table." The father appeared a bit embarrassed by his son's comment, and replied, "Yeah, I get upset when you don't pay attention." The father then looked at me and said, "I was really tired from work, and I just wanted to him to get his homework done so we could all relax." I empathized with the father and used that opportunity to teach an important parenting skill - acknowledging our own states of alertness and emotions as a way to model desired behavior. We all know the motto, "There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children, but there are plenty of perfect moments along the way." This moment was one of them. The father and child agreed that they would help each other identify the yellow/red zone and agreed that they would take a deep breath and ask for five, by holding up their hand. This would be their sign that they need a few minutes to de-escalate and calm down.
Here is the link to Zones of Regulation: http://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html