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Zones Of Regulation Chart & Childhood Anxiety
Have a kid who melts down at the slightest frustration?
Or perhaps you have one that avoids anything and everything you ask them to do???
Wait… Is that you banging your head against a wall?
Ugh. I hear you.
Of course, we mommas love our kids fiercely. But I’d be lying if denied how exhausting it is to constantly navigate the tantrums and meltdowns.
For moms raising kids who have ADHD, Autism, or any other executive functioning issue, the stress can be a KILLER. (For everyone, including our children.)
If we want to do more than just survive the hard days, we moms need backup. We’ve got to be armed with resources to best support our kids (and our sanity).
That’s why the Zones of Regulation chart can make a world of difference for everyone in the family.
Meltdowns & Big Emotions
Daily I hear from moms raising kids who are struggling in so many ways.
- meltdowns during homeschool,
- anxiety and stress when asked to do any non-preferred activity (think chores or bathing),
- sibling rivalry,
- social anxiety,
- Covid, anyone?
Whatever it is… moms and kids alike are being slammed with layer upon layer of stress.
We All Experience Anxiety
Throughout life, we have all at one time or another experienced some form of anxiety.
Often, we adults don’t respond to our anxiety in the healthiest, most appropriate ways.
- We snap at our hubbies.
- Yell too loudly at our kids.
- Shovel chocolate chips down our throat while hiding in the pantry… (Wait. Is that just me?)
However we choose to release the tension, if we don’t identify the emotions and the causes behind it, we frequently end up in trouble. That trouble may be a broken relationship with our hubby, a friend or our kids.
Or… if you are in the chocolate chip shoveling crew (please tell me I’m not alone), your waistline and health take a hit.
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Behavior is Information
Behavior is information. It is a form of communication.
When our kids “act out,” they are actually trying to tell the adults around them something that they can’t easily vocalize.
Children often do not have the vocabulary to communicate effectively and appropriately.
Like our kids, we mommas we know the frustration when we can’t find a word.
Jenny, Mike, Sarah, Sam…
(Quick… what 1980s movie is this from? Be sure to comment below if you’ve know.)
Think about how often we have to run through all of our kids’ names (let alone our hubby’s and pets’ names) before we say the right one. That alone can be so frustrating for adults.
Similarly, our children often become frustrated when they cannot communicate what’s going on inside of them. They experience an “unsettling feeling” inwardly, but don’t have the experience or language to pin point it.
Without the ability to let it out verbally, our kids are going to act out behaviorally.
A Simple Tool Goes a Long Way
That’s why I LOVE the Zones of Regulation chart.
We can use this simple visual tool to provide our kids (and ourselves) a way to identify and communicate what they are feeling.
In the Zones of Regulation chart, emotions and general mental states are identified by colors (or zones) that are easily identifiable.
The Zones of Regulation
The Zones were created by an occupational therapist and educator named Leah Kuypers, MA.Ed, OTR-L. She has created an entire program often used in schools, mental health settings and in homes.
I was originally introduced to the Zones by my son’s developmental pediatrician, Dr. Yasmin Senturias. In those earlier visits with her, my son was so unregulated, agitated and hypervigilant. He was all over the place.
To the untrained eye, he appeared to have classic ADHD. (Note: Anxiety in children can look IDENTICAL to ADHD.)
Because of this behavior and likely the horrified, exhausted and desperate look in my eyes, Dr. Senturias offered me lifeline of The Zones of Regulation.
Speaking from experience, the concept of the visual tool alone has been a lifesaver for my family.
For more of our story, listen to this interview with my friend, Wren Robbins:
Outward Behavior Not The Be All End All
When we notice children struggling with difficult behavior, it is crucial that we start challenging ourselves to shift our perspective about how to respond.
If we only look at outward behavior at face value, we will likely not solve the actual problem.
We need to look behind the behavior so we can help children identify their triggers. Just like us, we need our kids to be clued into “what sets them off.” More importantly, our kids need the skills to process those thoughts and emotions the next time.
The Zones of Regulation chart will help you equip your child to understand these concepts in a practical way.
Willful Disobedience or Not Yet Equipped?
When a child behaves in a way that appears outwardly as disrespectful, adults have got to learn to pause.
We’ve got to take a deep breath, step back and really think about what may be happening behind the behavior. When we identify root issues, without getting “offended by” our kids’ behavior, we are then able to propel the needle forward.
Appropriate Emotional Self-Regulation
Think about this: How many adults do you know that don’t know how to handle their emotions?
I would venture to say that we all know someone in this category.
We all know with certainty, that every single one of us has experienced our own version of a temper tantrum (and will likely have another one). We are just people, right?
The reality is that we fill our kids’ heads with a ton of information about math and reading. However, we often fail to help our kids learn how to process through life’s tough situations.
ADHD, Autism, Or Any Uniquely-Wired Thinkers
For our children with ADHD, Autism, or any executive functioning struggles, it is even doubly important to equip them with emotional regulation skills.
This will ultimately support them in their relationships now and in the future.
We can set up our kids for life-long success by equipping them with the tools that they need to promote appropriate emotional self-regulation.
The Zones of Regulation & Your Mom Tribe
Friend, if you are anything like me, you know the exhaustion and overwhelm that comes with raising a higher-needs kiddo.
I did it alone for way too long and suffered for it. Don’t make the same mistake that I did.
Join us in AHFAS Private Facebook Group. We are a tribe of moms who are safe to process through the complexities of momming hard for our neurodiverse kids.
Whatever your situation, find community with moms who get it. And have lots of fun too!
And if you didn’t figure out the 80s movie reference I quoted in that earlier heading topic, here is one more hint.
“Jake Ryan. He is a senior. He doesn’t even know you exist.”
Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
C’mon. Give it a guess. Comment below.
And check out this post about how you can harness the attention of your ADHD kid with these ADHD tips.