top of page
  • Sarina Shirazee

Co-regulation & the Zones of Regulation

The Zones of Regulation is a program designed by occupational therapist, Leah Kuypers, to help teach children 5 years+ about different emotions and how to manage them with evidence-based strategies. It’s a fantastic program that uses different colours to represent different states of arousal, and reiterates that all feelings are acceptable. ⠀

A few years ago, I was jumping straight into using this program with kids without any knowledge of how much co-regulation they had experienced prior to my seeing them. Yep, I go on and on about co-regulation now, but I wasn’t aware of the evidence behind this a few years ago #knowbetterdobetter

I now ensure that I speak with a child’s caregivers and teachers about what experiences they’ve had with regulation. What was their temperament like as a baby, and how was this approached? Has self-regulation been modelled to them by the adults around them? Have they had adults help them identify their feelings and coach them through strategies to cope? ⠀

Depending on the answers, I’ll know how to use the Zones of Regulation. For some families, using the program will be just as much about teaching parents how to regulate themselves and their child as it is about teaching the child how to regulate. It is so important to ensure that there is ample opportunity for co-regulation before expecting self-regulation. ⠀

That being said, even for kids who have experienced lots of co-regulation, I don’t expect them to be able to self-regulate 100% of the time, because not even adults can do this. I would even go as far as saying we almost never do this - we are social creatures who rely on other human beings for help and support. If we can’t manage our feelings on our own, we certainly shouldn’t be expecting kids to. ⠀

It’s also important to note that this is even harder for the neurodiverse population, including those with autism and ADHD. ⠀

So for other therapists and teachers out there using the Zones of Regulation, please consider co-regulation before self-regulation, and remember that the program is not designed as a behaviour management tool.


bottom of page