What is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation is essentially our ability to be in control and manage our arousal level, emotions, and behaviors. Self-regulation relies on many different skills, such as impulse control, working memory, and self-awareness. We find ourselves in multiple situations daily that require us to not only have this awareness of ourselves and others, but also to maintain control of ourselves in response to these different circumstances. Optimally, we want our children to be able to have enough self-awareness to be able to identify how they are feeling and, when the time comes, be able to regulate themselves to maintain their optimal level of arousal. This is why we teach our children strategies to improve their ability to regulate or change their own emotional state.

There are many different self-regulation curriculum. Some self-regulation programs we use in our clinic include: Zones of Regulation, The Alert Program, and Social Thinking. These programs aim to help a child identify their feelings and utilize coping strategies to achieve the appropriate level of arousal needed for daily life.

Alert Program: How Does Your Engine Run?
This program begins by building awareness of and vocabulary to describe levels of alertness using the car engine analogy seen below. Your engine can be low, high, or just right. We want our engines to be “just right” to be able to perform our daily tasks to the best of our ability. Children are encouraged to explore self-regulation tools, which allows them to self-identify the most beneficial and preferred regulatory tools. Once established, this toolbox is used by the child to achieve the most appropriate level of alertness for various situations. For more information and resources from the authors, visit the Alert Program website.

Zones of Regulation
This curriculum is designed to help a child navigate their sometimes-confusing emotions. The curriculum helps children achieve self-regulation and emotional control by gaining skills in self-control and problem-solving based on targeted zones that are identified with colors. These zones help a child recognize, categorize, and communicate their feelings or emotions based on a specific zone. Using the zones helps to take the focus off of the child as being “good” or “bad,” and places the focus on obtaining control to get back to the “green zone.” For more information and resources from the authors, visit the Zones of Regulation website.

Social Thinking Curriculum
Social Thinking is a large social-emotional curriculum with different programs designed for different age groups. In our clinic, we often use the We Thinkers! and Superflex series to help children build foundational social skills and other essential life skills through stories, lessons, and play activities. The different lesson plans help children better understand themselves and others, develop self-awareness, and build perspective-taking and social problem-solving skills. It also supports social-emotional learning, relationship building, classroom learning, and academic performance. For more information and resources from the authors, visit the Social Thinking website.