The concept of red, green, and blue zones from The Yes Brain (a parenting book by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.) has been a helpful tool for counselors as they learn how to assist campers who become dysregulated.
The red, blue, and green zones describe the emotional characteristics or states our children (and we!) are in at any given time. The “green zone” is the state we want to help our children be in as much as possible and to help them learn to return to when they enter the red or blue zones.
When our children are in that wonderful green zone, they are receptive, resilient, stable, calm, flexible, open, and teachable — all the traits that allow them to be their best selves.
When our kids feel and exhibit high anxiety, fight or flight, rage, extreme fear, a “deer in the headlights, or high arousal, they are in the “red zone.” It’s easy to remember since we all have experienced the feeling of “seeing red” or feeling extremely angry.
Some kids who are dysregulated or out of their green zone don’t go into the “red zone.” Instead, they may go to the “blue zone.” They’re in the blue zone when exhibiting shutting down, being depressed, going rigid, fainting, freezing, or appearing numb.
Understanding what’s happening when kids respond inappropriately (outbursts, tantrums, freezing, etc.) is helpful as we guide them to expand their green zones and learn how to deal with different emotions and experiences.
Tools we can use when campers become dysregulated include:
Staying in our Own Green Zone
Name it to Tame it
Our goal is also to help campers gain skills to expand their green zone and learn to remain in the “green zone” when responding to interpersonal challenges that are part of all relationships. We talk with campers about calm down strategies that work for them when they “flip their lid.” One of our Kindness Tips is to “Share your favorite calm-down (unflipping your lid) strategy with your cabin group.”
Thinking about children’s behavioral responses to different events and triggers provide a clue to the size of their green zone and can help us, as adult mentors, camp counselors, and parents, help them grow their green zones.