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What are Four Steps to Teach Children about their Emotions?

Julie Kurtz, MS

August 27, 2021

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Question

What are four steps to teach children about their emotions?

Answer

Here are four steps as a brain architect to teach children and grow them to be humane.

  1. Identify my sensations and emotions.
  2. Identify how small (green), medium (orange), or large (red) sensations and emotions are in my body.
  3. When my sensations or emotions are in the orange or red zone (medium/large) then I have to pick a self-regulation strategy to manage and calm my big emotions.
  4. Think, think, and think of a solution to my problem.

Identifying sensations and emotions is the first one. The second of four steps to teach is helping children identify when those sensations or emotions in their body are small (green), medium (orange), or large (red). This is very complex. The first step is to learn all the feeling and sensation words. The second step is to identify when those are small, medium, or large inside of me.

The third step is when they have identified that their sensations or emotions are in that orange zone or red zone, they have to pick a self-regulation strategy to calm their red zone down to the green zone. Because if they act on their red zone, they always hurt others, themselves, or property. One of the things we want to support kids in is if they can recognize they are in the orange zone, they need to pick a self-regulation strategy out of their self-regulation tool kit. This will help children be more apt to calm themselves down.

The fourth and final step to teach all children is to think of a solution to their problem. When I say all children, this includes children with histories of trauma, children with special needs, children with mental health vulnerabilities, and children who are typically developing. The last step, once their brain and emotions are calm and their sensations are down to green again, is teaching them they can then think, think, think of a solution. That involves practicing over and over the different types of solutions that don't hurt themselves, others, or property.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Preventing Challenging Behaviors, in partnership with Region 9 Head Start Associationpresented by Julie Kurtz, MS.


julie kurtz

Julie Kurtz, MS

Julie Kurtz is an author, national speaker, and expert consulting and training on trauma and resilience. She promotes the concept of optimal brain integration to maximize the human growth potential. Julie is the Founder and CEO for the Center for Optimal Brain Integration.

She is a co-author of: 

  • Trauma-Informed Practices for Early Childhood Educators: Relationship-Based Approaches that Support Healing and Build Resilience in Young Children.
  • Culturally Responsive Self-Care Practices for Early Childhood Educators (Spring 2020).

Julie Kurtz is the creator of the phone/tablet Application (APP) Trigger Stop: Sensory and Emotional Check-in designed specifically for children ages 3-8 years to promote sensory and emotional literacy and to support self-regulation.

In 2011, she was named as one of the most 100 Influential Woman of Silicon Valley, CA by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal.


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