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The Traffic Light System for Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is the ability to monitor and control one’s behaviour and emotions. It’s not a skill that one is born with but a skill that is learned. That is why it’s very important for parents to put special care into teaching their children ways to regulate and control their emotions.

Learning emotional regulation involves teaching the child what kind of emotion they’re feeling, why they feel it, and how to navigate it and come up with ways to feel better.

The Traffic Light System for Emotional Regulation

One emotion that a lot of children find difficult to regulate is anger. As we have mentioned in our previous blog post, anger in moderation is a valid feeling and it’s very normal for your child to feel angry sometimes as long as it does not turn into uncontrollable temper tantrums. But in case it does, a child that is taught some emotional regulation techniques will be able to deal with their negative feelings in a swifter and healthier manner than a child who doesn’t know how to regulate their emotions.

We have already discussed in our previous blog, several ways to help your child manage their anger. But today we’re going to add one more technique that is known to be very effective with helping children manage emotions: The Traffic Light System.

What is the Traffic Light System?

You definitely know what a traffic light is and how it works, right? Well, so does your child. A traffic light is a very common object for children, they see it around them all the time and they usually get curious about it from a very young age. The traffic lights system uses this previously acquired knowledge to relate it to their current need of learning emotional regulation.

The system uses the three basic colours of a traffic light to symbolise the steps the child needs to get their emotions under control.

  • Red: Stop what they are doing. The first step is always to stop and take a deep breath.
  • Yellow: Wait and think. Now, calmly let your child talk about what they’re feeling, what they think triggered that feeling, and what is the best way to fix it and feel better.
  • Green: Act. After choosing the best solution for their problem, help your child act on it. Encourage their positive ideas and encourage them to act on them in the future if they ever feel that way again.

The traffic light system is a very effective way to teach children aged 4 to 10 how to regulate their emotions. Use arts and crafts to make your own traffic light or just download and print our ready made ones below, so that the child can see it in front of them whenever they feel like a certain emotion is getting too much. That is just one small way to help your child manage one big emotion.

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