Teaching Youth to Self-Regulate Emotions: 5 Tips from the Program Basics Gamesroom Playbook

We here on the Youth Development team at BGCA are SO EXCITED to be rolling out the brand new Program Basics suite!

If you haven’t heard, Program Basics is a collection of resources to support youth development professionals, program directors, and site directors in planning and delivering high-quality programming in their Clubs. We’ve partnered with over 330 Club professionals to write with us and give us feedback all throughout the process, and it has been a blast. We are so proud of all of the resources, and can’t wait to hear how you use them.

One of the pieces of the Program Basics suite are Playbooks, which are step-by step guides to help staff plan against common programming challenges with strategies, templates and reusable tools. Club staff can download the first two NOW on BGCA.net! One is on Assemblies and the other is on the Gamesroom. The third, Transitions, will be completed soon. These guides are filled with lots of practical, easy to use information that can be implemented immediately in your Club.

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One section of the Gamesroom Playbook is especially useful for anyone who works with youth in any context- tips for giving the space for youth to self-regulate their emotions. The gamesroom at the Boys & Girls Club (and any space where lots of youth are gathered together!) is an exciting place with a lot going on. Because there tend to be multiple activities happening at once and lots of people coming and going, with new games and activities being learned and figuring out how to win and lose with grace, emotions can be easily heightened. It is easy for youth to become overwhelmed and to act out. One way that Club staff can help mitigate this is by teaching youth skills to help control their emotions. By explicitly teaching these skills, and then giving youth the tools, time, and space to use them, we can be a part of building their emotional maturity.

In the Gamesroom Playbook, we offer 5 tips to help youth to self-regulate. For a FREE download of this page from the Playbook with space for notes, click here.

Tip #1: Teach youth to identify their emotions.

Help youth to identify and name their emotions. This helps them determine how best to cope with how they feel. Consider working with your members to create a chart. Use the chart as a reference in the following ways.

  • List the emotions people can feel.
  • Refer to the chart when asking youth how they are feeling.
  • Ask youth to actively observe their peers and identify how they think they are feeling.
  • Ask youth to reflect on times when they felt happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, etc.
  • Prompt youth to share their experiences.
  • Make up games, like Emotions Charades or Emotions Pictionary.

Tip #2: Teach young people calm-down techniques.

This may include taking deep breaths, counting to 10, or walking a lap before reacting. Have young people share their own ideas and select the technique they each think will work best for them.

Tip #3: Offer self-regulation tools.

Create several kits with self-regulation tools inside, and place them around the gamesroom for easy access. These kits could include play dough, markers and paper for drawing and coloring, and squeeze balls or other fidgets.

Tip #4: Create a chill zone.

Dedicate a table or corner of the room as a self-regulation station. Tell youth when things get heated or their emotions start to run wild, they are welcome to go to the peace table. Keep the table stocked with fidgets; building materials, like Legos or Kinex; puzzles; art supplies, like water colors and paper; and other sensory items, like moldable sand or objects to squeeze.

Tip #5: Identify the signs for when individualized support is needed.

It is important for you to distinguish the times when youth can learn and practice coping skills, versus when individualized staff support or intervention is necessary. Teach youth when to ask for support. For example, if a young person doesn’t appear able to hear or receive the reminders to try a certain technique, or seems unable to, then provide individualized support by taking the young person aside or out of the room. Some clues that this type of support may be necessary are when youth appear overly worked up, seem as though they want to run away, or appear to be almost frozen. Note: In instances of bullying, staff intervention is always needed.

Boys & Girls Club staff can download the entire Gamesroom Playbook, as well as the Assemblies Playbook, on BGCA.net.

We will share the newest resources from the Program Basics suite as they debut right here on the ClubX Blog. Boys & Girls Club staff can sign up to get the latest updates in your email by texting PROGRAMBASICS to 22828 or through this link.

What are your best tips for helping youth to self-regulate? Have you created chill zones at your Club? We want to know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share.


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