Window of Tolerance in Children Toolkit

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Welcome to the Window of Tolerance

The ‘Window of Tolerance’, developed by Dr. Dan Siegel, describes the optimal arousal zone where children can effectively function and manage their emotions. Within this window, they can process thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed.  This resource is a great addition to any intervention that is looking to understand what activates or regulates the child’s system.

Objectives:

  • To help children recognise where they are and what resourcing helps them to stay within their optimal arousal zone
  • To educate children to identify their own emotional and physical states
  • To work alongside coping strategies to understand which tools and techniques help them return to their window of capacity

Window of Tolerance in Children

The ‘Window of Tolerance’, a concept developed by Dr. Dan Siegel, delineates the optimal arousal zone within which children can effectively function and manage their emotions. This zone allows them to process thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed.

Understanding this visual concept helps children to recognise three primary states:

  • The Optimal Arousal State: Children feel calm and alert, capable of managing stress and engaging well with their surroundings.
  • The Hyper-arousal State: Children experience heightened anxiety, panic, or irritability, often triggering a “fight or flight” response.
  • The Hypo-arousal State: Children feel numbness or fatigue, which may lead to a ‘freeze’ response, feeling detached from their emotions.

Integrating the ‘Window of Tolerance’ into interventions assists in assessing what children can tolerate within sessions and what exceeds their emotional capacity. It also facilitates exploration of triggers that escalate their arousal states and identifies soothing strategies that help regulate emotions effectively.

Pack information

  • Number of Pages: 7
  • Font: Ariel
  • Format: High quality PDF file
  • Video Tutorial: It also includes an instruction video
  • Webinar Link:  Understanding the Resource and How to Use It (15 mins)

Integrating the Window of Tolerance with Children

Utilising the ‘Window of Tolerance’ visualisation framework not only enhances children’s awareness of their emotional states but also supports interventions aimed at improving emotional regulation and resilience. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of how children navigate and manage their emotions within varying arousal levels, promoting more effective strategies for emotional support and growth.

Resource Pack Ideas

  • Emotion Thermometer: Use this resource alongside the child so they can point to where they feel they are to express their current emotional state.
  • Mindfulness Exercises: Incorporate mindfulness activities that teach children techniques to stay within their optimal arousal state. Activities such as deep breathing, body scans, and mindful colouring can help children regulate their emotions.
  • Sensory Kits: Create sensory kits with items like stress balls, textured fabrics, and calming scents (e.g., lavender. These kits provide sensory input that can help children self-soothe when they experience heightened arousal states.  Help them link the sensory tool with where it is within the window.
  • Coping Strategy Wheels: Develop coping strategy wheels with various techniques for managing emotions. Include strategies like counting to ten, taking a break, talking to a trusted adult, or using positive self-talk.
  • Role-Playing Scenarios: Use role-playing scenarios to help children practice responding to situations that may trigger different arousal states. This allows them to rehearse appropriate emotional responses in a safe environment.
  • Social Stories: Create social stories that explain the ‘Window of Tolerance’ concept in child-friendly language. Include examples of scenarios that might cause different arousal states and strategies for staying within the optimal zone.

Research Links

Child Therapy Service