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Theoretical Framework


Children are more anxious, aggressive, and shut down than ever. The root cause of the emotional crisis and resulting behavioural issues we see in our homes, schools and communities every day is that children are losing their feelings. The essence of the issue regarding emotional health and well-being is that children need to feel their emotions, even their most vulnerable ones. 

Emotional health cannot be "taught".  The reason why we cannot teach kids emotional "skills" lies in understanding what emotions are and what it means to be emotionally healthy.  Emotions – happiness, sadness, frustration, etc. – are physiological, instinctive and involuntary processes that happen inside us. We all have them. Our emotions play a pivotal role in how we respond, behave, and interact with our world – whether we are aware of them or not.

Change doesn’t begin with managing our emotions as an intellectual process that we systematically think through in the heat of the moment! Building emotional health calls for experiences that put us in touch with the full spectrum of human emotions – even the ones that we often try so hard to avoid.


Emotional wellness in children begins by adults creating an invitation for the process to unfold. We need to make it safe for our kids to express their emotions and convey that we are there to help them through their big feelings. Furthermore, we must provide them with opportunities in which their feelings can come out to play.

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Webinar: Emotional World of our Children in Covid Times

Eva de Gosztonyi, Martine Demers, Catherine Korah

In changing times emotions come to the fore. Children and adults alike will experience many emotions as this new school year unfolds. There will be repeated waves of emotions, we need to expect them and be prepared to support the students through them. This presentation will help the adults to understand some of the key emotions that children will be living and the effect these will have on their behaviour and their learning. 

Click here to download handout

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Webinar Panel on Emotional Health and School

Eva de Gosztonyi, Tamara Strijack, Deborah MacNamara, Hannah Beach

Neufeld Institute Webinar Panel on Emotional Health and School, with Tamara Strijack, Deborah MacNamara, Eva de Gosztonyi and Hannah Beach.

Join the Leadership Team from the IDEA Centre for Educators as they discuss Emotional Health and School (

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EDITORIAL: Kids Need a Safe Space to Feel

Hannah Beach

Our kids are experiencing an emotional crisis. Children are more anxious, aggressive, and shut down than ever. We are seeing clear evidence of this in our schools, our homes, our neighbourhoods and our community spaces. The situation has become so dire that our newspapers are literally writing stories about elementary school-aged children punching, kicking and biting their teachers. 

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Emotional Safety: Why kids need a safe space to feel, learn, and grow

Hannah Beach

Emotional safety is foundational to learning and growth. It is the container that holds the space that allows children to feel, to be curious, to care, and to emerge as their unique selves. It can be hard to grasp what this looks and feels like in practical terms. It can be challenging to remember the link between this sense of safety and the behaviors we see in our classrooms. 

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Five Things You Might Not Know About Human Emotion

Deborah MacNamara

Humans are some of the most complex emotional creatures on earth. From our teenagers who roll their eyes in disdain to our toddlers who cry in frustration – raising kids has few emotional dull moments. What are we supposed to do with their emotions? Why are they so emotional in the first place?

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Freedom of Expression: Guiding kids’ emotions into maturity

Deborah MacNamara

It is not unusual to see a child stomp in frustration, yell when they’re upset, and drag their heels when they feel hurried. Even after a good or uneventful day at daycare or school, meltdowns may appear later at home in the form of resistance over chores or homework. Parents may feel bewildered by the extreme emotional reactions they witness in their kids—after all, haven’t they been told a hundred times to use their words and communicate clearly to get what they want?


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I am not a Drama Queen – Why we cry over small things

Hannah Beach

Yesterday as I was walking up the stairs to my front door, I saw a little yellow finch, dead and laying by my doormat. It wasn’t ruffled or bruised. It simply looked like it was peacefully sleeping. It was just too much. My eyes welled up and down came the tears. We are in the midst of a pandemic.  I am constantly hearing from overwhelmed parents and educators and I am trying to support them the best I can.


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Room Required – Feelings Getting too Big

Hannah Beach

My elderly parents are currently clearing out their house and, in the process, they found an old Creative Writing scribbler of mine from grade 7. This week I sat down and re-visited my 12-year-old self. What a gift it was to read back through my thoughts, feelings and stories from that age. 


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Why We Shouldn’t Expect Kids to Self-Regulate Too Soon

Mona Delahooke

Amidst the popular focus on “self-regulation” among professionals, educators and parents, too often we miss a significant point: we cannot really teach a child to self-regulate. Self-regulation is a developmental process that we can nurture and encourage in one way: through the experience of emotional co-regulation with caring and attuned adults.


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What to Know Before We Teach Children Self-Regulation Skills

Mona Delahooke

I believe The Zones are most effective when we have an understanding of the pre-requisite for a child’s ability to self-regulate. Before they can build the capacity for self-regulation, children need to have sustained experiences of emotional co-regulation with a caring adult or adults.


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Teaching The Zones with Integrity

Leah Kuypers, Creator of The Zones of Regulation

The students on my OT caseload were amazing kids who were often misunderstood and found themselves “in trouble” because of their differences and challenges in managing their feelings and behavior. As a staff, we found ourselves ill-equipped to take on the social and emotional needs of the students we were tasked to teach and struggled to maintain a safe learning environment for staff and students alike. 


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