How can I keep myself in the Green Zone when my child is in the Red Zone?


By Vicky Westra

This is the exact situation my husband and I found ourselves in early on with our daughter Gabbi. She would be in the Red Zone and acting out, which would put us in the Red Zone as well, experiencing emotions such as frustration, worry, anger, or in extreme situations, fear.

However, once we were in the Red Zone, we could do nothing to help Gabbi move to a better feeling place. We were all just camped out there together being miserable.

At some point, we knew that to change this pattern, we needed to change how we were responding. Here are some decisions we made that allowed us to react differently:

1. Make it a top priority to stay in the Green Zone – Just making that our goal helped us be more aware of our emotional state.

2. Stay Present and Conscious – I often describe the condition of being present or conscious as watching yourself and the situation unfold like you were watching a movie. Instead of being swept away by reacting to the problem, we attempted to stay in a state of consciousness where we could still choose what we would do next.

3. Let the situation diffuse before trying to resolve it – when your child is in the Red Zone, they typically cannot hear any logical reasoning or nor even your soothing comments. Sometimes, they need a little time to let the “mental momentum” they are experiencing slow down before they can move back into a better feeling place.

4. Ask Questions and Listen– Our first response used to be talk, talk, talk. I should probably exchange the word “talk” with “lecture”. The shift was to, instead of lecturing her on why the behavior was “wrong” (and ours right), shift into our “seeking to understand” mode and ask questions about why she felt she was experiencing those feelings. Sometimes, she couldn’t tell us, but just the act of seeking to understand her helped to diffuse the situation and helped her to more easily feel our Green Zone energy.

5. Remove ourselves physically into another space/room – Sometimes, if we found that we were slipping into the Red Zone, the best decision we could make was going into another room or walking outside. Removing ourselves from that environment allowed us to breathe and get ourselves back into the Green Zone. Often, we would even say, we will be in our bedroom getting into a better feeling place, so join us when you feel better. To our surprise, she would often join us with her declaring, “I’m feeling better” after a short time.

If today you are finding yourself in a similar situation with your child, try some new things to break the unproductive pattern that might be going on. I shared some of our responses, and you can certainly adopt some of those or come up with your own plan.

Let us know what works for you, if you’ve been able to find some other ways to stay in the Green Zone with your child’s Red Zone behavior. The more we share, the more we can equip ourselves and others to live a Green Zone Life. Let us know by sending an e-mail to

With Love and Joy,


Related Articles…

4 Ways to Create More Autistic Joy

4 Ways to Create More Autistic Joy

It is ridiculous how time seems to speed up when you aren’t looking. One day it’s January and then all of sudden, you...

The Benefits of Being Autistic

The Benefits of Being Autistic

In Autism World, we talk A LOT about the challenges of being autistic. There are endless conversations about why it is...


Provide your name and e-mail to receive a FREE printable “Emotional Guidance Scale”!

Fill out my online form.

Skip to content