Worrying about things we can’t control can be very frustrating and anxiety-inducing. This is especially true for students who may see things that can’t control, like the weather, as well as decisions others make for them, such as what’s on the lunch menu, as unfair. It is equally important to support students in feeling empowered and confident when control is their own, and calm and accepting where it is not.
This circle of control lesson sets them up to examine why things can’t always go their own way, and to make a plan for having a positive attitude about things they cannot change!
After completing the lesson, your students will have made progress in emotion regulation and in reducing anxiety.
Circle of Control Lesson Directions
Prompt: Gather students and tell them that today they are going to talk about what it feels like when things are in or out of our control. Ask students to define control. Accept answers and say,
Control is when we are able to choose or decide what happens. Can anyone tell me when things feel a bit out of control, like you have no choice, or maybe it just doesn’t seem fair?
Write Out Of My Control on the board or chart paper and list student responses under it. If they need a prompt, suggest What’s on the lunch menu or If it rains today.
Next, ask students to share things they do have control over. Write I Can Control in a separate column, and list responses. Say,
It can feel good when things are in your control. But even when things are not, two things you will always control is how you respond to the situation as well as your own attitude. And having a positive attitude feels good, too!
Play: Using the Positive Thinking Cards, read students the scenarios and challenge them to come up with positive thoughts and ideas for how to respond to something that is out of their control. Begin by using the rain card as an example:
- Card: I wanted to go outside to play but now it’s raining.
- Response: I can’t change the weather but maybe I can build a rainy day fort instead.
Practice: Have students complete the Circle of Control Worksheet. Tell them to imagine that when they control something, it’s as if they hold it in a circle under their own care and decisions. That’s called a circle of control. There are two worksheets: the simpler version is a matching game, and the other challenges students to generate their own responses to things they can and cannot control. Both pages ask students to think about regulation strategies that they can use when something is out of their control, such as taking calming breaths, trying something different, or looking for the benefits of the situation.
Closure: Have students share their answers from the worksheet as well as strategies they might use to remain positive while adapting to situations that are out of control. Display the poster with the mantra, “I can’t control everything, but I always control my attitude!”
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
- Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere by Kira Willey and Anni Betts
- Little Monkey Calms Down (Hello Genius) by Michael Dahl and Oriol Vidal