How An Emotions Chart For Kids May Help Them Express Themselves

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D. and Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated July 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Everyone may experience high and low periods where they struggle to pinpoint or label emotions. You might recognize sensations or discomfort but aren't sure what emotion you feel. Although this experience can be common for adults, children can also struggle to understand their emotions. Their lack of life experience combined with a lesser vocabulary and less maturity could cause difficulties for them. If you and your child do not know how they feel, it could be challenging to support them. 

In these cases, emotions charts may be rewarding. Emotion charts can allow kids to visualize their feelings through facial expressions, physical sensations, and behaviors associated with everyday emotions. Additionally, it could help you as a parent understand how to support your child. With an emotions chart, you can ask your child to point to an emotion that matches how they feel inside. 

What is an emotions chart?

An emotions or feelings chart can come in varying shapes and sizes. There are some made for adults that only have words on them. However, for children, feelings charts may look like a sheet with different facial expressions, artistic renditions of body language, or behavioral expressions. Facial expressions might be drawn or shown through photos, cartoon drawings, sketches, or cartoon smiley faces. Some emotions involve dozens of faces, whereas others only include a few. Some of these charts are readily available online and printable. Feelings charts can also be made at home.

Younger children might benefit more from a simple chart, while older kids might enjoy a more detailed one. You may want the chart to be understandable while covering a child's emotions enough to support them. A chart for kids that's too complicated might feel overwhelming and unhelpful. 

The emotions you might notice on a chart can include but aren't limited to: 

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Joy or happiness 
  • Embarrassment 
  • Guilt 
  • Shame 
  • Rage
  • Fear 
  • Contempt 
  • Disgust
  • Excitement
  • Surprise 
  • Pride
  • Frustration 
Although there are many human emotions, a chart might include around five to ten common feelings that children can understand. 

How do you use an emotions chart? 

Using an emotions chart can be straightforward for some. You might use it in varying ways depending on your needs. Teach your child to use the chart by telling them to think about how they feel and point to the face that matches that feeling. 

You may have to explain the process a few times to your children and mentor them by showing them the process yourself. For example, when you're feeling happy, smile and point to the happy face while telling your child you are happy. Studies show that young children learn by mimicking their parents, so this tactic might help them. 

Once your children feel comfortable, identifying their emotions may feel more manageable. Once they've mastered the chart, you might add more emotions and teach them about them.  

Another way you can use an emotions chart is to pick random faces on the chart and have your child describe a time they felt that way. You can get creative with how you use your feelings chart. Teaching your child about emotions can be a fun game if you want it to be.  

Benefits of an emotions chart

Below are a few potential benefits of using A Feelings Chart For Kids with your children. 

Self-expression

Kids who learn to express themselves as children may feel the benefits as teens and adults. They might also excel in creative activities, have higher self-esteem, better communication skills, and healthier relationships with other people. Self-expression can be vital to a child's development and well-being because it allows them to be authentic. 

Studies show that suppressing emotions can reduce mental and physical well-being. Teaching your child about emotions early on may set them up to face their emotions head-on instead of denying them. Emotions charts can also help children find words for their feelings. If they feel upset at school or with other children, they may be able to communicate how they feel and find a resolution. 

Additionally, if your child ever experiences a dangerous situation, they may be able to identify that the situation is dangerous based on their emotions. For example, they might notice they feel uncomfortable, scared, or angry when someone tries to disrespect their boundaries, and they might leave the situation to save themselves. 

Identifying specific emotions

As a child grows and develops, they may experience new emotions and responses to their environment. Without words for their feelings, they may only be able to verbalize that they don't feel good or that their stomach hurts. They may feel overwhelmed when they don't have the words to describe their social emotional statesand gain support. 

While a parent might assume their child is dealing with one emotion, their true feelings might differ. Understanding a child's exact emotions can help parents communicate and know how to help. Emotion charts are often effective because of their detail. Your child might learn complex emotions like jealousy, grief, and apprehension. The better they can express their feelings, the healthier relationships and communication styles they might potentially gain as they grow. 

If your child is non-verbal due because they are autistic or experience another mental health condition or disability, you might use emotions charts to understand how they feel without them verbally speaking. Although not every child is the same, some children might benefit from this practice, and parents may feel better able to care for them. 

Checking in with children 

While your child may not be able to form words about their feelings and emotions, they may find it easier to point at a picture of a face instead. You can use the feelings chart so that they can talk to you about their day or week. If you have a child who is closed-off, shy, or anxious, emotions charts might help them feel comfortable with weekly check-ins. Each week, ask them to point to how they feel and note it so you may help them further in the future. 

Helping kids respond appropriately to their feelings

When kids feel certain emotions, they might have an emotional urge that leads to a behavior. There can be appropriate and inappropriate ways to respond to emotions. However, kids might not know this at first. 

Using an emotions chart, you can show your kid how their emotions affect their subsequent behavior. For example, an angry child might run through the house or break an object. You can help them connect their angry outburst with the emotion of anger and teach them how to express anger healthily. The next time your child experiences anger, they might remember that it causes them to want to break things and decide to practice a healthy coping skill instead.

Teaching your kids about emotions can be vital to their development. Once they can correctly identify their feelings with increasing accuracy, they can begin to self-regulate. Adults can also struggle with emotional ups and down, so try to offer patience as your child learns. Normalize feelings while teaching the importance of self-control. 

Professional support 

As you support your child, you may find yourself dealing with your own emotional struggles. You're not alone, and supporting yourself may help you support your children. You can contact a therapist online or in-person to receive care and guidance. 

As parents are often busy and may not have time to attend in-person sessions, online therapy can be beneficial. With online counseling, you could schedule a session with a therapist outside of business hours or on the weekend. Additionally, you can attend therapy while at home to keep an eye on your children. Studies on internet-based treatment show that it can be highly effective in treating long-term stress related to family matters or personal circumstances. If you're interested in trying an online platform, you can sign up through a site like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. For teens aged 12-19, TeenCounseling is also available. 

Takeaway

Emotion charts can be a beneficial method of helping your children learn to express themselves and control their emotions and many free printable versions are available online. Although these charts can help children, they may also help adults. If you're struggling with other mental health concerns, consider reaching out to a counselor for further insight and support. 

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