Coping Skills

Emotions Chart: How to Use a Feelings Thermometer Effectively

Have you considered using an emotions chart or a feelings thermometer to teach your child about emotions?

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Being able to identify, label, express and manage feelings play a crucial role in children’s social and emotional development. Understanding how people feel, they are able to respond appropriately and engage in meaningful relationships. And when they are able to express their feelings, us parents can guide them or help them to solve problems or develop coping skills.

Some kids find it difficult to identify, label or express feelings. And this is when tools like an emotions chart or a feelings thermometer become very useful allies in our parenting job.

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What is an Emotions Chart?

An Emotions Chart is a visual resource that features emoticons, pictures or face drawings describing different emotions.

Why are Emotion Charts so Popular?

Emotions Charts are widely used because they provide a simple way to assist kids in:

  • identifying emotions
  • labeling emotions
  • expressing feelings
  • grading the intensity of those feelings

Who can Benefit from Emotions Charts?

All kids can benefit from the help the visual clues emotion charts provide. But they are an essential tool when we work on emotions recognition with kids that:

  • do not communicate verbally
  • have difficulties identifying other people’s emotions or their own
  • have difficulties expressing feeling

What types of Emotions Charts Can I Find?

The Internet is loaded with free resources. You will have to decide if you prefer to use:

  • emoticons
  • real faces
  • drawings or
  • produce your own at home

You can also download the EMOTION CHART PRINTABLE we use at home.  It is a 5 point scale that we use to communicate feelings and their intensity.

Emotions Chart: How to Use an Emotions Chart Effectively

How to Use an Emotions Chart Effectively?

Using an Emotion Chart is not as simple as showing it to your kid and asking him/her about feelings or emotions. There is some previous work you need to do to ensure you are using this tool effectively. These are some useful tips that will  help you use your feelings thermometer effectively:

Discuss the images with your child. Label and describe the feelings in each image.

What does each of them represent? How do I look and feel when I am at that level? We have been working with a 5 point scale. I will describe below what answers we came up with for the questions above. They may give you ideas or prompts you can use while discussing the images.

How does it look and feel in each level?

  1. Emoticon with a big smile: It represents happiness. I´m doing great. I know it because I laugh and smile.
  2. Emoticon with a neutral face. It tells me we are still doing ok. Not as great as before, but still ok
  3. Emoticon with an angry face. It tells me something annoying is happening. It doesn´t feel good. I am starting to get angry. I frown. I don´t feel like smiling anymore.
  4. Emoticon with a very angry face. I´m feeling really angry when I am like that. I may shout. I may also say things that are not nice.
  5. Emoticon with the angriest face. I´m out of control. I´m really mad. I scream. Sometimes I hurt myself or others. I spit. I throw toys. I may destroy things.

Decide with your child what will be the “anger action plan”

The beauty of this tool is that it provides you with an opportunity to work on developing coping skills:

  • Brainstorm with your child activities and strategies that may help him deal with those emotions when he/she reaches each level.
  • Practice your selected strategies when your child is calm and happy
  • Keep practicing! Repeated practice facilitates automating these strategies so that your kid is more likely to implement them when she is angry or feeling anxious.

Some examples of calming strategies or anger management activities are:

  • Breathing exercises- For kids I specifically recommend Lazy 8 Breathing, an easy and “portable” breathing exercise that always works wonders for us. You can read more about it in “Breathing Exercises for Kids: Lazy 8 Breathing
  • Moving into another situation – Abandoning the setting where the anger outburst is happening and moving into a calm place or a pleasant activity
  • Physical exercise- “Burning energy” and focusing on a physical activity unrelated to the anger situation (jumping, running)
  • Expressing it through drawing or writing
  • Swapping bad thoughts for good thoughts.
  • Using your imagination. Imagining a calm place, imagining that a shield protects you from your bad thoughts, imagining that you flush your bad thoughts down the toilet.
  • Yoga and mindfulness exercises

If you are interested in helping kids cope with big emotions, I recommend you read my post “Anger Management for Kids“, as it includes a very comprehensive review of tips and strategies, like information on best parenting practices, anger management tips, skills development or calming strategies and tools.

How can YOU Benefit from Using the Emotions Chart?

I´m going to share our experience, because I´m sure it can (hopefully) become a similar experience for you, too.

For us, it is like a miracle tool. The emotions chart has become part of our calming routine. My son starts calming down as soon as he grabs his feelings thermometer with his hand.

Benefits provided by the emotions chart (from our kid´s perspective):

  • It is a comfort cue. He sees the scale and he feels better.
  • He is fully aware now that it provides him with a tool to express how he is feeling.
  • He definitely likes to be able to grade the intensity of his feelings.
  • He often requests the chart, so it has enabled him to take the first step towards self-regulation.
  • It even provides a situation where he is eager to expand on those feelings. He actually loves to share how he moved up and down the 5 point scale and what events or situations make him stay in a level or move between levels.

Additional Tips When Creating and Using an Emotions Chart

You may have already realized that creating an Emotion Chart is not too complicated. If you decide to create your own, just keep in mind the following tips:

  • Create an emotion chart appropriate for your child’s level of development.  If your kid is still learning to differentiate basic emotions you may need to start with a sad face and a happy face.
  • Choose images your kid will love, even from her favorite cartoon characters. You may look for them together online
  • It could also be fun to use your child´s own pictures showing happy and mad faces. This may make the scale more motivating
  • Most importantly, don’t forget that it is not about how nice the chart looks, but about using it effectively:
    • In-depth  work on labeling and describing the emotions is vital
    • Role-play how you act when you feel those emotions
    • Place your feelings thermometer where you can easily access it, or better where your kids can see it and independently grab it.

Great Resources and Tools to Work  on Identifying and Expressing Feelings

These are some resources that you could use at home to help your child identify and express feelings I really like:

  • My Moods, My Choices“, a  flipbook for kids that comes with 20 different moods/emotions. It can help you work with your kids on  identifying feeling and making positive choices
  • I know what to do when I´m feeling..”. This is another flipbook designed to help children identify and respond appropriately to their emotions. It presents 18 different moods/emotions

And one last money-saving tip! Both items I recommend above are in Amazon Prime list, so they can get delivered to you fast and with FREE shipping. If you are not a member yet, click below for your 30-day free Prime trial.

You can also check my Pinterest board to get some “Emotion Charts” inspiration.

I hope you found this post useful. If so, please share us! ♥

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