I heard some yelling, a door slam, and huffing and puffing as my daughter stomped down the stairs. I lowered my phone to look at her. She was red, her fists were closed, and every step she took communicated the rage she felt in her heart. She had gotten into an argument with her brothers and did everything except use her words to handle it. At some point during our kids’ growth, the primary emotions of mad, sad, or happy just don’t cut it anymore. I knew she was upset, but labeling her emotion as “mad” left her feeling misunderstood. It was at this moment that I remembered a tool a friend of mine shared with me that she uses with her family—a feelings wheel.
I wanted my daughter to know there are better ways to express herself and to feel seen. So, after a few deep breaths with her, I pulled out the feelings wheel. We dug deeper to find out what she was feeling toward her brothers. Now I understood what she was feeling, and she was equipped with the self-awareness to respond assertively with her brothers and tell them how their behavior impacted her.
A feelings wheel is a chart with primary emotions in the center that fans out with more specific emotions. It is a tool that will help your children learn to name what they’re feeling so they can become more self-aware and process it more fully. It can be overwhelming to understand exactly how we feel, why we feel it, and how to respond when we are whisked away by our emotions. Our kids may still be young, but knowing how to articulate their emotions will prepare them for wherever their future takes them. Another amazing thing about the feelings wheel: It works for adults, too.
Which word on the feelings wheel is a common emotion you feel? If you’re looking for something more simple to help a small child, here’s our feelings wheel for kids under 5 years of age.