Children Expressing Emotions

Latest News Thursday, 12 May 2022

This is a photo of an ‘Emotion Wheel’. 

There are many variations of emotion wheels available – one only has to Google it. It has become more common for staff to use the Emotion Wheel with children as many of them simply do not have the emotional language to express themselves. When asked how they are feeling about something, they may even shrug their shoulders or use basic words that either don’t accurately pinpoint their emotion or define it in ways that does not allow those helping to understand.

Some children present as very intelligent but act in ways that shows an emotional immaturity. Some are smart, but are emotionally crippled. Moreover, some children who may be in Yr 4 or above have not progressed from toddler stage emotional maturity.

One of the tasks teachers and leadership has been to recognise this and help children manage their behaviours, emotions and regulation of them better than they do. The Emotion Wheel allows children to identify the emotional state they are in (what they are feeling) and with careful prompting, this allows teachers to understand better how to intervene. There may even be patterns of ‘feeling’ that emerge frequently over time which are built into the personality of the child.

If parents are finding it hard to extract how their own child is feeling it may help to use the Emotion Wheel and to ask children to highlight those uneasy emotions. It is very important to be able to identify emotions by using the appropriate language – not just repetitive simple words such as ‘sad’.  

The other side to this is in identifying what they need and children can be equally as bad in identifying these emotional needs. Below is one example of an ‘Needs Wheel’. 

When the Emotional Wheel is used in conjunction with the Needs Wheel we can be more specific and we can be more targeted. We have a more insightful perspective and the child learns more about him/herself than s/he would in the absence of these.
It can’t always be assumed that a child emotes or grows into a mature adult being able to articulate his/her feelings. Many adults don’t – hence the level of domestic violence in Australia. By helping our children to become more expressive of needs and emotions we are better able to inculcate them into becoming a functioning adult.
Youth Mental Health Screening

Our school is excited to be participating in a study on youth mental health screening in schools, conducted by Macquarie University in partnership with the NSW Department of Education and Ministry of Health, The Association of Independent Schools of NSW, and Catholic Schools NSW, along with the NSW Mental Health Commission. 

Sadly, more than half of Australian young people with mental health disorders do not get treatment. This study aims to transform the management of mental (or emotional) health in young people by identifying youth who are struggling with emotional distress and getting them to appropriate help early. 

What are the benefits for my child?
Access to free emotional health screening for students in Years 4, 5 and 6 / Year 7 to Year 11 that will identify students who may be experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, emotional distress (this information will be confidential and known only to the school and parents of identified students).

Recommendations tailored to your child on local, evidence-based referral services, provided to the school by expert researchers and clinicians
Increased knowledge for school mental health staff in methods of identifying and supporting students who may need help 

Over the coming week, you will receive an email with more information about the study and how your child can participate. In the meantime, please feel free to contact the Research Coordinator, Dr Peter Gates, if you have any questions or want to know more ( 

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