Checking in with our thoughts and feelings should be an important part of every day. It’s a healthy technique that helps kids and teens face their emotions, practice mindfulness, and consider what they need. This can ultimately help children and young adults work past any challenges they are experiencing so they can have a successful and productive day. That’s a win for everyone.
It’s also worth mentioning that a daily check in helps kids and teens improve their self-awareness skills, a critical element to social emotional learning in general.
The goal is to teach kids to check in with themselves from time to time. This is obviously a great activity for the classroom, but it’s really more than that. It’s a life skill.
Here are a few tips for a daily emotions check-in before getting started:
- Make it a daily routine. It might seem silly at first to learners to “check in” with emotions. When you make it a regular practice, it can become more natural over time.
- Pair a check-in with morning meeting time. Morning meeting is simply one of the best times to target social emotional skills. It makes sense to use this time to check in with feelings, learn new SEL skills, and build a foundation learners need for success. Read about 5 simple steps to start morning meeting focused on SEL.
- Check in with your own emotions. It’s true that this activity was designed for kids and teens, but adults need check-ins much the same. As adults, we do our best to support learners when we are feeling emotionally strong too.
- Respect individual privacy. Some kids are going to want to share how they’re feeling and that’s great. Others won’t feel comfortable, and that should be respected. Respecting privacy helps make an emotions check in a safe space.
- Continue to foster social emotional skills throughout the day by integrating social emotional learning and/or implementing a SEL curriculum. Starting with an emotions check in is a great first step, but social emotional learning should be incorporated throughout the entire day.
If you love this activity, I’ve added a free printable and digital check-in poster you can grab and use right away. Click the picture below to try it out, or keep reading for more details about the process.
Pause for a moment and breathe. The first step to any successful emotion check in is taking a moment to breathe. Teach students that when we control our breath, it can help us to better manage our bodies and minds too.
Besides focusing on self-awareness, this step also targets skills for self-regulation and coping strategies.
One simple tip is to use mindful breathing exercise cards to help facilitate some mindfulness in under a minute before getting started. If you have learners who love nature, give some of these nature mindful brain breaks a try too.
Use mindful breathing to set the tone for an emotions check-in.
Ask yourself how you feel. This step seems silly, but it’s often forgotten. Kids and teens should be able to ask themselves how they feel in the moment. You can model this by saying to yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” and “What feelings am I noticing?”
Say the emotion words out loud or write them on paper. Out loud or in a journal, have learners write or say the emotions they are feeling.
It’s healthy and normal to feel multiple emotions at once. For example, someone might feel nervous and excited about a competition. Sometimes, it can be confusing to feel different feelings at the same time. Listing them out can help with that process.
Similarly, I like to think of emotions as layers of an onion. Sometimes, we might feel angry but underneath that is usually another emotion. When we stop to think about our feelings, we can really pull back the layers of the onion to truly understand what is going on.
Think about your feelings. Sit with them and let them be. Sometimes, when dealing with emotions, we are so quick to want to change our emotions. It’s worth teaching kids and teens that it’s okay to embrace the emotions we have. Sit with them. Think about how they make us feel.
This can be an awkward time for some, so it might help to allow kids and teens to color or doodle while learning to sit with their emotions. Use these free mindful coloring pages to help learners “just be” as they feel their feelings.
Use mindful coloring pages to help learners “just be” as they sit with their emotions.
Ask yourself what you need. Say or list what could help you move forward. The final step should be focused on moving forward. Teach kids and teens to think about what they need in order to move on with the rest of the day.
If there is something they are struggling with, it might help to make a plan. For example, if a student feels worried about a test coming up, they can make a plan to study for it. If a learner is struggling to focus because they are so excited about their weekend, maybe it would help to talk about it for a few minutes or write in a journal.
This ultimately teaches problem-solving along with all the other skills that have been targeted along the way.
It’s worth noting that emotions check-ins don’t always fix every problem or challenge. Kids and teens need to know that is okay. What’s important is that these daily check-ins can help us cope with those feelings along the way.