An emotions check-in is a time to stop, pause, and assess how we feel in the moment. This is a critical social-emotional time that all educators can embed into the classroom. Of course, it’s also something that parents can also use at home. One important takeaway when learning about an emotions check-in is that it’s something we all benefit from; every child, teen, and adult can gain benefits from pausing, checking in with themselves, and talking about emotions.
Reasons to Use an Emotions Check-In
1. Research shows that naming our emotions can help us feel more calm. Simply describing your emotions at stressful times can sometimes make you feel less stressed or anxious. That’s what some research from UCLA has suggested. When you think about it, it really does make sense. If a student is feeling stressed about a test coming up, they might bottle that emotion up. By expressing themselves, it lets those emotions out in a healthy way.
2. Emotions check-ins normalize talking about feelings. Talking about emotions is a critical component for feeling our best. It’s normal and healthy to talk about feelings, but kids and teens only learn that when we make the time to talk about them. With a daily check-in, talking about our emotions can become a normal part of our everyday routine.
3. A daily check-in time builds self-awareness. Self-awareness is a foundational social-emotional skill that helps us understand how we’re feeling, why, and what we need to be at our best. By creating a daily check-in routine each day, we can help foster these skills for children and teenagers.
4. Check-ins can serve as a proactive problem-solving tool. A daily check-in is actually a proactive tool that support problem-solving skills. By checking in with kids and teens about how they are feeling ahead of time, you can understand challenges kids are dealing with. This gives you and the child a chance to problem-solve through those challenges (instead of waiting for an eruption of emotion later on).
Let’s consider an example. Imagine a student is feeling extremely worried about presenting in front of the class. You might not know this just by looking at the student, but a check-in gives a specific time for kids to share those concerns privately. In turn, this can help you to understand how the student is feeling and develop strategies to help the student persevere through the problem (using coping strategies, giving extra time to practice, talking it out with the teacher).
5. Daily check-in time builds mindfulness and calm. Another major benefit to a daily emotions check-in is “the pause” it brings. So often, we are all running on autopilot, moving from one task to another without any time to stop in between. A daily check-in gives a mindful and calm break in the day to stop, breathe, and think.
You can also build mindful breathing and mindfulness techniques right into your daily check-in time to teach and practice these skills explicitly.
6. A daily check-in allows you to integrate SEL skills. While a daily emotions check-in focuses first and foremost on how we are feeling, it also provides a natural time to integrate other social-emotional skills. After the daily check-in time, spend a few minutes teaching about SEL skills like empathy, perspective-taking, problem-solving, conflict resolution, working with others, conversations, time management, and developing goals. While this seems like a long list, it’s really only a snippet of the many social-emotional skills children and teens need to be successful.
7. Checking in with emotions prioritizes mental health. Simply put, mental health matters. Taking a few minutes each day to talk about emotions can have profound positive impacts on mental wellness for all learners.
How to Get Started
There are a few simple ways to begin an emotions check-in in your classroom. The best part is that these check-in times require little prep or effort on your part but yield big results. Here are some simple techniques to start a daily check-in:
Daily Check-In Journal – I love the idea of a check-in journal because it’s a private space for kids and teens to write about how they are feeling, while also integrating positive affirmations, mindfulness, and other SEL skills. Have students complete one page per day to build on these skills over time.
PASTA Check-In – Create a routine with a simple 5 step check-in process: Pause and breathe, Ask yourself how you feel, Say the emotion, Think about your feelings, and Ask yourself what you need. Learn more about this fun, free, and meaningful 5-step emotions check-in. If you love it, make sure to grab this free check-in poster.
Sticky Note Check-In Board – Create an everyday check-in board in the classroom. Have students write their name on the back of a sticky note and place their note how they’re feeling for the day. See the sticky note and mental health check-in board in action.
Daily Check-In Sheet – Use a free daily check-in sheet to have students self-report how they are feeling and what they need for the day. Students can turn them in or keep them in a daily check-in binder. You can make your own or grab this free one!
Write and Share – Make it a daily routine to have kids write down how they are feeling. They can write as much as they’d like. What’s great about this technique is that you can customize it however you’d like. You can change up the daily question or allow kids to draw how they are feeling if that works for them. After this daily writing time, give students a few minutes to share anything that’s on their mind out loud with the class/group. This check-in time then can become part of a community building circle or even a morning meeting.