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How to Create and Use an Emotional Regulation Chart

 It's no secret that Sunshine REALLY struggles with emotional regulation and anger management. 

One of the biggest challenges we have when others care for Sunshine is that they do not understand what Sunshine's behaviors mean.
When caregivers miss important emotional regulation cues,  everyone suffers. 

Instead of working on prevention and regulation strategies, caregivers end up focusing on behavior strategies.

This is why it's so important to teach emotional regulation in ways that a child can understand. 

Today I'm going to show you how to create and use an emotional regulation chart for your child!

How to Create and Use an Emotional Regulation Chart

Emotional regulation is something that we've always worked on at home in various ways. It was super easy when Sunshine was home all the time.

But when she started attending a day program emotional regulation was not a focus in the classroom. Sunshine suffered because of this.

After some great meetings with her team, they introduced a color based emotional regulation program and chart at school. We carried over what was being taught at home, adding on to what we were already doing.

The program used at school introduced green representing the emotion happy. Blue stood for sick and/or sad. Yellow stood for emotions like anxious, nervous, scared, etc. Red stood for angry.

The concepts taught in the program at school were great, but based on Sunshine's struggles with brain activation, we realized we needed to add another emotion option to her chart, which we call "fire red." 

Sunshine reaches "fire red" when her brain is activated to the point of having a behavioral seizure. During this time, behaviors do not stop until the seizure is finished. Most often these behaviors include hurting others and sometimes Sunshine hurting herself.

The goal with Sunshine is to always keep her as calm as possible. As she identifies what color she's on at check-ins throughout her day, the goal is return to green as quickly as possible through using various coping skills.

Using a chart with colors and corresponding emotions is a huge help! It's the perfect visual for kids.

How to Create an Individualized Emotional Regulation Chart

1. Identify target emotions and assign color to them.

When creating an emotional regulation chart, you do not need to use the same colors and emotions introduced by Sunshine's school. You can choose any colors and emotions you'd like based on observations of what your child will respond most positively to.

If you're enlisting the help of your child when creating a chart, have them pick their own colors and match them to emotions.

For us, the colors introduced at school transformed into multiple emotions based on observation and identification.

2. Choose a way to represent emotions that match colors.

I chose to use emojis to represent corresponding emotions in our chart because Sunshine LOVES emojis and still can't read.

If you choose to create a chart similar to mine, it's super easy to purchase emoji stickers and use them.

Other options you may consider are drawings, photographs of the your child in different emotional states, or simply writing out the emotions depending on your child's age.

Whatever your choose is completely up to you! 

If it's possible, and your child is willing, they could participate in this process. 

3. Create a three column chart.

The first column is for colors. Next comes corresponding emotions. Last is a check in space is available for the child to use when possible.

4. Place color markers and corresponding emotions in the appropriate places on the chart.

This is the fun part where everything comes together!

Children may enjoy putting their chart together using glue, stickers, markers, crayons, or whatever you choose to use.

I created ours on the computer since Sunshine isn't at home right now. This way it can be printed out and used in multiple settings. 

When she does come home, I'm excited for her to create her own.

This is Sunshine's chart!

Sunshine's Emotional Regulation Chart

This chart was created by me and is designed specifically for Sunshine. It is not available for use by anyone else for free or through purchase.

Please know it's okay if each color has only one corresponding emotion. 

Sunshine's chart is based on her ability to recognize different emotions. If your child isn't able to recognize more than five simple emotions, only include those.

5. Decide how your child will do an emotional check-in.

The third column is a place where the child does a check-in about how they're feeling. It can be used in various ways.

Your child can draw the emotion their feeling in the proper box.

Your child can use a clothespin and clip it to the correct box.

Your child can draw a check mark in the correct space.

In all honesty, the sky is the limit!

Whichever way you choose to use the last column, be sure to use cardstock and/or laminate your chart for durability. 

I will be asking Sunshine to use white board markers to draw the correct emoji face when possible at home.

6. Make a list of emotions and corresponding behaviors.


It is one thing to teach your child how to identify their emotions by color, but a completely different to identify emotions by behaviors, which is the whole point of creating the emotional regulation chart in the first place.

Take time to observe your child.

Observe the child's behaviors and emotions.

Ask questions based on your observations. 

"I am observing that when you are feeling nervous when playing, you are unkind to your friends. Is this correct?"

Obviously you will modify questions based on what the child can understand and answer.

Write down behaviors that you can associate with emotions. 

This is your guide to helping your child understand emotional regulation.

Sunshine's list is below. I use colors rather than emotions to make it easier.
Sunshine's Emotional Regulation Colors & Corresponding Behaviors

Once you have your list, use it!

When using the emotional regulation chart, the goal is to teach your child how they feel and what behaviors they display when they have that feeling.

From there they can learn to identify the emotion and behaviors themselves and decide to change them to those that are more positive.

We have handed this list out to Sunshine's day program, respite workers, and every RTC team she has had. When they choose to use it, it makes such a difference.

Adults are able to catch Sunshine before she escalates too far and activates her brain.

Over time the goal is to teach Sunshine to catch herself before she activates, after lots of practice and constant use of the chart, associating behaviors with emotions the entire way.

It may take a LONG time, but I do believe it's possible!

Be sure to subscribe to our FREE newsletter if you'd like to receive more support and resources related to emotional regulation, 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

Anger Management for Kids Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children 4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors One Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions 5 Lessons to Teach Kids About Balancing Emotions Fun Ways to Teach Children About Emotions

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