Written by Catherine Barton
For counselors and those in the healing professions who are looking for ways to help children express their emotions, this intervention helps children to express their emotions in a healthy manner and gives children awareness of their current emotional state. Sometimes children have a difficult time identifying their emotions, either because they are not aware of the feelings or because they struggle with how to verbalize these feelings. This intervention gives children a creative alternative to express themselves, which I have found to be very successful in group as well as individual sessions.
This activity requires coloring materials of your choice. It can be done with any age group. For the younger children, you may have to work alongside them and it may be beneficial to show an example of a finished Feeling Heart.
Before the activity begins, there should be a discussion on how normal it is to have emotions and how sometimes we can feel conflicting emotions at the same time. Then together, the group or individual lists various emotions.
The children are told to choose the emotions they are feeling right now and choose a color that will match the emotion. These colors are then used to represent that emotion inside the heart. It is important to explain that there is no right or wrong way to do this activity. Some children choose to simply color the portion of the heart with the corresponding color and some might create a more abstract heart.
Once the children are finished with this activity, they are asked to present the final project. If leading this activity in a group, only encourage sharing when you believe the group members have enough rapport that presenting would be beneficial to the group cohesiveness. If this is the case, presenting the hearts can be therapeutic and allow the group members to build even more trust and connect further with each other.
This intervention is great for parents because it gives them insight into their child’s emotional state from their child’s perspective. I encourage the parents to use this activity as a conversation starter at home. It can also be used to help keep track of a client’s progress throughout therapy.
The following is an example of a completed Feeling Heart:
The heart shows a client who is experiencing some difficult feelings. Through this intervention, the therapist doesn’t simply know that the client feels scared, but can see that this emotion is the largest portion of the client’s heart.