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Childhood ADHD Feelings Chart

When your child has ADHD, they may experience intense emotions from time to time. This could cause them to act in a giddy or rowdy manner, or to do inappropriate things.

“I hear a lot of stories about being silly and laughing, the class clown type. But not all children have temper tantrums and temper tantrums,” says Max Wiznitzer, MD, pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, OH.

Wiznitzer treats children with ADHD, and he says several things can play a role in amplifying a child’s emotions. For some children, the disorder leads to symptoms that make them hyper and impulsive. But it’s more than that, he says. A child’s environment can also influence their behavior. Additionally, ADHD can affect thinking skills called executive functions, making it harder for someone to be “behaviourally flexible” and go with the flow, says Wiznitzer.

Children with ADHD who have tantrums or meltdowns may also have another mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, he says. It is also possible that they are being abused or bullied.

If your toddler is acting out a lot, a good first step is to talk to him about his emotions. “If they can name what they’re feeling, then we can think about why it’s happening,” says Wiznitzer. “Once you have those two pieces of information…it’s a lot easier to stake what you’re going to do.”

For example, if they tell you, “I’m stressed,” you can ask them, “What is stressing you out? Maybe they’ll tell you they’re having trouble in school, they’re having trouble keeping up with a class that’s too advanced. In that case, you can talk to their teacher about things that might help, like assistive technology or moving to a class that’s more self-paced.

Identifying what your child is feeling and why can also help their doctor make treatment decisions, Wiznitzer says. Your child may benefit from counselling, a higher dose of medication, treatment for a mood disorder, or a change of environment in places like home or school. Call the doctor or a psychologist any time you notice your child has a mood swing that affects them negatively, says Wiznitzer.

So how do you help your child talk to you about their state of mind? A feelings chart might help. “Many times you can use images representing emotions,” says Wiznitzer.

Click to download and print.

You can ask your child to point to a face on the board that matches how they feel and carry on the conversation from there. Ask them what made them feel this way. Then work together to find a solution. Once you address the underlying reason for them to act in a certain way, it could improve their behavior.

This feelings chart may work best if your child is school-aged. That probably won’t help a 3- or 4-year-old who is still learning to communicate, says Wiznitzer. “In these cases, you must read the tea leaves.”

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