Should Your Child Start Journaling?
Journaling can be a highly effective tool for improving mental health and processing difficult emotions. Unlike what you might see in television shows or movies, journaling is more than just venting or recounting the events of the day. Journaling is a tool to help children (and adults!) hash out how the events of the their day, or their life, affect them emotionally. It allows children to express themselves without fear of judgement or repercussions, especially since mom or dad will not be reading the journal.
While journaling can benefit all children, it can especially help children with anxiety, depression, or a tendency towards worrying. Journaling can help them process their thoughts and feelings about difficult family dynamics and friendships, feelings of rejection from teachers and peers, bullying, or anything other thoughts they may be having. Here are five tips to help your child start their journaling practice.
If your child has never journaled before, this might be a new experience for them. Let them know that it’s just like writing a story, but it’s about their real life. They can write a story about something that happened to them at school or at home, and let them know that they can include all the characters (people) that are part of the story. By including others,, it allows the children to view their story from all different points of view, and helps them make sense of of their experiences.
Don’t Make this a Requirement (But Encourage a Schedule)
Journaling can be really self-motivating for children as they begin to experience a sense of relief as they finish writing. As a parent, you can help them stay consistent with their practice by suggesting some time everyday to journal. It could be a way for them to wind down after school, or fill in the time before or after dinner. While it’s helpful to suggest the journaling practice, it’s important not to make this a requirement. If children feel like journaling is another mandatory chore, they are less likely to engage with this practice.
Know the Difference
While journaling can be a great way to process a difficult day or event, it’s important to know the difference between a difficult day and a traumatic event. While it’s not recommended that you read your child’s journal (see below), it’s important to ask about how your child is feeling. If you notice constant feelings of anxiety, sadness, or depression, seek the help of a professional therapist or counselor to help your child process these feelings further.
Go Beyond Words
Journals can go beyond words! Your child might find it helpful to express their feelings through sketches, painting, collage, photography, or a mixture of all of these mediums. If this is the case, we suggest trying a “mixed media” journal, which has thicker pages and can support every tool from markers to water colors. Here are some quick tips for kids to get started with art journaling.
While it might be tempting to peek into your child’s inner-most thoughts, it’s extremely important that you allow them to keep their journal private. This not only builds trust between you and the child, but it also allows for them to express themselves freely, without fear of someone else reading or judging their thoughts. If you suspect that there might be something troubling in the journal, it’s best to ask your child directly about how they are feeling or and schedule a time for them to speak with a professional counselor.
Do you or your children keep journals? How has it been helpful? Let us know in the comments below!