Why you should teach your kids to journal
Have you ever kept a journal? For many of us, journals bring us back to those middle-school days when we would clandestinely record secret crushes, the weekly reason we weren't speaking to our besties, and the latest happenings from the hallowed halls of our school. These days, kids are living in a different time. They deal with stressful situations we couldn't have imagined, and have their every move subject to being blasted across the social media airwaves. The result? A generation of anxious kids. Sometimes, it's not easy for kids to talk about what's bothering them, either for fear of being "in trouble" or simply because they can't articulate exactly what they are feeling. The result is that they bottle things up, act out, or have unhealthy thoughts and we, as parents, are none the wiser until things escalate.
Teaching your child to journal can help.
Journalling gives your child a place to record her thoughts, to try to make sense of the world around them, and just to "brain dump" all of the fears, thoughts, worries, and anxieties that are rolling around in their little brains all day long.
But journalling (either for kids or adults) doesn't have to just be about recording thoughts and feelings. There are lots of ways that journalling can be beneficial to young people -- sometimes without them even perceiving the benefit until afterwards! Let's look at some of the ways journalling can benefit a child.
Journalling provides an emotional outlet
As we've already discussed, journalling can be a terrific emotional outlet for kids. It gives them a place to record things that are happening in their lives, such as things happening at school, family changes such as divorce or a new baby in the family, etc. and to try to reconcile their feelings about these life events and changes. Sometimes the simple act of writing something down can be cathartic. A journal is a safe place to express the anger, fear, sadness, happiness, joy, hope, nervousness, etc. that she may not feel comfortable sharing outwardly.
The key to this is that your child has to be sure that his or her words will be for his eyes only. Otherwise, the writing won't be therapeutic or cathartic, because it will be edited for fear of being read by someone else. If you can't keep a promise to keep your prying parental eyes away, don't make the promise. The last thing you want is to break your child's trust.
I offer one caveat here: If you suspect something serious is going on with your child, such as something that could threaten his health or even his life, read the journal. Yes, you'll break their trust, but you can work to rebuild that later, once your child is on the road to recovery from whatever the issue is. Don't risk your child's life to keep a promise.
Journalling provides a place to record memories
Childhood and adolescence are full of memories. First friends, family vacations, favourite meals, birthdays, special days with mom and dad -- and those not-so-great memories like broken hearts -- and a journal is the perfect place for your child to record those memories from her own perspective. Encourage them to safe their journals in a safe place. Chances are good they'll love being able to look back on them in years to come and remember what life was like "back then." I know I do!
Journalling can help a child unwind on vacation
Vacations are typically busy times, full of adventure, exploration, and new experiences. That can result in kids who have a hard time winding down when it's time to go back to the hotel for the night. Keeping a vacation journal can help them to relax and unwind, so they can get a good sleep and do it all again the next day. Provide them with a glue stick, and some paper clips along with the journal and some fun writing utensils so they can attach menus, ticket stubs, brochures or anything else that's important to their telling of the vacation story. They'll come away from the trip with a custom, one-of-a-kind souvenir!
Types of Journals
Guided journals are a great choice for kids because they offer prompts, questions, and jumping-off points for recording details about who they are, what they think, etc. That's much less daunting than a blank page! One of my favourite products for this purpose is the book, All About Me: My Thoughts, My Style, My Life. I can tell you for sure that my 10-year-old loves this book! Inside, you'll find questions like "Would you rather...?" questions about current faves, spaces to fill in details about their friends, their hopes for the future, what they like to do in their spare time, etc. The result is a perfect little snapshot of who your child is at a particular moment in time.
Another terrific guided journal allows your child to explore their imagination through artist expression. Draw, Color & Sticker Creative Lettering Sketchbook teaches kids (and adults!) to create several different lettering styles and then encourages them to explore each lettering style through stickers, creative exercises and more. There are 500 stickers included! Perfect for a snow day!
There are also lots of online resources for guided journalling for kids. Check out my PInterest board for lots of ideas!
For a bonding experience with your child, consider a shared journal. Purchase a small journal or notebook and choose which one of you will start. On the first night, the "starter" will write something (it can be just a line or two, or as much as you want) and then leaves the book for the other person, who follows suit the next day, and so on. The result is a meaningful shared experience that is meant just for you and your child, and you'll end up with a meaningful memento, too!
I have a great suggestion for moms and kids who want to try the shared journalling experience: Mom & Me: An Art Journal to Share is the perfect way for you and your child to share your inner selves with each other through art. On each two-page spread, you'll find a prompt such as "Something that makes me feel sad is...." along with a starting point for answering the question visually (in this case, a giant tear drop).
It's the perfect way to open the lines of communication with your child in a way that may be easier for both of you than actually sitting down and having a formal conversation. It's nice to let our children learn about us as people, not just as their parent, and the Mom & Me art journal is an easy, low-pressure, and fun way to both give and gain insight. Plus, who doesn't love an excuse to draw and colour?
Standard Journals / Bullet Journals
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned journal or notebook for getting your kids into the habit of journalling, When you're dealing with kids, though, there's one thing I can suggest: Make it fun! Make the supplies as fun as possible and your child will be more enticed to get engaged in something that may otherwise feel a bit like a chore at first. When you add fun supplies into the mix, however, the whole game is changed. The key is to know what is going to appeal to your child, so you can get them excited about jumping into the idea of journalling!
Check out some of my favourite journalling supplies in the follow-up to this post, here!