Writing in a journal is an excellent activity for kids. It gives them time to be quiet with their feelings, and they can express themselves without fear of judgement. My daughter is on the cusp of tweenhood. She is at a point where the big feelings are starting to emerge. Having an outlet that allows her to quietly process her internal world in a tangible physical way is so important.
Just writing out a thought and seeing it in physical form can be enough to push through something that would otherwise be internalized. Those internalized feelings and emotions have a way of coming out at the most inopportune times. By journaling, your child has control over what they want to say, as well as how they want to say it without anyone jumping in and judging or correcting them.
Benefits of Journaling
The benefits of journaling are not just emotional. When a child journals, they work on their communication skills. To be able to express themselves through writing draws on their personal vocabulary. It also helps with handwriting skills. Some kids don’t communicate that strongly in a verbal capacity and writing can be a much better way to express themselves. I personally have always gravitated towards writing to express myself.
As a young kid I was not into journaling. I think I missed out on something that I would have appreciated as an adult and that would have benefited me emotionally as a kid. Looking back over my life through the eyes of my experience it would have been nice to have some journals to gain greater insight into my younger self.
I wrote a bit, here and there, in high school but never kept a formal journal. It wasn’t until I entered college that I wrote in a journal. Even then it wasn’t with much consistency. However, rereading those journals today I know exactly what I was thinking and feeling because those were the most raw and unedited writings of my life.
By encouraging your child to keep a journal and explaining that they can write their thoughts and feelings down it will help them be much happier. I do not have any proven science behind this, just my own experiences. What I do know is that when I have a problem that I am thinking about in my head for days and days I always feel better when I finally write things out.
To Read or Not to Read
The biggest no-no in all this journaling talk is parents reading the journals. That is a complete violation of privacy and trust. The only journal that a parent can and should read is a dialogue journal.
A couple years ago, my wife and daughter went to a day retreat for mothers and daughters and they came home with a dialogue journal. This is a journal that my daughter writes in to ask questions and express feelings about anything that is bothering her. She then leaves it on my wife’s pillow for my wife to read before bed. My wife then reads it and writes a response to my daughter and they may go back and forth for days until a resolution is reached. They have found it to be a great tool to communicate.
Several times during the past week my daughter came downstairs after she was supposed to be asleep. My wife and I asked her what was wrong and she said she couldn’t sleep. We asked if anything was on her mind and she said that nothing was. This went on for a few days. We knew that something was on her mind and that she needed to process whatever it was that was bothering her. We also knew that it would be something that she would discuss with my wife once she could express what was wrong. She used the dialogue journal to let my wife in on what was bothering her. She was able to express exactly what was on her mind and hasn’t had any more visits downstairs since.
So, I’d encourage you to take your child to a bookstore and pick out a journal (personal or dialogue) and maybe a special writing utensil. You might also want to pick one up for yourself. Journaling has benefits at any age.