My journal is a confidante, a creativity tool, and a way of finding clarity like no other. So, as soon as my children were old enough to grip a crayon, I have been encouraging to keep their own personal journals.
>> How does journaling benefit a child?
Children reap the same benefits in keeping a personal journal as do adults.
At all ages, there are just certain times when life feels fuzzy, and we know it’s time to get out our journal and write until things make more sense. Gaining clarity in this way can help us sort things out and determine when we need to talk things out with someone – and what precisely our needs are. In this way, journals serve as a remarkable way to increase self esteem and to allow children to observe their lives from a new perspective.
Journals offer a safe place for children to express themselves creatively. Journals also preserve memories for posterity. They offer the most authentic evidence of a child’s point of view at particular and various stages of their lives.
>> How can I help my child start journaling?
Here are some ideas:
- Above all, journaling needs to be fun for kids. I find the best success when I don’t offer specific prompts of exercises (because I don’t want it to feel like homework.)
- Kids also need to know their journal is absolutely private and confidential. A child needs to be able to trust that parents, siblings, and friends will not peek in to the journal unless specifically invited to do so.
Ask your child if there’s anything in the journal he or she would like to share with anyone, but make sure your child knows that you will not be reading it – and the focus is not on writing things correctly – but on expressing themselves and getting to the meat of her own thoughts.
- Allow your children to choose their own journal – and maybe a unique pen. Encourage your children to personalize the journal. Give them a magazine and have them cut out words and images that describe them and create a collage on the cover that is unique to them.
A personal journal doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, I find that I’m less inhibited in my journaling if the book is a plain old notebook or composition book. If your child is more apt to draw photos than to write, consider a sketchpad instead. Some kids feel most comfortable with some notecards and a special “thought box,” which can also be decorated and personalized.
- Emphasize the fact that there is no right or wrong way to keep a personal journal. This is about letting life flow and to capture it however you like.
- Write in your journal alongside your child. I am in the habit of writing in my journal each day. When you model that behavior, you’ll find that this is how your children use their journals as well. My daughter leaves her journal in the car so that it’s readily available during her quiet downtime each day.
Susie Cortright is the creator of Momscape.com – a website devoted to celebrating life with children. Find out more about effective personal journal writing prompts and worksheets and our recommendation on Journaling Software. Visit Susie’s site today and get a subscription to her online magazine for free: http://www.momscape.com/subscribe.htm
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