My personal journal has long been a confidant, 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 started encouraging them 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 certain times when life feels fuzzy, and we know that it is 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 enhance 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 their unique point of view at particular and various stages of their lives.
How can I help my child start journaling?
Here are some ideas:
1. Above all, journaling needs to be fun for kids. I find the best success when I do not offer specific prompts or writing exercises (mostly because I do not want it to feel like homework.) But if your child is stuck, start by asking them a few simple questions. What is the most exciting thing they have done in the past week, month, or year? What is the favorite part of their bedroom? Who is their best friend and why? Who is their favorite fictional character? Do they ever feel like a particular color? Why?
2. Kids 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 into the journal unless specifically invited to do so.
Ask your child if there is 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. Also, let your children know that the main focus is not on writing things correctly but on expressing themselves and getting to the meat of their own thoughts.
3. Allow your children to choose their own journals and maybe a unique pen. Encourage your children to personalize the journal, too. 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 does not have to be expensive. In fact, I find that I am 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.
4. 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 they like. Encourage them to incorporate notes, quotes, photos, magazine articles, memorabilia, and sketches in their journals.
5. Write in your own journal alongside your child. I am in the habit of writing in my journal each day. When you model that behavior, you will find that this is how your children use their journals as well. My daughter leaves her journal in the car so that it is readily available during her quiet downtime each day.