It’s tough being a kid, learning how to cope with daily life, wondering whom to trust, and trying to discern how you fit into the world around you.
Ideally, your children will come to you to help them figure things out. But each of us, kid or adult, has a part of ourselves that we don’t want to reveal to anyone else.
One answer that people have resorted to since humans learned how to write is journaling. Also known as keeping a diary, the famous and not-at-all famous have written down their feelings, fears, and fantasies, talking on paper to themselves.
Psychology Today reports that the practice “provides a safe environment that enables you to face your traumas. When that happens, remarkable healing follows. Indeed, studies find that journaling can reduce pain, improve depression, and even lower markers of inflammation.”
Whether a recounting of each day’s activities, a gratitude journal, or just an exercise in free-writing feelings, psychologists agree that journaling can provide a safe outlet for children’s worries, stressors, or confusing emotions.
Emily Edlynn, a child psychologist based in Illinois, told The Washington Post that she encourages her patients to journal as an important step in “being able to recognize and name a variety of emotions.” She explained that this enables children to begin making sense of their feelings, thereby building self-awareness and emotional-regulation skills.
Burying negative emotions, she added, “is one of the risk factors for depression and impairs our health, both mentally and physically.”
How to encourage journaling
Experts agree that journaling shouldn’t be just one more task children have to perform. Instead, they should be allowed to select their own journaling tools, whether a plain notebook and pen, or one of the thousands of journals for kids available online.
Younger children can be encouraged to draw pictures, cut out photos from magazines, or incorporate stickers and glitter pens or markers into their daily journaling.
Other than offering writing prompts if they need help getting started, parents should encourage but not force the practice. You could set aside a time—after lunch or dinner, for example—when the whole family sits down to write in their journals.
Finally, it is absolutely crucial that parents assure their children that their journal is totally private unless they want to share. Otherwise, they may withhold their true feelings, thus defeating the purpose.