Children are best described as little bodies with big feelings. As a parent, you couldn’t bear stronger testimony to that. Children begin to experience a wide range of emotions from the time of their birth. However, the ability to regulate these emotions evolves much later. This emphasizes the need to give your children the opportunity to express their emotions and feelings in a way that feels comfortable and familiar to them. Developing a habit of journaling can be a great tool for them to express themselves freely.
Journaling is a written record of thoughts and feelings. It is different from a personal diary, that usually keeps a track of daily events or mundane incidents. A journal, on the other hand, can help your child articulate their thoughts and ideas. It simply is about giving them an outlet for recounting actions and expressing their emotions. Think of it as “My big book of feelings and everything else”. And our children need this tool now, more than ever. Being home for almost a year now, twice-removed from their social environment, with a pandemic still lurking around, their little minds I’m sure, have much they want to say.
The benefits of journaling are aplenty. From freedom to expression to provide a cathartic release, journaling can be a very useful tool for children to develop emotional stability.
As children go through a range of emotions, it can be difficult for them to express themselves to another person. I’ve often seen my 4-year-old bursting with emotions and unable to articulate it. Providing a written space, that is private to them, can be a safe space for them to express themselves. Most of all, it allows them to express their emotions in a way most familiar to them. Colouring and drawing seem apt for my little one.
If you thought only us adults have stress-related issues, you thought wrong. Making journaling a regular part of one’s life has known to reduce stress and increase one’s emotional literacy. Your children can see it as an open canvas to reveal themselves, their ideas, feelings and analyse the same as a way of reflection. It can also help reduce anxiety and provide a new perspective on the emotions they are experiencing.
Although it may not be one of the key goals of journaling, a journal often becomes a memory book, as children look back on it as they grow up. There could be memorable events written down or little souvenirs stapled in or self victories jotted down. It is bound to become a treasured book for your children to hold on to as they grow older. Think of how nostalgic it would be for your child to grow up and read a page about their first trip to the zoo or what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Apart from helping children develop their emotional capacity, a journal also helps them develop their writing, art and language skills. It can also help nurture their creativity.
As much as journaling can be an effective tool for children, if imposed on them, it can seem like a chore and lose its purpose. Children love being given the choice to make decisions. Let your child make the decisions about their journal. Let them pick what kind of book they want to journal in. Younger kids might feel more inclined to journal if they’re allowed to choose colourful pens, stickers and special stationery.
Younger children might need prompts to start journaling. You can find free worksheets that fit their age. You can find tons of ideas online and for free. Their journals can also include colouring and drawing as that is something little children enjoy. Older children might do better with written prompts once in a while. Giving them ideas like “My strengths, what makes me happy or drawing up lists on various topics can be a start. You can also include photographs and sentimental souvenirs.
Try and set aside a particular time for journaling, so that your children receive the little nudge at first to make journaling a regular habit. It can be made a family activity as a little part of your weekend plans. Not only will this allow you time together, but also keeping them company will make it more exciting for your children, especially younger ones. They will need less support and reminders from you once they’ve established the practice.
We need to remember at all times that journals are meant to be a safe space for children to express themselves, and if that means they want to keep it private, respect that. A journal will serve its purpose only when children feel like they can express themselves without restraint, kept far from prying eyes, knowing there will be no negative judgments. Trust your child and most likely, they will want to share things with you themselves.
It’s never too early or late to start journaling. Whether you have a young child or a preteen, you can give them a start today. Let them enjoy the art of journaling. Remember to keep it unstructured and that there are no rules. The important goal is to let them express themselves. Someday you’ll have on your hands an adult who is well-adjusted, who not only knows themselves, understands their emotions, but also expresses themselves as openly as you once taught them to.