Many of us have probably tried our hands at journaling at some point in our lives.
(raise your hand if you called it a diary “back in the day”– *raises hand*)
I admit that I haven’t always been the best at writing in mine regularly. But when I have, it’s usually been times that I was struggling with something. An argument with a friend, a teacher I wasn’t fond of, struggles at home etc.
You may have done the same, or maybe you also wrote about good things and happy feelings.
It turns out that we were onto something.
By writing in our journals, we allowed ourselves a place to process and work through things.
How does journaling help with anxiety?
There are actual scientific studies (one example, and another) that have been conducted that show the ways that journaling can help with mental health.
Journaling can help with reducing stress, dealing with depression, coping with fears, and managing anxiety by allowing your child time to express and reflect on situations and reactions, emotions and feelings – whether negative or positive, happy or hurtful.
Getting our thoughts out of our head and onto paper is a way of releasing any negativity swirling around in there.
Tips for encouraging your child to journal:
As adults, it’s easy to assume that getting started journaling is as simple as getting a piece of paper and something to write with. And while that may be true in many cases, it’s not always the case. In fact, until it becomes a habit, many kids will struggle with the idea of writing regularly and thoughtfully about their feelings.
With that in mind, here are some tips that can be helpful in getting your child on board with journaling.
Let them pick out what they want to write with:
While you can write with anything, writing is a lot more fun with a cool pencil or a pen with colorful ink.
Let them choose a notebook or binder:
At the very least, allow her to decorate it however she’d like.
Don’t read it unless invited to:
As tempting as it might be to read it, allow him the privacy of a space to write his thoughts and feelings without fear of you reading it without his permission.
Let them pick when they want to write and a comfy spot to write:
In a favorite chair, outside in the grass, wherever. Don’t let it become a forced “sit at the table and do this now” sort of thing.
It’s not about neat writing, proper grammar, or length:
Encourage your child to just write. This may take some time for her to get used to. Remind her that there are no rules, and she can write as little or as much as she wants.
Keep a journal together:
If your child isn’t used to keeping a journal or writing about herself, this can be a helpful way to start. My daughter and I got into a habit of journaling together when she was going through a rough time at school. She would write in it – whatever she wanted and could ask me questions about anything. She’d give it to me before the end of the day and then I’d write in it. I’d answer her question(s), ask her questions, and give it to her before the end of the next day. Write as much or as little as you’d like. The questions can be silly, serious, personal, anything. Keeping a journal together became a really special way of connecting with her. And it opened my eyes to a lot of what she was thinking, feeling, and going through.
We kept ours in a regular composition notebook, but if you’d like something more guided, here is one for mothers and sons and one for mothers and daughters
Start with a gratitude journal:
Sometimes it’s just really hard to get our thoughts together and onto paper. If your child struggles to ‘just write’, let him keep a gratitude journal in the meantime. Learn more about the benefits of practicing gratitude.
And finally: if your child is really adverse to writing, allow them the option to create art or sing or move as a way of expressing themselves and releasing feelings of anxiety and stress. Art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy are all great example of ways that children learn to express themselves and work through thoughts that are causing anxiety.