Journaling allows people to have a non-judgmental, accessible outlet where they can pour out their thoughts and feelings. But is there any merit to having your kids start journaling at a young age?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes! Despite being young, child psychologist Emily Edlynn emphasizes that children are very observant and are very capable of feeling things deeply. That’s why she encourages her patients to journal as a way of externalizing the contents of their minds. In this feature, we’re rounding up the main benefits of journaling for kids, as well as our best tips to help you guide them.
1) Helps Them Process Emotions
Through processing their feelings in a healthy manner, children can make sense of them, which in turn builds self-awareness and emotion-regulation skills. This is why SymptomFind calls it an empathy-building activity alongside volunteering and role play. They note that the practice of writing thoughts, feelings, and observations down allows kids to become more empathetic and mindful of how they are making their peers feel. If kids are processing emotions fully, they’ll be able to learn more about themselves and the people that surround them.
2) Allows Them to Communicate Better
Misunderstandings between family members are inevitable, but journaling will help minimize them. In our post on ‘How to Communicate Well with Your Children’, we highlight that some children find it hard to put their thoughts into words and that some even require assistance from child speech pathologists. Establishing good journaling practices plays a part in helping children develop ‘emotional literacy’, or the ability to recognize and put a name to a variety of emotions. In this way, families will be able to discuss what they are feeling more openly.
3) Inspires Creativity
In addition to encouraging kids to communicate more openly, journaling also inspires creativity. Since the practice allows for utter self-expression without fear of judgment, anything they can think of goes. Kids can write about their day, or they can write poetry, lyrics to a song, a story, or a dialogue between two of their beloved animated characters.
Children can even add drawings to make their journal entries more expressive (and creative). Aside from writing, creativity can also be expressed in the form of decorative elements they choose to adorn their journal and their choice of writing tools. Pencils and markers are cool, but personalized pens are cooler.
How to Encourage Journaling?
1) Daily Prompt
One of the easiest ways to get the words flowing is to introduce simple journaling prompts, such as ‘What happened today?’ and ‘How did you feel about what happened?’ Starting with simpler, more mundane questions allow children to enter a reflective state and can serve as an internal icebreaker to help them be willing to open up further. Delegate specific times at the end of the day and give your children the privacy they need to empty their thoughts into writing.
2) Emotions Journal
A study on expressive writing by the Cambridge University Press revealed that spending 15 minutes per day to jot down emotional events has led to significantly better physical and psychological outcomes. Expressive writing can avert depressive and avoidance symptoms, and can greatly benefit children under stress. If your child has been struggling to cope with troublesome events like the pandemic, an emotions journal will be a great outlet for their negative emotions.
3) Freeform Journal
For younger children, encourage them to journal through engaging forms, like an arts-centered journal or a drawing journal. Research by the American Public Health Association showed connections between expressing emotions in a creative manner and improvements in mood, health, and social functioning. Allow them to express their answers freely to open-ended questions such as, “This is why I’m angry/happy/scared.” Let them doodle, decorate, or make their journal entries as personal as they want them to be. Encouraging innovation will also improve their right brain activity, which involves creative problem-solving skills.
Overall, journaling is a great avenue for processing emotions, improving communication, and reflecting upon oneself — the younger you can instill this habit into your kids, the better.