We are living through unprecedented times (how sick are you of hearing that phrase?) and the repercussions of this global pandemic is something that will continue on for some time. The mental health impact is particularly difficult for kids who may not have the ability or tools to properly process everything that’s happening. This is where journaling plays an important role.
Connie Chang’s article in The Washington Post, How (and why) to start a journaling practice with kids, notes:
“Research and anecdotal evidence point to the many physical and mental health benefits of journaling; chief among them are better immune system function, stress reduction and lower rates of depression. Emily Edlynn, a child psychologist based in Illinois, encourages her patients to journal as a way of “managing difficult emotions — to externalize them and get them out of their heads and on to paper.”…Through this process of expressing their feelings, children can begin to make sense of them, which builds self-awareness and emotion-regulation skills.
Journaling also helps “kids be present-minded and reflect on what’s happening today, what they’re going through now,” says Joshua McKivigan, a behavioral health therapist who works with high school students in Pennsylvania. In the context of the current crisis, this awareness can tame the anxiety that often comes when we’re confronted with uncertainties.”
While journaling is often seen as just an emotional outlet, there are other types of journals and various benefits that kids can utilize. Amanda Morin’s post on VeryWellFamily.com, The Benefits of Journaling for Kids, shares the possibilities of journals dedicated to math, social studies, science, nature, etc. for kids who either struggle with those topics or have a special interest in them. She also lists the benefits of “traditional journaling,” where you write to a prompt, stating:
“It can be a self-provided prompt, a prompt picked from a journal jar or parent-directed prompt…This type of journaling can:
- Improve written communication. The more your child writes to prompts, the more your child’s writing skills will improve. He will learn how to answer a question by rephrasing the statement and learn how much information is needed to convey a full thought.
- Improve spelling and grammar. Though it’s not necessary to hold your child to a perfect spelling standard, expecting him to always spell his sight words correctly is one way to help him to spell them correctly all the time. The more he writes, the more he will learn what makes a complete sentence and how paragraphs are made up of sentences that all support one topic.
- Improve reading skills. Kids imitate what they know. When you first start prompted journal writing with your child, you may find that his writing is structured a lot like his favorite books. He may even use some of the same catchphrases. The more he writes, the more likely he is to read in order to discover different voices and styles. Eventually, he’ll find one that is uniquely his own, but in the meantime, you may hear a lot of phrases that sound suspiciously like Junie B. Jones or Jack from The Magic Treehouse books.”
That said, some kids are more visually-driven, so journaling isn’t limited to only writing. They can draw pictures, cut out photos from magazines and/or print them from the internet to paste into their notebooks, or even spend time customizing the look of their journal. Comics, bullet pointed lists, and doodles are all valid forms of self-expression and emotional processing.
If this is something you’d like to learn more about or think would benefit your child, the Youth Services Department is holding a weekly journaling session, complete with prompts, dedicated journaling time, and the chance to share in a safe space every Wednesday from 4-4:45 pm. Free customizable journals are included in this month’s Make and Take Kits, but youths are welcome to bring their own journals and notebooks to the meeting.
Register for the March sessions: