In today’s world, writing plays a central role in our personal and professional lives. Just think about the number of written interactions you have had throughout your week so far.
Now consider: how effective are you as a writer? How well prepared are your own kids to handle those types of written interactions in their own lives?
Writing is a skill that you can strengthen with practice. This same practice can also yield extra benefits for your mental and emotional health. By making it a point to make personal, reflective journaling a part of your daily routine, you enhance your ability to craft the written word. At the same time, you can provide your brain with much needed stimulation and stress relief!
Perhaps even more importantly, when parents and adults model this commitment to journaling for their kids, it can help form and reinforce the importance of personal reflection as a lifelong habit.
Writing Takes Practice
Whether it’s building a business, navigating schoolwork, or just corresponding with friends on social media, writing is an indispensable skill. As with all skills, more practice means better results. Regular journaling is a great way to hone and develop writing skills in ways that will translate to everyday life.
Ask any teacher and they will tell you, there is no shortcut to improving writing skills. The act of organizing thoughts and crafting them into written language is something that only gets better through repetition.
While things like grammar, punctuation, and syntax are important, they follow rules that can be studied and referenced. However, strengthening the connections in the brain that are required to bring thoughts to paper (or screen) leads to profound gains in soft skill foundations like vocabulary usage, creativity, and insight. These are the more complex components of writing that can’t be quickly searched online or run through proofreading software.
After all, you never hear about someone getting “writer’s block” over where to place a comma; the hard part is knowing what to write and how to word those thoughts.
From a skill standpoint, the end result of regular journaling is that writing in other contexts becomes a smoother, more natural exercise over time. By modeling and encouraging daily journaling with your teen, you are promoting their use of the written language and, in turn, equipping them with a vital skill for personal, academic, and professional success.
Building Emotional Strength
Studies have shown that there is an increase in both emotional control and emotional well-being for those who journal regularly. Just as habitually carrying out the task of writing helps strengthen writing skills, regular interaction with one’s emotions helps to develop one’s emotional resilience.
It is no wonder, then, that journaling has been used as a therapeutic tool for decades.
In my own life, having a journal to write in and refer to during times of stress has been transformative. In particular, there was a time where I suffered from sudden, debilitating panic attacks. My heart would race and I would feel completely trapped and paralyzed by feelings of dread and hopelessness.
Journaling provided a key way to unpack those difficult feelings and also served as a reference to help remind myself that I had endured these episodes in the past.
Now, years later, the panic attacks have largely subsided, and I have been able to take a much stronger control over my own emotional well-being. While journaling wasn’t the only tool I’ve relied upon, it has certainly been one of the most clearly impactful.
It turns out I’m not alone. People who routinely keep some sort of journal tend to report higher degrees of overall happiness and a general improvement in their quality of life. Add these mental health benefits to the aforementioned improvements in writing skills, and it becomes hard to deny the power of the journaling experience.
The “No Snooping” Rule
Journals truly provide a great forum to unpack emotions and work through personal conflicts. But to truly reap the emotional benefits from journaling, writers (regardless of their age) must learn to be honest with themselves. When an author’s only audience is themselves, there is that safety and freedom to be truly honest and open. With practice, this honesty becomes second nature.
As a parent, this means that you need to refrain from the temptation to snoop on your kid’s journal. I know, I know, the temptation to open up what could potentially be the cheat-sheet for understanding a moody teen or shy child is a strong one. Don’t do it!
When approaching the subject of journaling in your household, there has to be a hard and fast “no snooping” rule. While there may be occasions where someone wants to share a particular entry, this should never be expected or even suggested. Journals are personal experiences and should be respected as such.
How to Get Your Child to Start Journaling
Writers typically produce their best writing when they feel a personal connection to their topic. For teens, journaling hits the sweet spot: they have the opportunity for writing practice and get to focus on content that they are biologically and psychologically drawn to – themselves. In actuality, sometimes compelling content isn’t enough.
Here are some suggestions to try to kick start your teen’s journaling habit:
- Set aside a time to conspicuously journal yourself – curl up in a favorite chair or kick back in the yard. Not only will you be reaping the benefits in your own life, but you eliminate any sense that you are being hypocritical in your efforts to get your child journaling.
- Offer your child a budget to find a journal or diary that they like. Etsy has loads of affordable, customizable options!
- Find and share sites that provide writing prompts to help get the thoughts and words flowing.
- Reinforce that there is no wrong way to journal. Share examples of different types and focal points for starting a journal.
Keep in mind, sometimes suggesting and/or modeling a behavior isn’t enough to get it to take root. While there may be some strong resistance, sometimes it just boils down to the fact that starting a new routine can be a difficult thing to do.
Regardless of the cause, if your child is resisting the idea of journaling, don’t force it. One of the key goals of journaling is to provide an opportunity to help relieve stress, not elevate it. Keep modeling and providing opportunities for the kids in your life to take up the habit; who knows, their personal journaling journey may actually be happening secretly behind the scenes.
How has journaling been beneficial in your life? Share your experiences with our readers in the comments below!