As parents, we want our children to be set up for success in all areas of their life. Whether we’re dealing with their academic performance or emotional health, it’s our job to help them to grow up to be well-balanced individuals who know how to process their emotions and handle any challenges that come their way.
Yet, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right tools to help them grow and mature in the way we know they need to.
From a lockable diary to my Lisa Frank notebook, I remember spending much of my childhood writing down my thoughts and feelings on paper. I look forward to the day when I can encourage my children to do the same. Given the world we live in, it’s more important than ever for children to process their thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. Writing them down may be just the tool they need to thrive in their daily lives.
The difference between a journal and a diary
Identifying the difference between a journal and a diary can be quite confusing because the words are often used interchangeably. Both a diary and a journal can be a place where someone writes down their thoughts or feelings and, more often than not, keep a record of their day. While the word “journal” can also refer to a type of newspaper or magazine, it’s often used to describe the practice of being intentional in writing about specific topics as an emotional or creative outlet.
Journaling as a practice is often more focused than just keeping a diary. Although you may use a journal to write down how your day went, there are also many different types of journals, each with a specific purpose. For example, some choose to keep a gratitude journal where they take time each day to record what they’re grateful for.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with your child keeping a diary or a journal where they write down thoughts and feelings about their day. Still, focusing on a specific topic can help them get more out of journaling and guide them in a more positive direction.
When should children start journaling?
If you found yourself scribbling down all your significant and insignificant moments in a journal when you were a child, you might be eager to help your own kids adopt this practice as well.
There isn’t exactly an age requirement for journaling, and like most activities, the answer may vary depending on the child. If yours is able to write on their own, it’s never too early to teach them how to record their feelings. If you want to develop a more guided approach with specific topics or prompts, it will require a bit more discipline and maturity from your child.
Most guided journals are recommended for children ages 6 or 7 and up.
Benefits of journaling for children
Although many do find it enjoyable, journaling isn’t just a practice your children should do for fun. There are actually many ways your child can benefit from journaling.
According to a study done by Cambridge University, there are numerous physical and emotional health benefits to expressive writing or writing about stressful and emotional events. In fact, expressive writing can even be used as a therapeutic tool for those who have experienced traumatic events. The summer months are a great time to encourage your kids to start journaling as a way to counteract the learning loss that takes place during that time of year.
Here are some of the benefits of journaling for children:
1. Helps them express their feelings
Kids begin learning to express their feelings at a young age, but it’s not something that comes easy for most. Having a safe, private space where they can write down how they feel helps children process big emotions and express them to others in a clear way. It also helps children deal with the challenges they go through, especially in the tween and teen years.
2. Improves their communication skills
Communication is another skill that takes time to build, and practicing written communication is a great way to develop that skill. Even if your child is writing a journal entry that no one will ever read, it allows them to build confidence in their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
When children feel what they have to say is important, they will feel more confident in sharing their ideas with others.
3. Allows them to hone their writing skills
Journaling is also a practical way to help children improve their writing skills, both for creative and academic purposes. As an educator, I frequently have my students respond to journal prompts on various topics.
Even though I expect very little structure in this type of writing, it still allows them to practice writing for a given amount of time, structure their sentences in a creative manner, and articulate their ideas in a way that others can understand.
How to encourage your child to write in their journal
Even though there are many benefits to journaling, it doesn’t mean your child is going to enjoy it right away. The practice of journaling may come naturally to some kids, while others may resist it at first.
If you’re trying to encourage your child to write in their journal, one of the best ways to get them writing is to set an example. Allocating time for the family to write together is a great way to encourage your kid to write in their journals.
Another helpful strategy is to let them take charge in the process. Giving them some say in what they’ll be writing about or when will make them more likely to enjoy the practice of journaling.
Types of diaries or journals for children
There are various types of diaries or journals out there, and getting your kid a specific type of journal can even help encourage them to write on a more regular basis.
Here are some of the top-rated diaries or journals for children:
1. Gratitude journal
If you’re looking for a more guided approach for your child, a gratitude journal is a great place to start.
Options like this 3 Minute Gratitude Journal can be a great way to start the journaling process and help your child build a habit of writing down something they’re grateful for on a daily basis.
Practicing gratitude comes with its own set of benefits as well, so this type of journal can be a great starter. The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal is best suited for children ages 7-10.
2. Daily question journal
Another guided approach to journaling for kids is to buy them a journal that asks them to specifically respond to a prompt or question every day, such as this One Question a Day for Kids journal.
It is suitable for kids ages 6-12 and can be helpful for kids who are just getting started and struggle to find something to write about.
The daily question will provide them with the inspiration they need to express themselves and develop the habit of writing daily.
3. Children’s lockable journal/diary
If you feel your child is ready for a little more creative freedom or simply needs a safe space to record their feelings, a blank children’s diary with a lock might be a good choice. Part of what makes the journaling process so therapeutic is that children feel they can write down whatever they’re thinking or feeling and it will stay private.
A locked journal or diary can help them feel that what they write is secure and safe from others, especially when it comes to other siblings, who might tend to snoop around.
Although many diaries or journals are geared towards young girls, there are many journals out there for young boys as well.
4. Nature journal
A nature journal is a great way to get your child writing while also encouraging them to spend time outdoors. Nature journaling helps children be more observant and pay attention to the world around them. They can use the journal to document interesting parts of nature, using all their senses to learn about their surroundings.
Although a blank journal can work well for children who feel comfortable documenting their observations, a dedicated nature journal is an effective starting point for those who have never done nature journaling before.
The Nature Journal for Little Explorers, for example, is perfect for beginners because it prompts them to write down specific details about nature, such as the weather or temperature. This nature journal is great for kids ages 5-7.
No matter what phase of life your child is in, as long as they can write, it’s never too early or too late to make journaling a regular practice. Even many adults have found it to help them deal with the stress of daily life, especially in this day and age.
You have no idea how much it could benefit your family as a whole to start journaling and write down what you think and feel. Not only will it help your children practice their communication skills, but it will also be a time to bond and connect with your family.