Those who journal are in good company. Some of history’s greatest visionaries, including Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill, and Marie Curie, kept journals.
But aside from famous company, there are other important reasons for journaling. Studies show that keeping a journal reduces stress, improves focus and boosts mood. A 2005 study revealed that journaling about stressful events resulted in significantly better physical and mental health outcomes for participants.
With benefits like these, it’s clear why encouraging your child to journal is key. Here are five more reasons to get started:
1. Journaling supports academic skills.
In an age when most writing is done on computers, journaling provides access to benefits that only writing by hand provides.
By improving penmanship, the practice of journaling can directly impact academics. According to Steve Graham, a professor at Vanderbilt University, good handwriting can improve a classroom test score from the 50th to the 84th percentile. He also notes that “people judge the quality of your ideas based on your handwriting.”
Researchers have also found that writing by hand helps with learning shapes and letters, and may support the development of fine motor skills in young children. For older children, the skill of organizing their thoughts and ideas is developed through journaling.
Though we might assume children are given plenty of handwriting opportunities at school, this is not always the case.
Most schools still include conventional handwriting instruction in their primary grade curriculum, but today that amounts to just over an hour a week, according to Zaner-Bloser Inc., one of the nation’s largest handwriting curriculum publishers.
– Gwendolyn Bounds, Wall Street Journal
By journaling at home, children have access to a host of academic benefits they might not otherwise encounter.
2. Keeping a journal stimulates creativity.
When it comes to starting a journal, the options are limited only by your child’s imagination. Journals can be anything they wish–from a loose collection of thoughts or drawings to recordings with a specific purpose and format.
To generate interest, define journaling as an outlet for your child’s expression. Allow them to decorate and fill their journal with anything that appeals to them. Materials like markers, colored pencils and stickers are motivating too.
If your children have difficulty getting started, ask what they would like to journal about. Are they fans of the outdoors? A nature journal with drawings of birds or insects might pique their interest. Avid summer explorers? They might love a summer adventures journal.
Most importantly, remember that journals are meant to encourage expression–not perfection. If parents critique or criticize the journal’s content, creativity and motivation will almost certainly diminish.
3. Keeping a journal promotes self-exploration.
Journaling is a tool for self-discovery and exploration. When children have access to journals, the seeds for personal growth and deepening self-awareness are planted.
Many journals created for children have writing prompts, questions, and engaging illustrations. Questions that prompt self-discovery might include:
- What makes you smile?
- What are the qualities of a good friend?
- What is one thing you’ve always wanted to try that you haven’t yet?
- What does a perfect day look like for you?
- Describe yourself in 10 words.
- Who is your hero and why?
Prompts like these allow children to reflect on their values, hopes, and beliefs. The resulting journal entries can also provide a touchstone, showing kids who they were at the time of writing and ways in which they’ve changed or grown.
4. Journaling sharpens memory.
Not only does journaling let children record memories, it actually improves their memory. Studies show that writing in a journal benefits working (short term) memory.
Research on expressive writing at the University of Texas at Austin revealed that by writing about an experience, the experience becomes graspable. Writing down events as they happen preserves the memory, and children can better comprehend their lives.
A life worth living is a life worth recording.
– Jim Rohn, entrepreneur
While journaling cannot change the events that happen during the day, it does afford children some choice about how to remember them. Children have the freedom of what to record, and how they’d like to revisit each event.
5. Journaling helps address big feelings.
Many children have difficulty verbalizing their emotions. Therefore, providing other outlets for expressing feelings is key.
Journals should be a safe, judgment-free zone. Children must feel secure in order to sort through their complicated (and uncomfortable) emotions like sadness, anger, and disappointment.
Before encouraging your child to journal about feelings, consider that journals are for their eyes only. Says Amanda Morin, child development writer, “If you can’t make this promise, you can’t expect your child to take on this type of journaling.”
Depending on your child’s age, a feelings journal could take different forms. A younger child might use it to identify or label their current emotion or draw a picture of how they feel. Older children could create a gratitude journal, or to reflect on an upsetting moment and view it more objectively.
You can start by modeling journal writing yourself. When you have a difficult or challenging moment, point out that you are going to a quiet space to sit down and write. When the feelings have passed, discuss with your child how the process of journaling helped you release your feelings.
Journaling about feelings, especially for those who struggle with open communication, is a much healthier alternative to bottling them up.
Particularly during this global pandemic, we all are experiencing big feelings and may be struggling at times with how to deal with them. A family practice of journaling can help each member name and express those emotions in a safe, healthy way. Check out the Big Life Journal to learn more about their journals with writing and drawing prompts for kids!
Guest Author Alexandra Eidens is the founder of Big Life Journal, an engaging resource to help kids develop a resilient growth mindset so they can face life’s challenges with confidence.
CPCK Note: There was an incredible synchronicity earlier this week when I was collaborating with Alexandra to publish this article and a family member reached out to me to share how much her son was enjoying working on his own Big Life Journal. Thank you, Alexandra! This is a wonderful resource for children and teens alike!
Free COVID-19 Time Capsule Printable – If you are interested in offering your child the opportunity to journal during the pandemic about time at home, check out this free downloadable set of pages by Natalie Long of LONG Creations.