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Journaling with your Child, Teenager, or Student

Written by Bethany Todd, in collaboration with Laura Barr

Journaling is an effective way for parents and children to communicate with each other. It invites both parties to slow down, quiet oneself, and, reflect on thoughts and feelings, before communicating them. Journaling is also effective because it is a process. Communication with children, and especially teenagers, is often emotionally charged or reactionary. Journaling is a different form of communication because it requires reflection, time, and thought.

I recently heard of journaling with your child and immediately decided it would be a great way for my daughter and I to communicate and express ourselves. After an evening of tears, in which my daughter said she was disappointed in herself for yelling at me but that she couldn’t help it,  I shared the idea of journaling with her. She was immediately excited and agreed that it might help.

After a week of us journaling together, I’ve realized that the tool is almost more for me than my daughter! Just last night, I lost my patience with my daughter at bedtime. I grabbed the journal on the way out the door. Once I calmed down, I was able to appropriately and more gracefully communicate with my her. When I returned to my daughter’s room, we both smiled as she put her hand out to accept the journal, anxious to read it. I was happy to model my own failures and delighted that I was able to communicate it to her without interruption. It was magical.


How to Journal with your Child or Student:

  1. Buy or Make a journal.
  2. Talk with your student or child about who will be included in writing and/or reading the journal.
  3. Have a conversation about what your child can write, good times to write, and more.
  4. Identify the goals of the journal. This helps you to respond.
  5. Create a space for storing the journal and a comfy quiet space for writing..
  6. Journaling is  suppose to be fun, flexible, and another way to communicate. Don’t worry about how often your journal, kids will engage when they need it and so can you!


Pinterest has a lot of fun ideas for creating your own journals.


What are the benefits?

  • Fosters deeper connection
  • Encourages writing
  • Encourages sharing and honesty
  • Creates time for your child and you to be heard
  • Provides a safe space for sharing things that may be difficult to communicate in person


Thriving Parent encourages parents to make journaling with your child a “judgement-free zone”, a safe place where children can share their feelings and thoughts without fear of being judged or hurting someone’s feelings. Thriving parent also reminds parents to consider the goal for the writing. It is a place for communication, therefore, correcting student’s writing and work would not be appropriate and may discourage them from writing. Correcting writing should occur when they are specifically working on writing for homework or in school. And, your modeling of writing is a wonderful way for kids to learn writing skills.


Journaling with Students

Some of our struggling or frustrated students could truly benefit from journaling. Consider how you could use journaling with your students in the classroom. Could it be used when students are frustrated and need a break? Could you journal with just one student that needs a safe space to talk? Journaling with students can be a lot of work, so stop and think about if there is just one student that would really benefit from this type of communication.

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