One day our kids will look back on these strange times with mixed emotions. Their memories will be a jumble of feelings and fleeting images…probably of being told to wash their hands and having hair cuts from mum. But also of schooling at home and perhaps their own unnamed fears. Hopefully, there will be lots of lovely family memories too. For most kids, it’s a rare treat to have mum and dad all to themselves for days on end.
It would be great if our kids had a written or video account of this strange time in their lives. I highly recommend, that as part of their everyday routine, all kids keep a journal.
Not only would keeping a journal be a great home-schooling activity, but it is proven to be a powerful tool in emotional regulation. It is a way of processing feelings and creating perspective.
A journal doesn’t have to be written. It can be video, drawings, photographs, poetry, prose or collage…whatever! Their imagination is the limit.
Here are six ways that keeping a journal can help during the pandemic:
1. Journalling can be used to regulate emotions
Often, we write ourselves into an understanding of how we feel. The overwhelming feelings become more ordered. When they are more ordered and down on paper they don’t seem so big anymore. We can look at them and name them, instead of drowning in them.
Daniel J Siegel, renowned author of the Whole-BrainChild says, “Simply writing down our account of a challenging experience can lower physiological reactivity and increase our sense of wellbeing, even if we never show what we’ve written to anyone else.”
The act of focusing on the experience of the pandemic and its associated feelings, then articulating them could be very cathartic for your kids. It is also a great way of keeping track of what has changed in their lives.
2. Journals can help us communicate with our kids
Although journals are often private and personal, they don’t have to be. You can have a shared journal with your child.
It is often difficult for kids to talk to their parents about how they are feeling, especially when those feelings are confusing. Aren’t we all a little confused and overwhelmed by this pandemic?
In a shared journal, both the parent and the child can write about how they are feeling. They can ask questions they have or write about the things they want the other to know. They can then leave it in a place the other will find it. The journal is a safe space. I love this idea; it is very powerful and could be a wonderful tool in these strange times.
3. Journalling is a great gratitude practice
Gratitude practice is proven to have a powerful impact on the way we see the world and our place in it. Journalling about the good things in life, especially in turbulent times can lead to a more optimistic perspective.
A photo journal is great for promoting positivity. Ask your children to take a photo of something that gives them joy every day. The act of taking those photos will make them focus on the positive, and your child will end up with a collection of positive images they can draw on when they feel the need.
4. Journalling allows us to be creative
With so many events and commitments cancelled, kids will have a lot more time on their hands to think and overthink. Let’s get creative. Journalling is a brilliant tool for developing and experimenting with creativity.
When we write creatively, we become more creative generally. Wouldn’t that escape be a wonderful gift for your children to take from all of this tragedy and upset? The extra good thing about being creative in a journal is, there is no threat of getting it ‘wrong’ or not being good enough.
5. Journalling can be a form of mindfulness
Journalling, particularly on a specific topic with a time limit, is a good mindfulness practice. We become engrossed in the task and we stop dwelling in the past or fretting about the future. You can start with five minutes a day, and gradually increase to ten minutes or more.
I used to begin English classes in this way. Journalling calmed kids down for the beginning of a period of learning and it fuelled their creativity at the same time. They had a big list of suggested prompts or they could write about anything on their mind. They liked it.
6. Journalling can declutter the mind
When we write about a worrying experience or idea, we can literally and figuratively, ‘put it down’. A big component of stress and fatigue is the ‘mental load’ we carry around each day. Putting our worries down on paper can help lessen that load. It frees us up to get on with other things…like sleep.
A bit of journal writing before going to bed will stop kids from ruminating.
Journalling is like a lot of things that are good for us. It doesn’t necessarily feel good to start with (Jogging, I’m looking at you!). However, it’s worth the initial effort and persistence. At the very least your child will have a wonderful account of these strange days that they can look back on.
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Linda Stade has worked in various teaching and management roles in education for twenty-eight years. She has worked in government and private schools, country and city, single-sex and co-ed. Currently, she is a writer, speaker and consultant in Western Australia. You can find out more about her work here.