Most of us, especially when we’re working with children, see writing as a subject, task or skill. Sometimes we forget the purpose of writing: to effectively communicate with other people. It’s not just about assignments and grading. Writing allows us to express ourselves in a different way than speaking. When we speak, words flow off our tongues that can never be recovered and often can’t be repaired, stuck out there for a lifetime and beyond. Writing allows us to think about how we order our words, choosing exactly what we want to express and even provides the ability to erase and revise without anyone ever knowing what we changed.
Recently, I recalled an article idea that I used for a stationery company who hired me to write their blog. They sold some beautiful journals so I developed the idea of using journals for couples to better communicate. Basically, a spouse might start the journal, writing about a topic, asking a question or both. The journal is then left on the other spouse’s pillow for a response. The idea behind the journaling is that sometimes we can ask questions or express ourselves more easily in writing than with the spoken word. As well, we are less likely to write ugly things than we are to say them so problems may be solved and memorable kindnesses expressed.
It came to me that this could also work with parents and their children. Some parents write journals to their children, but often those writings aren’t shared until much later when the children are older or the parents pass away. What about journaling to your child in the present, at a moment in time when it might be beneficial? How about sharing those ideas that come to mind at the end of a busy day when they’re fast asleep or in the early morning, when they have yet to wake? What if you put that journal on your child’s pillow or nightstand to read and delight in?
Take it a step further. What if you had your child respond to your words, or share a new idea, question or hope? Imagine what you might discover about yourself and your child in the process. Imagine that years from now, when your child is struggling with a loss, lack of faith or loneliness, he picks up that journal and remembers how much you both love each other.
When we’re in the midst of raising children, sometimes many of them at the same time, we get caught up in schedules, school work, character building, church and life, in general. But consider taking five minutes a day to journal a thought to your child and start a dialogue that could open doors you never considered. Share a childhood memory, a Bible verse, a word of praise, a prayer or a dream. You might be surprised with what you receive back!
My goal for my own children has always been to create life-long learners, not just excellent students. I want them to desire to learn about new things throughout their entire lives. Such a desire can bring great happiness as life seems more like an adventure or opportunity to grow than just time passed doing what is required, even in our Christian walk. In my most difficult periods, I have still had the joy of learning something new and exciting. Exploring new ideas and communicating about them through journaling can help your children change their attitude about writing. You might find that they continue journaling as an adult, which is an extremely healthy activity.
According to a study from the University of Texas, journaling helps reduce stress, promotes problem solving and encourages healthy resolutions to disagreements. It also utilizes the left side of your brain (the analytical side) which frees your right side to work on more creative and intuitive ideas. Professional writers often journal to remove “writer’s block” and therapists use journaling to encourage patients to communicate and clarify their thoughts and emotions.
If you have more than two children, consider journaling with a different child each month. It will be something that each child can look forward to…a special time just with you. Choose an age when your child can start journaling…make it a tradition or a privilege. Add doodles, drawings, a special sign between you and your child that makes it more intimate. With all the instructions online for book making, you could even create the journals as a project before you start writing, personalizing them with a photo.
For reluctant writers, don’t expect much, but don’t be surprised when you receive more than you expect. A sentence may become a paragraph. Also, don’t try to make it happen every day for reluctant writers, unless your child desires to do so. Two to three times a week is plenty for children who don’t enjoy writing. Whatever you do, don’t make this journaling a school assignment and don’t edit your child’s journal or require any sort of rewrite. Allow this journal to be a unique opportunity, not more class work. It’s important for children to view writing as valuable beyond school assignments.
If you try out this idea, please let us know it works for you. If you have other writing ideas that you have used to build your relationship with your children, we’d love to hear about those as well.
Thanks for reading and God bless your family!