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Benefits of Journaling For Children and Parents, Tips & Prompts

| Benefits of Journaling | Tips on How to Start Journaling | Journal Writing Prompts |

What is Journaling?

Journaling is the practice of writing down ideas, thoughts, feelings, or experiences in a journal. It can be used as a tool for both positive and negative emotions. It helps you organize thoughts, express emotions, cope with stress, reflect on experiences, and improve your writing.

A journal can be a diary, log, notebook, or blank book.

Journaling can take place in different forms. 

It can be structured with specific topics and objectives. Some people journal to document their daily events or upsetting feelings. Others use journaling to keep track of thoughts and ideas in daily life.

It can also be unstructured and open-ended as a way to process thoughts, explore issues, or record creative self-expression.

Themes can be used as part of journaling – gratitude journals, art journals, bullet journals, and travel journals, for example.

There are various ways to keep a journal.

Some people prefer to write in long-hand, while others prefer to type on a computer or tablet. 

Some like to add photos or drawings to their journals, while others prefer to keep it simple with just words.

There is no wrong way to journal.

girl writes in journal

Benefits of Journaling

Journaling is a great activity for people of all ages, but children can get a lot out of it in particular. Here are some life-changing benefits of journaling for children.

Strengthen learning in school

Journaling is writing to learn. It is a great learning tool for children to reinforce what they’ve learned in school.

The process of articulating an idea forces the mind to process and clarify its meaning. 

In school, students make connections between new knowledge and previous knowledge when they journal. It encourages deeper understanding rather than surface learning​1​.

Studies showed that students gained a better understanding of course materials and were able to apply them in more situations​2​.

In life, journaling provides a safe space where children can express themselves freely. It allows them to reflect on what they’ve learned from their daily experiences. 

They can process stressful events and look for opportunities for learning. grati

Express emotions and build resilience

Journaling can be a source of comfort for children as emotion suppression is bad for them.

It allows them to express their emotions, especially negative ones, in a safe and confidential way.

Expressive writing helps them process and reflect on difficult emotions, make sense of life events and understand themselves better​3​.

They learn from past experiences, as well as build resilience toward future challenges.

Better mental and physical health

Keeping journal benefits not only mental health but also physical health.

Journaling enhances mental wellbeing​4​ by improving moods, reducing stress, and increasing self-esteem​5​.

Over time, stress reduction results in a healthier immune system​6​ and fewer physical illnesses.

Improve writing and communication

Journaling provides children with a regular opportunity to practice and improve their writing skills as well as communication skills.

Kids who may have difficulty writing or communicating in other contexts will especially benefit from this.

With daily journal practice, children learn to find their voice, communicate openly, gain confidence and become more comfortable expressing themselves​7​.

Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Through reflective journaling, children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

They learn how to handle difficult situations in the future by working through problems.

They also learn from their mistakes and develop coping strategies for future challenges​8​.

Grow characters

As children grow older, journaling promotes self-reflection that helps them develop more self-awareness and a deeper connection to themselves.

Self-reflection is looking back on what has occurred with the goal of self-evaluation and personal growth.

Kids discover meaning, make connections between experiences, gain values, and understand perspectives from others through it​9​.

Nurture creativity

Journaling is also a fun and creative outlet for kids to explore their imaginations. 

In this private space, children are free to express ideas and unleash their creativity​10​.

Tips on How to Start Journaling

The beauty of journaling is that there is no “right” way.

But parents can guide children to make the most of it with the following tips.

Typing vs handwriting

Your child can choose from many different types of journals. 

Some spiral-bound notebooks contain simple paper, while others are adorned with colorful paper and interesting designs.

Then there is the digital journal.

Some people believe putting pen to paper is better than typing, primarily because research shows that handwritten words are retained better in memory than typewritten ones​11​.

Handwriting training helps preschoolers recognize letters better than typing​12​.

However, there have been no conclusive studies concluding handwritten journals are better than digital ones.

Some children may prefer typing to write in this digital age. Choosing what your child likes and feels most comfortable with will help them make journaling a regular, enjoyable habit.

Choose a place

Find a quiet space that is also comfortable for your child so they can write without distractions.

Establish a daily routine

Children benefit most from journaling when they do it consistently.

Encourage them to journal on a regular basis. 

Do it at the same location around the same time every day to create a regular journaling habit.

Start with a small step

Asking your child to write a 500-word essay or spend 30 minutes writing time on their first day of journalling will ensure that they give up early.

Instead, begin with small steps.

Start small, perhaps with one or two sentences. Make the first journaling session short, 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increase.

Not just emotions

Journaling is often used as a form of therapy by mental health professionals.

To derive a therapeutic effect from writing about frustrating experiences or traumatic events, encourage children to not only express their painful emotions but also try to make sense of the experience.

The benefits of journaling come from combining understanding the facts with examining one’s unwanted emotions, not just one or the other​13​.

Additionally, it helps if the writing includes some positive emotions.

Privacy

Consider whether your child will share their journal entries with others. 

Give them guidelines regarding sharing their writings and keeping their privacy preferences in mind.

Choose topics or formats that interest them

Kids should feel free to write about any topics that interest them.

But to help them get started, give them several prompts to choose from.

Also See: How to Help Kids Build High Self-Esteems

Journal Writing Prompts for Kids

There are countless journaling prompts around. Start your child’s daily journaling practice with these simple ones.

  1. List 3 things you are proud of today and the reasons.
  2. List 3 things you had feelings of gratitude for today and the reasons.
  3. List 3 things you could improve on today and the reasons.
  4. List 3 things you are looking forward to tomorrow and the reasons.
  5. Write about something fun you did today. Give details, reasons, and feelings.
  6. Write about a challenge you faced today, how you deal with it, how you felt, and how you would do it differently next time.
  7. Write about your dream and how you think you can achieve it.
  8. Write about something you didn’t like, the reason, and your preferred outcome.
  9. Write about a decision you made today, the reason, and feel afterward.
  10. What is your favorite subject in school and why?
  11. What do you love most about yourself?
  12. When was the last time something made you laugh?
  13. What interesting stories have they heard or seen recently around them?
  14. What is your favorite book and what is it about?
  15. What do you want to learn the most in school?
  16. What is your favorite activity during the weekend and why?
  17. What is your favorite food and least favorite food, and why?
  18. What are you grateful for today?
  19. What are your key strengths?
  20. List 3 personal strengths.

References

  1. 1.
    Kerka S. Journal Writing as an Adult Learning Tool. Practice Application Brief. 2002;22.
  2. 2.
    King FB, LaRocco D. E-journaling: A strategy to support student reflection and understanding. Current Issues in Education. 2006;9.
  3. 3.
    Utley A, Garza Y. The Therapeutic Use of Journaling With Adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. Published online March 18, 2011:29-41. doi:10.1080/15401383.2011.557312
  4. 4.
    Lepore SJ. Expressive writing moderates the relation between intrusive thoughts and depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 1997:1030-1037. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.5.1030
  5. 5.
    Donnelly DA, Murray EJ. Cognitive and Emotional Changes in Written Essays and Therapy Interviews. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Published online September 1991:334-350. doi:10.1521/jscp.1991.10.3.334
  6. 6.
    Esterling BA, Antoni MH, Fletcher MA, Margulies S, Schneiderman N. Emotional disclosure through writing or speaking modulates latent Epstein-Barr virus antibody titers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Published online 1994:130-140. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.62.1.130
  7. 7.
    Loo R. Journaling: A Learning Tool for Project Management Training and Team-building. Project Management Journal. Published online December 2002:61-66. doi:10.1177/875697280203300407
  8. 8.
    Fritson KK. Impact of Journaling on Students’ Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control. Insight: A journal of scholarly teaching. 2008;3:75-83.
  9. 9.
    Blake TK. Journaling; An Active Learning Technique. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship. Published online January 15, 2005. doi:10.2202/1548-923x.1116
  10. 10.
    Dunlap JC. Using guided reflective journaling activities to capture students’ changing perceptions. TechTrends. 2006;50(6):20-26.
  11. 11.
    Smoker TJ, Murphy CE, Rockwell AK. Comparing Memory for Handwriting versus Typing. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Published online October 2009:1744-1747. doi:10.1177/154193120905302218
  12. 12.
    Longcamp M, Zerbato-Poudou MT, Velay JL. The influence of writing practice on letter recognition in preschool children: A comparison between handwriting and typing. Acta Psychologica. Published online May 2005:67-79. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2004.10.019
  13. 13.
    Ullrich PM, Lutgendorf SK. Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. ann behav med. Published online August 2002:244-250. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm2403_10

About Pamela Li

Pamela Li is a bestselling author. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University).

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