Journalling for children – even if they hate writing!!
I have been wracking my brains trying to think of ways to support the children emotionally through remote learning. In the first lockdown, I was at home with my own children and I am acutely aware of how stressful it can be to be locked down together, even in the serenest of households.
There is a wealth of research that suggests journalling is an excellent tool for managing challenging situations and maintaining good mental health. It can provide a place to for expressing emotions without taking them out on those around you, it can be a way of refocussing your thoughts when you feel overwhelmed, it is a very handy distraction when you want to switch off, and it is also incredibly versatile as a format.
Journalling is a fairly new habit for me, I am not a natural writer – blunt is the term usually applied to my writing style – and as all the staff will tell you I am very techy. However, a few years back, I was finding that I had become deaf to my phone beeping at me and kept missing appointments. I decided to go back to using a paper diary and gradually moved towards journaling as a way to organise my life and my thoughts.
As a parent, I have encouraged my children to journal for a while. When my daughter was 3, she used to have spectacular tantrums, which we realised was in part due to not yet being able to say why she was cross. We set up a book and some drawing materials in a quiet space and whenever she was getting cross, I would ask her if she wanted to draw what was the matter. She found this so much easier than trying to explain with words and we could then talk about her pictures together.
At the start of Lockdown in March, I suggested to my children that they keep a journal about this as it is history in the making. My daughter wasn’t really interested – despite having a vast collection of notebooks perfect for this, but my son who is 10 and doesn’t like writing very much, is still using his. My son’s journal is in the style of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, he draws cartoons and writes quips and puns about what is happening in the news and at home. I'm not allowed to look at it and that's fine, he is not allowed to look at my journal either.
Journalling can take many forms; here are a few ideas to get you started.
Collections – this is where you just keep track of whatever you like, for example, what books you have read, films you have watched, series you have completed, buildings on Minecraft, lists of what you would like to do when lockdown is over. The possibilities are endless. It could just be a place to stick stickers or a record of how many days we've been in lockdown.
Art Journalling – This is as it sounds, you draw, paint, collage etc in response to your day. It can be great fun to pick a theme for a week or a month and do a drawing a day on that theme. There are some fantastic tutorials on YouTube.
Long form Journalling – This is generally what everyone thinks of as journaling. You get a notebook and write most days about whatever you want. It can be a bit daunting knowing where to start, prompts are useful.
I often use these three topics as a starting point: something that went well today; something that went wrong today; something/someone that made me happy today.
Bullet Journalling – this is a method of journalling that is meant to simplify life. You have a system of shorthand symbols that you use to categorise items, events and notes etc. I relied heavily on this in the last lockdown as everyday felt the same, it helped me feel productive if I could tick things off as I went through the day.
With children you could use it to organise home learning and set out a plan for the day. As well as providing an analogue space for them to express themselves.