As adults, we often talk about the benefits of journaling and how it can help us deal with the tumultuous experience it is to live in the current time.
But what many of us fail to realise is that children stand to benefit greatly from creating a journaling habit, too. We severely underestimate how much power the act of putting pen to paper and releasing what’s in our minds can help our young ones thrive.
So why is it so important, and how can you start introducing your little one to the wonders of journaling?
What is journaling?
It sounds like an obvious question with a pretty clear answer, but how we view the practise of journaling is precisely why so many of us fail to equate it to an activity for children.
See, for most of us, journaling is the act of writing our innermost thoughts and desires. It’s a written letter to ourselves spilling our guts about our thoughts and feelings. And, let’s face it, five-year-olds don’t have the best track record for the art of the written word, so why on earth would they journal?
And that’s why it’s vital to clear up the definition of what journaling truly is.
Journaling is the act of releasing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and placing them somewhere physical. This could be a physical paper journal or a journal app you access through your tablet.
It can be done through writing, drawing, taking photos, cutting out magazines, and creating your own system for sorting through what’s in your brain – whatever feels right to you.
The medium isn’t important; it’s the act of expressing what’s in your mind that truly brings journaling to life.
Why is journaling important for children?
There’s a big misconception among adults that, compared to us, kids have it easy. To that, I say you’re comparing apples to monster trucks. Childhood experience has its own set of emotional challenges that are under appreciated and overlooked by a large part of the population.
But childhood is a highly confusing time. You’re a sponge soaking up buckets of new information daily and expected to process it all without protest. And that’s hard!
And while journaling isn’t the golden solution to all your child’s problems, it’s a crucial tool for them to develop emotional intelligence so they can better advocate for themselves in the future.
The benefits of journaling in childhood
Now that we know what journaling is and why children need it, here are some of the key benefits.
1. Journaling helps children learn to express their thoughts and feelings
Do you ever have those moments when you feel deeply sad, angry, or confused but can’t put your finger on exactly what’s wrong? Yeah, kids get that, too. And unlike us, they have a more limited vocabulary to express themselves with.
Encouraging your child to write down or draw how they feel when experiencing strong emotions can help them express their thoughts and feelings better. It allows them to use their own words to come to conclusions on why they might be feeling uneasy.
And in turn, this can create a stronger connection with you as a caregiver, as your child will feel more confident communicating how they feel to you, giving you the best information available to help your child either take action or come to terms with how they are feeling.
2. Journaling encourages creativity and self-expression in children
Put a blank paper in front of anyone, no matter their age, and most people will start panicking, not knowing what to put on there.
But the blank page isn’t something to be feared. It’s something to get excited about. It’s not a test you can get right or wrong; it’s an exercise in self-expression and creation.
And the more you encourage your child to flex their creative muscles in a journal, the more naturally it will come to them. They’ll find themselves becoming innovative, outside-the-box thinkers that are empowered to take risks and create new ideas.
Isn’t that what we want for our children?
3. Journaling teaches children about organisation and planning
Journaling works best when it’s a regular habit. When you first start journaling with your child, you might give them broad prompts to get them thinking.
This could be as simple as ‘what did you do today?’ or ‘what made you happy today?’.
As they get used to journaling, you can encourage them to be more specific and plan out what they want to write ahead of time. This could involve brainstorming ideas, making a list of topics they wish to cover, or even sketching out illustrations to accompany their words
This process will help them understand the importance of organisation and planning – skills that will be useful in all areas of their lives.
After all, the world of journaling is vast, and you can show your child how they can use journals to organise their life in fun and creative ways.
For example, you could help them to set up a gratitude journal, where they write down things they’re thankful for each day. Or you could encourage them to start a dreams journal, where they can record their hopes and aspirations for the future.
There are endless possibilities, and by showing your child how journaling can be used for organisation and planning, you’re giving them a valuable life skill that will serve them well into adulthood.
4. Journaling helps children develop a sense of empathy and understanding for others
An interesting thing happens when we connect with ourselves deeply, as journaling allows us to do. We begin to develop empathy for those around us.
We start to realise that the world isn’t all black and white, but rather many shades of grey. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are more complex than meets the eye.
And when you’re able to see that in yourself, you start to appreciate it in others, as well.
Which is why helping your child develop a journaling practice habit will empower them to create a sense of understanding and empathy for those around them.
5. Journaling helps problem-solving and decision making
Decision paralysis is as real for kids as it is for you or me. And the weight of expectation can bear down just as hard on them as it does on us. If I choose option A, am I making the right choice? Will it make my friends/family/parents/teachers happy? Will it make me more likeable? More loveable?
Understanding the obstacles in your way when making decisions or trying to solve problems is a skill that sets you up for life.
And journaling through the process can really help you and your kids understand where their head is at.
Whether your child chooses to do a yes/no flowchart reminiscent of a ’90s magazine, a pros and cons list, or free-flow their thoughts onto paper, journaling will enable them to understand the context of each situation they are faced with so they can make the best decision for them.
6. Journaling improves children’s communication skills
Communication is a key life skill. It’s the foundation of creating lasting, effective, and understanding relationships across all areas of your life. Everywhere from your family and friends to your school and work life. It’s even essential for fundamental human interactions like going to the grocery store or getting a haircut.
But unfortunately, children aren’t always encouraged to speak freely and express themselves as they grow up. Many of us can relate to the memory of being told “children should be seen and not heard”,… or at least some iteration of that.
Journaling provides a safe space where children can have open and honest conversations with themselves, their caregivers, or simply the pages within, to help them express what’s on their minds.
As they develop this skill of constructing their thoughts into dialogue (even if it’s written dialogue), it helps them improve their efficacy at making sense of their needs and wants so they can vocalise them.
Help your child start their journaling journey today
Journaling is undeniably a powerful tool for your child to start developing the emotional intelligence they need to thrive throughout their entire life. And thankfully, it doesn’t take much to help get them started. All you need is paper, a pen, and patience.
Here at Malpaper, we’re passionate about the positive effects of journaling on children's mental health and the long-lasting positive impacts it has as they grow up.
That’s why we created the Starter Kid’s Journal, packed with prompts and exercises that your kids can do alone or with your help to get them started on creating their very own journaling habit.
So, if you need a great starting point to help your child begin their journaling experience, gift them with the power of their very first journal and watch as they start to reap those all-important mental health and emotional benefits.
Together, we can make the world a more mental-health-friendly place for the next generation.