8 Ways Journaling Helps Children (and Parents)


journalingPhoto by Vadim Fomenok on Unsplash

We all need to express our thoughts and feelings, work out problems, and note special moments in life. And journaling is the way to do it. 

Journal writing is associated with enormous benefits for people of all ages. Journaling improves mood, reduces stress, and even boosts our immune systems. Children gain academic skills and learn to think in new and creative ways.

Here are 8 powerful reasons to begin a journal practice for you and your child, and some simple ways to get started.

1. Serves as an Emotional Outlet

While some children are naturally expressive, many others struggle to verbalize and share their emotions. Journal writing lets reserved children release their feelings in a way that feels safe.

Before encouraging your child to begin journaling, assure her that anything she writes will remain private (unless she chooses to share). Children must see their journal as a “safe space” free from prying eyes.

Journaling is an emotional release for adults, too. It helps the brain regulate emotions and process emotional distress. The opportunity for self-reflection means you can gain insight into your thoughts and decisions, and notice patterns in your life.

2. Improves Writing and Communication Skills

What better way to improve writing skills than putting pen to paper? The process of journaling requires us to organize and develop our thoughts in a cohesive way. Hand-written journals allow children to strengthen fine motor skills and practice letter and shape formation. Even your youngest child can build writing ability by drawing pictures of his ideas or feelings.

Keep in mind that writing is a skill that can be honed, And one way to do that is through journaling. To keep your child engaged, consider an interests-based journal. He can write (or draw) about animals, weather, art, or anything he enjoys. Writing about things that matter to your child means he’s more likely to stick with the process. 

3. Helps Keep Memories

We can’t choose what happens each day, but we can choose what we record. When your child journals, she gets to decide which events to hold on to. Make journaling a regular part of the day. Prompt your child to draw or write about a positive event, funny memory, or challenge she overcame. Model daily journaling by sitting and writing next to her. Journals let us reflect on past events, and perhaps even see them more clearly. Your journal captures the initial flood of feelings and lets you process (and learn from) what follows.

4. Improves Reading Comprehension

Comprehension is the goal of reading. Children must understand what they read to find meaning. Consider starting a reading response journal. Your child can reply to prompts like, “Could you put this story into your own words?” or “Why do you think the main character did that?” Your child can create a “to be read” list and rate their favorite books to share with friends.

Studies show that reading journals have a positive impact on reading comprehension. Journal writing lets children incorporate their own thoughts and opinions in their response. There’s no one right answer, so your child has the freedom to explore their perception.

5. Sparks Creativity

Much of our writing is for a specific purpose. Children respond to classroom writing prompts and write book reports. Adults’ writing is often limited to emails and texts. Journals, however, are open-ended. The most basic type of journaling, free-writing, is simply reflecting on your thoughts and feelings. You might set a timer (5 minutes is a good start) and write about anything that comes to mind.

According to MK Haley, contributing author of The Imagineering Workout, “creative” doesn’t only refer to what you do but also how you do it.

If you (or your child) struggles with how to begin, journaling prompts are another way to spark creativity. Creative fiction prompts like, “Tell the story of two best friends who find a time machine on the way home from school,” or “Write about what happened when you woke up one morning as a mermaid,” are inspiring starts.

6. Improves Spelling and Grammar

There’s no doubt that journaling improves language skills. Journal writing helps your child learn a variety of sentence patterns, improve grammar, and increase vocabulary. Any practice that keeps you (or your child) using words is beneficial. Each time you encounter an unfamiliar word, write it down in your journal. Write and rewrite misspelled words. Create doodles around difficult words to learn them more quickly. With practice, your child will learn to make complete sentences–and how these sentences form paragraphs. 

Grammar and style are important even if you are sure no one will ever  read any passages from your secret journal. It is important to keep up good habits that will translate over when you are writing something you expect others to read. The Internet Writing Journal

These essential language skills will serve your child throughout life.

7. Develops a Growth Mindset

Children who view obstacles as opportunities and challenges as beneficial have a growth mindset. These children recognize that hard work and effort (versus intelligence) leads to positive outcomes. Growth mindset is associated with academic success, high self-esteem, and resilience. Children with a growth mindset tend to enjoy learning new things and view failure as a natural step in the learning process. To strengthen your child’s positive mindset, consider a journal focused on goal-setting, building confidence, and overcoming setbacks. 

8. Improves Attention 

In our fast-paced world, practices designed to make us stop and notice the details are crucial. The popularity of mindfulness and meditation is evidence of just how much we need to slow down. Journaling is another way to tap into slowness. It allows both children and adults to pause and pay attention to the moment. As Christy Peterson puts it, stopping and taking the time to write down something will enable us to take things slow.

Consider journaling prompts aimed at being present. These can include, “How do you show you’re listening?” or “What activities make you feel the most engaged? Which ones are easiest to stay present?” For your child, these prompts could be, “Name 3 sounds you hear” or “Name 5 colors you see.”

Journal writing is linked with a variety of benefits–enhanced communication, attention to detail, and creativity. Starting a journaling practice with your child gives you both a healthy emotional outlet and builds on the confidence and academic skills necessary for success. It will also serve as a keepsake, and way to reflect on (and learn from) past events.

Alexandra Eidens is the founder of Big Life Journal, an engaging resource to help kids develop a resilient growth mindset so they can face life’s challenges with confidence.