Journal writing can help kids explore and process feelings, build writing skills, and communicate their ideas. Here—excerpted from Just the Two of Us: A Soft Place to Land for Tender Hearts by Nicolle Nattrass—are a few ideas to help you get started.
1. Find a large journal or a scrapbook that will lie flat on the table.
I suggest very large so that there is ample room to be free. You have one page and the child has the other. You can often find these not only in art stores but dollar stores.
2. Find a special place to store this journal, somewhere reachable for your child.
This journal is something to share only between the two of you, not something to Show and Tell. It is a sacred trust. Your child will be the guide; this is based on their process. It can also be helpful to put a date somewhere on the page.
3. Let your child take the lead, making this journal their own.
They may want to decorate the front cover of the journal, do not push. Best not to jump to teaching moments. This is not homework. For example, if your child draws on your side of the page, let them explore the boundary. Talk about it. Once trust and interest have been firmly established, engage in a positive, mutually inclusive conversation about consent/permission or other topics that may arise.
4. All mediums are welcome on the page—pencil, felt, tape, paint, glue, multimedia, collage—anything goes.
Let your child lead, incorporating any of their “stuff” onto the page. They might find ways to add sparkles or mud or other “treasures.” It is also okay to let them explore destroying a page, it is just a page of a journal. Reminder, there are no journal police.
5. The journal is always there when you need it.
If you are upset or struggling with something or when you need a break from day to day routine, take it out. You are the model for this process. Your child learns from your attitude and approach. Remember that the process is enough. Your child may or may not join you. Do not force participation. No punitive measures or pressured outcomes should interfere or be connected to this activity.
Try your best to not comment on what is “good” or what appeals to you instead become curious and ask questions: What colours did you use? Do you like that color? What is that? Tell me more about that. It’s important to be present. Sometimes the non- verbal can be more supportive than vocal praise because it does not stop the process. Remember, the value is in the “doing”, the process is more important than words.