Today I attended a networking event where I got to talk to cool moms about journal writing. One of them told me that she’s interested in what she’s read about the use of journal writing as a tool to help students process what they’ve learned. The second said she was amazed at how her kids would sit and draw or write in their journals for extended lengths of time.
You know what I think was most interesting?
They both commented on how journal writing would be great for their kids – but they didn’t mention themselves.
This didn’t occur to me until I had a few quiet minutes in the car for this to sink in. But I wonder, do we do this a lot?
Are we presented with an idea or a suggestion and immediately think about how it would benefit our kids? Or even someone else in our lives that we care about?
No dialogue about the journals they keep. Or the time in their life when they’ve been a writer. Or even how much they would like to journal and wish they had more time for it. This was surprising, because I usually do receive comments about their own journals – or desire to journal.
Instead thoughts went right to the kids.
I think this is pretty normal. Before I had kids I was determined that if and when I became a parent I would not lose my sense of self. I would not become a mom who was only able to talk about potty training, child nutrition, and preschool. I was going to keep in my life all the friends who didn’t have kids by making sure I had other material to contribute.
What I figured out – and it has taken years – is that when you become a parent, no matter how hard you try to not lose your sense of self, there are still moments when you wonder what the hell you’ve been doing for the last week. Or month. When you need to be alone so badly you can hardly breathe. When you can recall down to the last crumb what your kiddo ate for lunch yesterday, but you can’t remember the last time you cooked a meal of your own favorite foods. Finishing up the kids leftover grilled cheese doesn’t count.
In those moments, we need something that feels like it belongs to just us. It could be a spot on the porch that you claim for yourself, a hot bath when someone else is watching your kids, or it could be your journal.
In your journal you can write or draw your way across the page using whatever words and images you need. Black marker and block letters work wonders in the face of frustration. Pretty colors and twirly letters help to capture a sense of wonder or magic. Dumping what you need to release onto the page helps by quite literally moving the thoughts out of your head, through your body and arm, and onto paper.
I know, it sounds super woo. But try it the next time you’re angry. Overwhelmed. Disheartened. Or need to feel like your own person. Your heart rate will calm, you’ll feel like you are back in charge of your emotions, and you can turn back to your life in five minutes with a renewed perspective.
Journaling for yourself doesn’t make it any less awesome for your kids. In fact, the comments from the dedicated moms I spoke with were a good reminder that most of the time, the ideas and suggestions we have for our kids are good for us too.
When our kids can write, draw, color, and engage in the outlet of journaling, it helps them to process what they’re feeling. They may even learn to release some of their anxiety and become better decision-makers and problem solvers.
Funny. Those are the same results I get when I journal. How about you?
Sara Marchessault is a writer, publisher, teacher, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times. For ideas on how you can get the benefits of journal writing without always keeping a traditional journal, check out Sara’s book, Beyond Pen & Paper: 33 Experiments in Journaling.