We all know that we should encourage our children to read. Reading expands language skills, exercises imagination, and broadens knowledge. But many of us don’t realize that encouraging them to write can have far reaching effects in the academic, social and emotional lives of our children. Maybe we’ve avoided writing because we grew up only knowing it as a means to an end: teacher-requested words on a page written with the hope of getting a good enough grade to pass. Our experiences were related to necessity.
My focus here is about writing as an experience of desire, a desire that can be cultivated in children by giving them the opportunity to record their thoughts, feelings, and the events and stories of their daily lives. The investment is small – a journal and the privacy to write – but the reward is great.
However to be successful for children, this kind of writing has certain criteria for parents. Here are some tips to help you help your child start his journaling journey:
- What your child writes must be allowed to remain private unless he chooses to share it.
- If he does choose to share – and most often children want to – NO edits or changes to the content should be offered. These are your child’s words, no one else’s, and must be honored as they are.
- Listen for interesting thoughts or expressions, poignant or courageous parts of the writing; offer remarks of encouragement and tell your child how these affect you. Maybe you have had a similar experience that you could share. This is validating for your child.
- Thank him for sharing and encourage him to continue his good work.
With just a journal, a pen and the time/space to write openly and deeply about whatever he chooses, without concern about spelling, grammar or order (that’s for public writing not private writing) … or that his parent will invade his privacy and read his journal without permission, your child will feel like he has a voice. Children who feel heard and honored for what they have to say form a greater sense of personal identity.
E. M. Forster coins the process, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” Whether we are age 10 or 60, when we give voice to our personal stories, when we explore our lives and move thought and memory to the page, we validate our experiences and gain knowledge of ourselves. For children this translates to self-confidence.
My book, Your Journal Companion, offers guidance on writing techniques as well as 365 prompts – small phrases that make it easy to enter into the writing process each day – and the majority of these prompts can be used by, or adapted to, young writers, ages 7 to 12.
Daily writing about things that concern us has been scientifically proven to support good body/mind health. So, parents, encourage your children to write! And consider taking it up for yourself, as well!