Journaling is one way to help your child express his feelings and write about what happened during his day. You will increase the chances of your child becoming interested in journaling if you yourself journal. You can set aside a five to fifteen-minute period each day when you and your child sit together and do your journaling. You each write about your day. When you are finished, you each can share what you wrote if you want to. If your child wants to keep it private, allow him to do so.
If he wants to share it with you, be sure to listen and keep your comments brief and supportive. This is not a time to teach or lecture. You want him to feel safe sharing his thoughts and feelings. If he writes in his journal that two boys knocked over his sandcastle and laughed at him so he chased then and hit them as hard as he could, resist the temptation to turn this into a talk about how we don’t hit and what he should have done differently. Instead give him empathy and support with a comment to the effect of, “That sounds like a rough situation and I’m guessing it made you pretty mad.” You are providing empathy and inviting him to talk about his feelings. He may talk or may only say yes. If he only says yes, that he was mad and that’s it, ask him if he would like to talk about it anymore. If he says no, respect that and ask if there is anything you can do, and let him know if he wants to talk about it another time you are there to listen.
To help model what to put in a journal, what feelings to write about, and how to share your day and emotions with others, be sure to read your entry to your child even if he wants to keep his private. Of course you will put entries that are appropriate for a child to hear and not burden him with your troubles or emotions. Try to include things that caused emotions so that he hears that events cause feelings, what feelings you had, and how you handled them. On occasion, you can decline to share and say you want to keep today’s entry private to model this for him. Write about both positive and negative feelings and positive and negative outcomes.
SAMPLE JOURNAL ENTRY Positive Emotions
Today when I read my email, I was excited when I had an email from Aunt Teri. I got a big smile on my face when I read that she got a new puppy. When I read that the puppy chewed up her new shoes, I felt sorry for her because I know those are her favorite. When I was done reading the email, I called Aunt Teri to thank her for sharing the news about the puppy and tell her I was sorry to hear about her shoes. I got even more excited when she said she would bring the puppy to see us in two weeks. Because of this good news, I have been happy all day.
This entry shows the cause and effect of positive feelings. It also shows empathy for the aunt who lost her shoes.
Today I was very happy because I was driving to meet Grandma for lunch, but then I got a flat tire. I was scared when I felt the tire go flat and nervous until I could pull the car to the side of the road. Luckily, I had my phone with me and I could call the auto club to fix it for me. I was mad because this is the second flat tire I had this summer. I was upset that I was going to be late for lunch with Grandma, and I was worried that she would be impatient with me for being late. I called her to apologize and she made me feel better when she told me not to worry about being late; she just wanted me safe, and she would wait for me. The tire man was very nice and I felt very relieved once he changed the tire. Grandma was nice too when I finally got there, and we had a good lunch.
This entry shows a variety of emotions and shows how feelings can change quickly. It also shows how we can guess how someone else is going to feel.