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Journaling for Kids

Journaling is a safe way for your child to express ideas and feelings.

Remember the journal you had as a tween? You probably called it a diary. It was most likely vinyl, padded, had some type of cute, cuddly animal on the cover, and came with a lock and key.

Diaries have always been part of our teen culture. Popular fiction books that carry diary themes line kids’ bookshelves—Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Princess Diaries, and Dork Diaries, just to name a few. Some nonfiction books revolving around diaries have made enormous historical impact, such as The Diary of Anne Frank. For generations, we’ve been journaling about our lives as a way to express ideas and thoughts in a safe and non-judgmental way.

Terrie Nathan, the author of Strong Girl Spirit and a motivational speaker in Hampton Roads, says journaling has always been important to her. She feels like something is missing when she doesn’t have time to journal.

“I’ve been journaling since I was in middle school,” Terrie said. “That was a long, long time ago. I now have two granddaughters in middle school! Writing for me has always been a way to stay grounded and grow as a person. There’s nothing like giving yourself kind words and positive messages from hand to paper. I’ve come to realize that it’s hard for most people to be kind to themselves, and journaling can be the first step to starting that practice.”  

Terrie will be giving a presentation and talking about her book, Strong Girl Spirit, at two upcoming events being hosted by Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast. The free events, Be Brave, Be Bold, Raise Your Hand, will take place Saturday, Sept. 28 from noon to 3 p.m. at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach and Sunday, Sept. 29 from 1-3 p.m. at Newport News Main Library.    

Benefits of Journaling for Kids

Helps Kids Organize Thoughts and Improves Writing Skills

Just like a sport or learning an instrument, the more kids practice writing, the better they get. They learn to organize their thoughts. If they really get hooked on journaling and the writing habit, they’re likely to improve their spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. It may lead to a writing career or one that utilizes writing skills.  

That happened to Terrie. After working in the corporate world for 18 years as a human resource and training director for Dollar Tree, Terrie changed course and started a new career as an author and speaker, focusing on communicating with tween and teen girls. She says journaling honed her communication skills and helped her make many life decisions, including this one.

 “I didn’t have it easy growing up,” Terrie said. “I was the receiver of a lot of bullying. Fortunately, I had a grandmother who helped this insecure girl who lacked self-confidence thrive and see herself differently. My Grandma Ruby somehow knew what was going on with me. I would visit her often, and she would always call me her Strong Girl, and she would fill my head with encouraging words and stories of strength, which I would journal about. She taught me to use my own words to speak faith and positivity into my life.”

In her new role as a speaker, Terrie has been able to connect with many parents and teachers. She says many parents thank her for getting their daughters involved in journaling, and they say it has also served as an effective practice tool for writing which girls don’t get from writing on social media.

“Counselors, too, find journaling a good tool for kids. It is great for kids who are reluctant to speak about what’s going on in their lives,” Terrie said. “And teachers value the whole journaling concept because it can be incorporated into many different areas of learning, including math and science.”

Be A Friend First: Journaling 101

Girl Scout Program Develops a Strong Sprit

Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast offers a program called Be a Friend First, which teaches journaling. Jacqueline Brooks, the council’s program manager, believes journaling is perfect for girls who have a hard time expressing their needs verbally or making decisions about things and is important in teaching communications skills.  

“Keeping a journal helps them organize their thoughts,” she said. “A girl can write about interactions she has had that day and go back later to explore the interaction objectively and learn from it.”

Jaqueline’s advice for parents is to be an encourager but to not direct or oversee the journaling process.

“Girls will only be able to use journaling as an outlet if they feel confident that it is secure and for their eyes only, so it is important to respect that. Plus, journaling gives them an opportunity to have a little drama and explore relationships. They may or may not want to share some of their journaling with you. If they do, it’s a perfect time to have a conversation to help them identify their feelings of anger, examine decisions, or gain insights into behavior.”

Jacqueline also added that at-risk children, who may live in situations where they have no control, can find some control through journaling They control content, the length of their writing, and with whom, if anyone, they want to share their writing.

Adults, too, can find benefits from journaling.

“You can start simple and just start writing down each night what you want to accomplish the next day,” Terrie says. “It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel. You’ll sleep better, too! It takes a lot of worry off your shoulders. Kids are like adults in that way; they can carry a lot on their shoulders, and writing down what they need to do, want to do, or fear to do can go a long way in helping them manage and cope.”

“Journaling is all about being healthy and developing a strong spirit with the intention of expanding the awareness around positive intent, the power of our words, and the impact they have,” Terrie said. “It’s a real gift to realize that thinking and speaking positively may cause your world to change. It’s just that simple.”

Journaling Tips: Make It Fun

Personalize Journals with Stickers, Photos & Markers

  1. Journals are sacred and special, so let your child choose his or her own journal. It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Let your child decorate it with stickers or pictures from magazines. Encourage creativity and consider making a journal out of recycled materials!
  2. Explain that this will be a place for your child to record thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe and private place. Then hands off! Remember, this is your chance to build a relationship of trust. If you want to be part of the journaling process, start your own journal and take turns with your child, asking questions you both can write about. Then set a side time to share and talk.
  3. Journals don’t have to be daily records of our activities but can be specialty journals based on interest areas. Try a curiosity journal in which your child can record observations and wonderings, writing down questions, and then looking up answers. They can add special articles or drawings. From fashion to music and beyond, there are many topics to choose from that can be used for a specialty journal.

Happy journaling!

To hear Terrie speak and learn more about the benefits of getting your daughter into journaling and other programs that build self-confidence, consider attending one of two Be Brave, Be Bold, Raise Your Hand events being hosted by Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast. On Sept. 28 from noon to 3 p.m. at Pembroke Mall, WAVY TV-10 Reporter Symone Davis, a talented newswoman and writer, will share her story and read excerpts from the New York Times bestseller Raise Your Hand by Alice Paul Tapper, an 11-year-old Girl Scout who is encouraging all girls to raise their hand and become leaders—in and out of the classroom. A second event will be held Sunday, Sept. 29 at Newport News Main Library featuring Terrie and other presenters. Exhibitors and activities will be offered, and both events are free. Visit www.gsccc.org for details.

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