I came across the idea of a shared journal when my daughter was six and just learning to write.
The premise was easy: You write a letter to your child and then the next entry, your child writes you back. I decided it was the perfect way to get my daughter to practice writing, while also giving her a safe space to express her feelings. So the two of us picked out a journal and gave it a go.
Fast forward more than two years later and we still share a journal. Every single time, it fills me with so much joy when I see that she's left our journal on my pillow. I know the feeling is mutual for her! Most of our journal entries are light topics, like things we are looking forward to and reflections on things that have just happened. Sometimes, though, she’ll write to me for advice on situations happening at school, or will let me know about the struggles she’s having.
But the biggest benefit of our shared journal experience so far? It’s strengthened our face-to-face communication.
I believe our shared journal has made it easier for her to open up to me in person. When she has a tough day at school, or if there is an issue between peers that she needs to talk out, we go find a spot to sit down and work through it. If we didn’t talk so much through the journal, I’m not sure if it would be as easy for her to ask me to talk.
As she continues to get older, I know the struggles she encounters will begin to get more serious. I know I might not always have the answers for her. And I know that all the writing in the world might not prepare me for the teenage challenges ahead. But I also know that shared journaling has strengthened our relationship and makes me feel like we're ready for whatever issues might be ahead. For that I am grateful.
How to start a shared journal with your child
Do you want to start your own shared journal? It’s easy to get started. Here’s how to do it:
Talk about the goals of a shared journal
Sit down and talk to your child about the journal and what it will be used for. Do you have a child who is too young to write? Start a journal drawing pictures back and forth to each other! My younger daughter is in Kindergarten and we just started our own shared journal using mostly pictures.
Pick out your journal
This is a fun part you can do together! Find a designated journal or notebook that you will use to write back and forth to each other.
Sit down and write!
Don’t worry about what you say. The conversations will grow as you spend more time journaling. When in doubt, remember to tell them how awesome they are!
Leave the journal for them to find
Decide where you each will leave your journal for the other person and leave it for them as a surprise! (My daughter and I put the journal on each other’s pillow when we complete an entry.)
Now it’s your child's turn to write to you!
Continue FOR-EV-ER… Or at least until they move out and you can send old-fashioned snail mail to keep the tradition going!
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