Family Life: Now is the time to get kids to express themselves

Family Life: Now is the time to get kids to express themselves

By Chelsey Byers/University of Illinois Extension

Summer is a great time for kids to start journaling.

They can use a diary to write about their day or journal about their experiences, or they might want to focus more specifically on a topic of interest. Others might want to write about their summer adventures or travel experiences. Journaling can be done through words, pictures or drawings.

There are many benefits that people of all ages can get from journaling, but today I am going to focus on children. People might think that 4 is too young, but young children can draw pictures to tell a story, to show how they feel, to express what they experience or to share what they are thinking.

Journaling is not only a way to tell a story, but it also teaches kids how to be reflective of their life experiences. It can give them a better sense of self by identifying their beliefs, their desires and their talents.

With practice, journaling encourages children to become observers of their world. And research has shown that journaling can enhance a child's abilities in reading, writing and artistic expression.

Studies show that kids who journal improve their problem-solving skills, decision-making skills and positive social-emotional development.

To get a child started writing in a journal, have them begin by writing easy stuff about themselves. Offer suggested topics like:

— I'm happiest when ...

— I am proud of myself for ...

— My biggest wish is ...

— My biggest fear is ...

— I need

— My favorites (toy, color, clothes to wear, meal, etc.) are ...

— The thing I like most about myself is ...

— I am grateful for ...

— The three things I couldn't live without are ...

— If I had one day when I could do anything at all, I would ...

Journaling can incorporate collages, pictures, written stories, whatever the child feels that day, in that moment. A journal can be a safe place where children can confide what they're thinking, solve a problem or set goals.

It can be quite cathartic for kids to get their feelings out in a safe place. This can especially be true during those rough times of childhood and adolescence.

Parents need to encourage journaling, but be respectful of what the child writes; only read what the child wants to share. By being supportive, children learn that their feelings are valid and are respected. Asking them to share what they want to share can open the lines of communication.

I would like to end with a quote from Joanna Tebbs Young:

"However your child chooses to use their journal, it is a tool unlike any other. It is a gift to be given the freedom to discover who you are from the inside out!"

For more on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Chelsey Byers at the University of Illinois Extension at 333-7672 or at

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