A few weeks ago, I posted that as a family, we were going to start a daily journaling practice. I picked questions specific to each person. For my son, I picked questions about himself, my daughter’s questions focused on social dynamics and my husband and I reflected on our day. The kids were very enthusiastic when I explained the idea. In addition to the journals, I had a handful of different colored pens which added another fun element to the exercise. We decided to write in the journals after dinner, but before the bedtime routines started. This proved to be a good time because everyone was relaxed and had a lot of examples from the day that they could write about. The week we started was a little tough since the kids were still on winter break, but once they went back to school, they found they had many things to write about.
My son and I worked on his together each night. After a few days, he asked if I would write his answers to his questions for him, which I saw no problem doing. His questions revolved around identifying things that he did well and times when he could have asked for help. Many nights he had to think hard about for an example to write down. I always let him speak first, but if there was something else I knew had happened, I would say “I’d like to write down how you…..” This gave me the chance to show him different examples of things I thought he did well or times when I thought he could have asked for help. It enabled us to have discussions about different situations we might not have been able to talk about otherwise.
My daughter and husband worked on theirs individually. I would occasionally check in with them to see how it was going, but didn’t want to be overbearing about it. My daughter started to lose interest at the end of week two. When I talked to her about it, she thought that every night was too much. She said that the days weren’t that different with her friends and it was hard to think of new situations each night. (I’ll take minimal friend drama as a good thing!) She suggested that we journal once a week, which I think is a good compromise. My husband has also been very diligent and if he missed a day, he went back and caught up. A week or so into the exercise he sent me a text around lunch time that said he was working on something that was bringing out the best in him. Stopping in the middle of your day to acknowledge you are working on something you really enjoy can be so powerful and he has certainly seen that. He’s also seen that it can work in reverse. If he’s having a tough day, he’s stopped to focus on something he knows will lift his spirits, like checking in on an employee he’s mentoring. The simple act of breaking up the pattern of your day can have a major impact on your mood.
Overall, I’d call our journal exercise a success. We have some adjustments to make, like writing once a week instead of daily. I’m also going to expand the questions beyond the original three to keep it interesting. I will ask the kids to come up with some questions to keep them involved in the process. The greatest take-a-way has been that it has given us a chance to have a dialogue about important topics outside the heat of the moment. As parents, we want to have “teaching moments” when our kids are embroiled in a struggle, thinking that our wisdom will help them get through it. The problem is that in those moments emotion takes center stage and there is little room for anything else. This journal exercise is giving our family the opportunity to talk about situations before they happen or reflect on them after things have calmed down. I admit, some days it’s been hard to find the time to do it, but then I realize that is the point. We must make the time to slow down, to sit and have a conversation beyond the day-to-day banter. For us, today, writing in a journal is giving us the starting point for those conversations. What you do doesn’t matter, as long as you are taking the time to connect and talk to your kids.
I find so much joy in good conversations! When’s the last time you had a really good conversation about something that mattered? Give yourself the gift of a good conversation this week, dive beyond the surface of the busy day to day and talk about something more. Not sure how to get started? Direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week to talk.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.