By Sam Piha
Introducing journal writing, whether it’s once a week or daily, is good for all, and fosters social emotional learning (SEL) skills, especially self-awareness. “Journaling activities can be designed to help young people gain insights into the major areas of their lives. Its purpose is to help adolescents gain a more positive perspective on their lives by developing an awareness of events, memories and feelings in their lives and learn coping skills that can be used throughout life. At the same time, journaling can also help adolescents to use their imaginations and natural creative talents, to improve their communication skills, and to realize self-interests and possibilities.” – Lynn Blinn Pike, Human Development and Family Studies
“It is important to provide youth with opportunities to reflect on and/or express themselves and their feelings because they HAVE them and don't always have space to express them. Journal writing is a good way to provide these opportunities. Even if it's just a stream of consciousness writing. Journaling allows you to slow down and notice yourself and your thoughts, which is greatly therapeutic!” – Daniel Summerhill, California State University, Monterey Bay
Tips for Journaling with Teens
- Agree with your teens whether their journals will be fully private or if the adult leaders are allowed to read them. Remember that entries may involve things that adults are required to report, such as endangerment or abuse.
- To personalize and encourage buy-in, begin by asking youth to decorate and personalize the cover of their journal. Be sure to have art materials and magazines with photos if some prefer to create collages.
- Choose a sturdy and inexpensive journal book, like a composition book.
- Journal entries can take many forms: writing, drawing, collage, etc. Youth will be more interested if they don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar. They can use “inventive spelling.”
- “A writing prompt is an excellent tool to get kids of all ages putting pencils to pages! Since it’s not always easy to think of something specific to write about, it’s not a bad idea to make a Journal Jar and fill it with ideas.” Youth can add their own ideas to the journal jar and be invited to pull out the journal prompts. There are many ideas for journal prompts on the internet, such as Daring to Live Fully.