Letters to Your Child: A Parent’s Guide to Journaling
It’s pretty cliche, but as every mother knows, our children grow up way too fast! Before we know it, they have surpassed crawling to running, cooing to non-stop talking (no, really…what’s silence?), preschool to elementary, and suddenly it’s off to college. Eighteen years goes by in a flash. Thanks to the new digital age, we are able to capture every minute of it on a device that fits into our back pocket (and oh, we do!), but while pictures and videos are precious time pieces to have, they can’t always capture the heart, the endearing and overwhelming amount of love from the mother behind the camera. Pen and paper journal writing offers an in-depth look into one’s soul, a true connection to another being. While it may not be as up-to-date and modern as Instagram, it is time capsule, pass-me down through the generations, and cherish me forever kind of material, and in our book, that’s something worth starting!
Journaling is a far from new practice. Usually thought of as a teenage girl’s best friend, journals have been around for ages as a form of almost self-therapy, to review events and feelings from one’s life while being able to keep the information private. Benefits from keeping a journal include helping to improve your mood by prioritizing your goals and desires, and minimizing your fears and anxieties. While it’s often thought of something we do for ourselves, to keep private — and to burn before anyone else sees it — journals can also serve as a great communication tool and a lasting memory book for you and your child.
Keeping a journal for your child has multiple benefits:
- It offers a moment of reflection. When parenting, every day is a trial. Some nights we go to bed feeling defeated, while others we feel somewhat as though we have succeeded. No matter what the feeling, writing a letter to your child that they will later read as an adult allows for a moment of personal reflection, parental growth, and peace.
- Journaling offers you the opportunity to record the little moments that you may otherwise forget. We often remember the big “firsts” – first smile, first steps, first day of preschool — and we often have a picture to prove it, but what about all those other firsts that we want to hold onto forever in that very moment, but so often forget: The first time your baby really looked into your eyes and you could feel her in every inch of your soul, the first time your toddler reached up to put his tiny hand in yours as you were walking side by side, or when you said “I love you” only to hear it right back in the sweetest little voice for the very first time.
- It offers a form of support during times when you can’t physically be there. There will be days when our children are older and feeling every bit of emotion that the world has to offer, and whether they choose to reach out or not, a written journal can be a form of solace to them if they need it. Lessons, values, morals — all wrapped neatly into a book written by their parent and there for them should they need something to fall back on.
- Journaling provides a history of your family and your child’s childhood that they can pass down to their children and beyond. Growing up, memories become distant, sometimes family members become distant as career paths take us in different directions, but a written piece of family history can be a great tool in reminding your children where they came from, and from whom they came. As adults, your children will enjoy getting to know their parents from a different perspective and a much different age.
Beginning a journal, especially as a busy parent, can be taxing. What do I say? How do I start? When will I let them read this? How can I possibly fit every emotion into this tiny journal? Or, more like…Where will I find the time to do one more thing? Unlike scrapbooks or photo albums, journals are completely dictated by YOU. Entries can be short and sweet (write about your day in 4 lines, no more) or pages in length if you have the time. Entries can be done daily, weekly, or even once a month. They can be done just on a particularly hard day where you as a parent just need to gather and reflect positive thoughts about your child, or they can be done on days of celebration, like a birthday or holiday. In the end, your child will grow up to cherish the words on every page, whether they are memories of the distant past of their childhood or words of wisdom from their young mother. Sometimes, it’s simply the sight of their mother’s handwriting that makes everything reassuring and comforting.
As a parent, topics will probably be easy to come by, as our little ones prove to be quite the characters and adventure is always waiting around the corner. There will always be emotions, trials, conflicts, celebrations, and most of all, love.
- A funny or sweet remark
- Overcoming a fear
- Mastering a new skill
- “Firsts” (riding a bike, day of kindergarten)
- Showing an act of kindness
- A moment shared just between the two of you
- Dreams for their future
- Moments of guilt or failure as a parent (hey, we’re not perfect!)
- Moments of heartbreak
- Current favorites (food, character, book)
- Favorite moment from that day
- A favorite picture with commentary
- A day in the life of… (Complete on occasion to show the child’s typical day as they grow. Include pictures.)
- Guest journal (allow the child to write a post to themselves to read as an adult, or to the parent)
- Defining moment
- Current style (document child’s current clothing choices)
- Share a poem or story that reminds you of your child
- “Read When You Need…” love, support, encouragement, or laughter
- Moments that made you proud
- Moments that made your heart melt
So, maybe you didn’t get around to finishing the baby book, or scrapbooking isn’t really your thing; creating a journal for your child can be an easier alternative. Pick up a bound notebook of any kind and a pen, and just… write!
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Stephanie is a military wife, currently residing in New York, and mama of two exceptionally curious kiddos – a rugged pint-size princess and a toddling Evel Knievel-in-training – and one sweet, easy going baby boy. When she isn’t exploring the family’s newest dwellings, running trails, farmers’ markets, and playgrounds, she spends her down time working from home, feverishly correcting “textspeak” in her college students’ essays as an adjunct English instructor for a local community college. Her passion for writing and photography can be found at Stephanie High Photography on facebook