Our feelings can be confusing and hard to pin down, ultimately leading us to wonder “do feelings matter?” Maybe I feel upset today, even though the sun is shining, I got lots of sleep, and everything is seemingly well in the world. So why do I feel sad? And does it even matter?
Oftentimes, even as adults, we think that our feelings reveal truths about a situation or about the world and our place in it. We think that emotions and their meanings are the same: if I feel angry, then whatever made me sad or angry is inherently bad and should be avoided. What we fail to realize is that while we can’t always have control over our emotions, we can control how we react to them and how we use them to navigate through life.
The Benefits of Journaling
When we start wondering “do feelings matter?” the best way to work through them is to put them on paper. It detangles everything we have in our heads and makes the lines simple to follow. Journaling is a wonderful outlet for all the frustrations and uncertainty with which we’re faced. When our mind seems to be like a broken record, it feels better to get it all out and face it, word for word, in ways we can understand rather than a sea of thoughts.
Journaling can help children and adults alike to become more confident in our communication and feel more in control over our lives and emotions. Writing-therapy is a wonderful, productive form of anxiety management. It can sharpen our memories and serve as a time capsule of certain times in our lives. It can make us more empathetic as stories progress or as we start to take the perspectives of new characters. It even helps children to build upon their reading, writing, and art skills. That’s the power of journaling!
Here are ways you can encourage your children to start journaling (and maybe pick it up yourself) to help overcome and understand big feelings.
How to Get Kids Excited About Journaling
It certainly doesn’t take much to get started journaling – all you need is a pen and paper. A fun activity to help kids get excited about journaling is to let them pick out or create their own journals. They can be sheets of colored construction paper, lined paper, plain sketchbook paper with plenty of room for illustrations and collages, or even the “traditional” hardcover journal, complete with lock and key. Maybe your child has a knack for electronics or difficulty writing and would prefer a voice or video journal instead! To help them get excited about journaling from the get go, let them choose their own mode of journaling that excites them and feels like a part of them.
How to Get Started
There are many different ways you can go about explaining journaling. You can explain that journals are a personal and private place to vent and brainstorm. They help us to feel more in control, calm, and creative simply by documenting how we feel. The journal doesn’t even have to be a place strictly for “do feelings matter” type entries. In fact, they shouldn’t be strict at all! Explain to them that they are blank pages to be filled with whatever thought pops into their minds, the good and bad, the creative and sometimes mundane. You can treat it as a gratitude log, a memory journal, or collective art book to help kids get excited about sharing their feelings in a constructive way.
If your child is having trouble getting started or understanding what to talk about, you can give them some simple prompts to get started. Try these out:
- Make a list of your favorite X (books, tv shows, foods, clothes, etc.).
- Finish the sentence: “I was happy today because?” “I was scared today because?” “I was angry today because?”
- I’m grateful for?
- Write about your favorite day last summer/winter/etc.
- Write a story about your favorite birthday celebration.
- Write a story about a superhero overcoming X (a big test, the coronavirus, a bully, etc.).
- If your pet could talk, what would you talk about?
- What would life be like if you were your favorite animal?
- Write a story about a day in the life of your mom, teacher, bus driver, or someone else in your life. You can ask them questions or make some details up.
- Write a poem about a family member that you miss and send it to them.
Mission I’m Possible, a free program that fast tracks childrens’ emotional development through fun activities, also provides plenty of opportunities for kids to slow down and understand their feelings. Each TOP SECRET mission comes with a challenge. For instance, kids will be challenged to smile at three people and reflect on how it made them feel, and the person that they smiled at. These make wonderful journal prompts that can enrich their learning and sharpen all their emotional skills.
For all those times when we wonder “do feelings matter?” the answer is YES! In fact, they are all too good to let go by without reflection. Jot them down in a journal and see where they take you — I guarantee you won’t regret it!