About this Journaling Series by Eric Maisel

Inspired by Contributors to The Great Book of Journaling

This series of guest blog posts on various topics related to journaling, was created for a series called “Journaling for Men” that appears on the Good Men Project blog. It is designed to help everyone, and especially men who may be unfamiliar with journaling, learn how daily journaling can help them improve their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It brings together ideas from two of Eric’s recent books, Redesign Your Mind, in which I describe how you can upgrade and redesign “the room that is your mind,” and our co-edited book The Great Book of Journaling, in which we gathered contributions from scores of journal experts and enthusiasts. Please enjoy this series.

We hope that you’ll begin to include journaling as part of your daily self-awareness and self-care program.

Series collected by Eric Maisel. 6 Steps for Journaling with Children is an excerpt from Nicolle Nattrass’s chapter.

If you’re a dad or a mom, you might consider journaling with your child. How might that work? In her chapter for The Great Book of Journaling, Nicolle Nattrass describes the process. Nicolle explained:

6 Keys To Journaling With Children

1. Find a large blank journal or a scrapbook that will lie flat on the table.

If no journal is possible, you can use large sheets of paper and tape them together; but a large journal is preferred in order to avoid ripping, losing pages, etc. The journal is a container and should be kept intact. I suggest that it be very large so that there is ample room to be free. Ideally, you have one page and the child can have the other.

2. Find a special place to store this journal, somewhere reachable for the child.

Keep in mind that it is something to share only between the two of you, not something to Show and Tell. This is a sacred trust. For example, based on his wishes, my son was comfortable with both parents taking part. Also, it can be helpful, although not necessary, to date the page, so as to keep track of the process.

3. Let the child take the lead, making this journal their own.

They may want to decorate the front cover of the journal, but do not push. Best not to jump to instructions or a teaching moment. Remember this is not homework. For example, if a child draws on your side of the page, let them explore the boundary. Let the child lead; and if a conversation arises naturally, explore it. For example, when my son began to use my side of the page, I could see he was testing how I would respond, and so this began a dialogue about what is comfortable for me and for him. This allowed us to discuss topics like asking permission/consent of each other, how it felt to have someone else not asking permission, etc.

4. All mediums are welcome on the page: pencil, felt, tape, paint, glue, multimedia, collage — anything goes.

Let the child own the page, incorporating any of their “stuff” onto the page. Find ways to enhance the journal with sparkles or mud or other treasures. It is also ok to let them explore destroying a page; it is just a page of a journal, after all. Reminder: there are no journal police.

5. The journal is always there when you need it.

If you, the parent or caregiver, are upset or struggling with something and need a break from your day-to-day routine, take out the journal. You are the model for this process. The child learns from your approach. Remember that the process is valuable even if used only for a few minutes. This is not meant to be time-consuming. Do not force participation. The child may or may not want to join in some days.

Expectations must be put aside. No punitive measures or pressured outcomes should interfere or be connected to this activity. Try your best not to comment on what is good or what appeals to you. Instead, become curious and ask questions: What colors did you use? Do you like that color? What is that? Tell me more about that. Be present. Sometimes your non-verbal presence can be more impactful than vocal praise because it does not stop the process. Remember doing and being together is more important than the words or what is on the page.

6. Let the child determine when the journal work finishes.

The process will usually come to a natural conclusion or perhaps the child will ask for a journal of their own. Remember this is not a forced activity based on instructions and compliance.

I hope you find this useful and that journaling with your child becomes an important part of how you and your child interact, heal, and grow together.

You might love journaling with your child. Give it a try!

For more guidance on journaling with children, and helping children deal with stress and trauma through journaling, check out Nicolle Nattrass’s – Just the Two of Us: A soft place for tender hearts to land – a parent-child journal you can find here >>

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Great Book of Journaling

About the Authors:

This blog article is inspired and informed by Nicolle’s chapter entitled Journaling with Children in The Great Book of Journaling.

Nicolle Nattrass is a Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC II), playwright (PGC), professional actress (CAEA), and workshop facilitator. After twenty years as a professional actor, followed by years of frontline work as an addiction counselor, she developed four courses in Creative Journaling for Self-Care that uses a therapeutic and creative approach for clients, journal-keepers, and helping professionals. Her first book, Just the Two of Us: A Soft Place for Tender Hearts to Land, has been published by The Zebra Ink (Sept. 2020). She is a proud contributing author to the book Transformational Journaling for Coaches & Clients: The Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing, co-edited by Lynda Monk and Eric Maisel. For links to her courses and to purchase her book, visit www. nicollenattrass.com and the IAJW shop.

Eric Maisel collected this blog post series and is the author of over fifty books. He writes the “Rethinking Mental Health” blog for Psychology Today (with 2.5 million views), blogs for Thrive Global, Fine Art America, and The Good Men Project, and has recently developed a contemporary philosophy of life called kirism, which he introduced in Lighting the Way.

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