Open communication is imperative for nurturing and strengthening valuable relationships, especially when it comes to parents and their children. That can be a challenge at times, though. Even the most communicative kiddos will occasionally have thoughts and feelings they find hard to share. And communication becomes even more trying — yet even more important — as merry middle-schoolers become temperamental teens.
There are many communication activities for kids. One inexpensive tool for staying close and connected with school-age children is a shared bedtime journal. Because it’s often easier to write concerns and complaints in private than it is to speak them out loud, shared journals provide a whole new window into a child’s most trying — as well as most triumphant — moments. Moments that Mom and Dad should be aware of and be there for.
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- Purchase a blank journal your child will find appealing. Inside the front cover, write the child’s name and date — as well as an inscription, if you’d like.
- For the first journal entry, write — in a manner the child can read, whether that’s block print and simple words or cursive and advanced language — that this is a shared journal for the two of you. When either of you has something to share with the other that is hard to say out loud, that should be written in the journal. The writer should then place the book under the other’s pillow to be read at bedtime. That person can then respond to the first, placing the journal under his or her pillow when done.
- Present the journal to the child, reading together the explanatory first entry. Assure one another that what’s within will be confidential and a safe place to share.
- Discuss ideas for topics that the child might consider telling you about and different ways of doing that. Of course, writing things down is a given, but kids — and parents — may occasionally want to share by drawing or including pictures or perhaps photos or printed articles and stories.
- Suggested topics for journal entries:
- Wishes, dreams, goals
- Fears and frustrations
- Troubles with friends, siblings, relatives, teachers and others
- Disagreements on household rules or family expectations
- Regrets and apologies
- Kudos and warm fuzzies
- Requests for support, requests for space
- Questions and concerns of any sort that may be uncomfortable to express face to face
- Consistency is key. Agree on a time frame for responding to one another, and stick to it. (This is doubly important for the parent. Even if the child doesn’t reply quickly, even if the subject is a tough one — even more so, in fact, if the subject is a tough one.
- Choose together a spot where the journal shall be kept when not in use, making it accessible to either party any time the need for sharing arises.
Prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes the comments and concerns may seem small and silly — yet heartwarming for a parent to see in writing. Other times, the thoughts weighing heavily on a child’s heart and mind may be surprising. Trivial or timely, what matters is that your child wants to share.
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Each journal entry from your child stands as a request for understanding, empathy, acceptance. And each completed journal will serve as a unique record of the challenges, struggles and celebrations you and your child tackled and triumphed together.
Lisa Carpenter is a Colorado-based freelance writer. She publishes the Grandma’s Briefs website, where she shares bits on life’s second act and strives to smash the outdated “grandma” stereotype. Lisa has been married to the same man forever; together they have three adult daughters and two grandsons, children of the middle daughter and her husband. Lisa is easy to find online as she’s known as GrandmasBriefs wherever she goes: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others.
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