If you have been following my blog at all, you’ll know that I have 4 children under the age of 10. As you can imagine, it is tricky to provide undivided attention to each of them in the amounts they might desire. I was concerned because of the frequency of the situations that arose where one of the older kids had something they urgently wanted to tell me or ask me but I wasn’t able to listen at that particular moment. Of course, this bothered me because I wanted to be sure to keep the lines of communication open and not have my kids feel like what they wanted to share was unimportant. So, I thought I’d try to put a new idea into motion.
A few other moms have asked about it so I thought I should share it with you:
Purchase a simple journal and present it as a gift to your child with the idea that it can be a place for ongoing sharing. Essentially, my child is free to write in it at any time though they usually write at bedtime, if I am out of the house, or if I’m not available for conversation and they have a pressing concern or idea. They can include anything that they want to share with me, and write as much or as little as they wish. Then, they leave the journal on my pillow. I find that I read them just before bed and then, after writing an appropriate response, I place them on their bedside tables where they will see them in the morning.
This little system provides an opportunity to be involved in one another’s lives in a variety of ways, most of which are very light-hearted and fun. In particular, though, I am finding that it is also a great place for kids to ask a difficult questions, to share a hurt or an apology, or generally to communicate things that are hard to say out loud. It is amazing what they will write but not say and, as their mama, I want to know what is occupying their little hearts and minds. Usually it is in the form, “Dear Mama, …” but not always. Sometimes I write little comments in the body of their letter if it makes more sense to do so. Sometimes the kids will enhance the comment or letter with drawings or doodles.
Inside the front cover, I wrote a list of possible items to include in the journal to make it clear how broad its applications could be and here it is:
- a thought
- a verse
- a worry
- a joke
- a question
- an idea
- a quote
- a suggestion
- an apology
- an update
- a memory
- a reminder
- an encouragement
- a need
- a request
- an anecdote
- a hurt
- a promise
- a drawing
- Any other thing you want to share with your mama!
So far, it has been used regularly (practically every day) and it is really helping to make us all feel that much more connected. I have encouraged them to write things in there particularly when there are times that I cannot give them my full attention but they are concerned about forgetting something important. I try to do the same for them. It has now become a wonderful part of my nightly routine to read their thoughts and to respond to them.
Certainly not rocket science, but it has been rewarding to share in this simple way and I’m hoping it will be something we can continue to do. Perhaps, because we have developed this communication habit, it will even work in the teen years! Too optimistic?
And (insert shameless English teacher plug here) it is an excellent way to promote and develop literacy skills!
Currently, I am using it with my 10-year-old girl, Gwyneth, and my 8-year-old boy, Wesley. I have a few friends that have recently tried it with their children that are around the same age. Just the other night, though, my 4-year-old, Edmund, asked his Daddy to help him write an “I love you” message in Wesley’s journal while I was out so it seems I may have to get him started as well!
Let me know how it goes if you decide to try it with your child(ren). I’d love feedback and ideas about how to modify it for different ages, stages and/or purposes!