If you were to read a parenting book, you would be sure to find a multitude of information concerning the intricacies of raising a child. It’s easy to comprehend the basic needs of children like what food to feed them, how much sleep they should get nightly, or how much they should exercise. But what’s not so clear-cut are the precautions to take to ensure your child’s mental health needs are being met. Sure, it’s relatively apparent that children living with mental health conditions should seek professional help such as seeing a therapist or being prescribed a medication, but what’s not so obvious are the outlets we can provide our children with to engage in self-care on their own.
Self-care is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and to your overall functioning. More importantly, practicing self-care can produce positive feelings, which can prove to be extremely beneficial for children working through tough feelings like anxiety and depression. As we’ve said before, “One of the most effective methods [of self-care] is through writing a thought journal or diary. Here, you can write down your thoughts, feelings and emotions, getting them out of your racing mind, enabling you to manage, cope and address them in a positive way.” Likewise, there is an abundance of ways your child can use a journal:
- Journaling can be used as a means of direction before or directly after a mental illness diagnosis in a child. Pair a journal with other mental health materials like conversation guides, for instance, a depression discussion guide, which can help to direct a conversation with a doctor regarding a diagnosis. Accordingly, your child can write down questions they may want to ask to gain a better understanding of what they’re experiencing.
- Try having your child incorporate a monthly habit tracker into their journal to recognize trends including physical feelings, habits and behaviors, and moods. When they become aware of patterns, they can make connections and hold themselves accountable. Consider expanding on any of these observations by writing entries or notes pertaining to how and why you felt or acted a certain way.
- For younger children or children at different development stages, an easy means of journaling is through art. Researchers note that coloring can be beneficial by reducing stress and feelings of anxiousness while increasing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, according to Oxford Dictionaries. Furthermore, some researchers conclude that it can be more beneficial for children to draw instead of to color because drawing allows for a greater expression of creativity and in turn boosts self-esteem.
It’s evident that journaling has many benefits for children coping with mental illnesses and/or tough feelings. While a “fancy” notebook is not necessary, allowing your child to pick out their own journal can help make their journaling experience more personable and exciting. It can be as inexpensive as picking out a workbook from a local dollar store. Take it a step further and encourage your child to decorate the cover in a way that’s unique to them. Moreover, you can help encourage your child to start journaling by providing a “safe place” to journal. In other words, finding a quiet and comfortable area either inside the home or at a local establishment can entice them to allow their creative juices to flow.