Mental Health in children is a subject close to my heart. It’s so important that we recognise as caregivers that teaching our children the benefits of keeping healthy in mind and spirit is actually laying the foundations for the rest of their lives.
Just as we teach children all other aspects of health; moving our bodies and eating healthily we must also teach them the importance of mental wellbeing and resilience so that they are prepared for the inevitable situations they will face.
I always talk to my children and ask them… “If you were dropped on the floor do you want to be an egg and break or a ball and bounce?" With this small question I am asking them about resilience. Do they want to develop skills to get through things and move forward, building confidence for next time things don’t go their way or do they want to remain broken?
This is basic growth mindset stuff. A fixed mindset would be defeated and not develop the necessary skills to to build on their experience. But a growth mindset offers solutions and forward thinking. I think the best way we can help our children develop healthy minds is to offer them the understanding that their brain is a thing that lives in their body, feelings are normal and it’s how we respond to them, or even just listen to them that helps us grow.
It’s also very important that we help them understand that we can name our feelings. It’s something some of us adults have only just started practicing but doing this from a young age is a really great way to get them understanding mental health.
Here are my 7 top tips for journaling with children
1. Set it up as a ritual, make it a nice space to get creative- light some candles, put some relaxing music on. This is a time for you to spend together. Show them that it means something to you too. A positive experience will make them want to do it again! This is time to relax and unwind with your child.
2. Forget about grammar and spelling, this is not homework, this is about connection helping to build emotional intelligence. It’s important you don’t correct them, just let them let it out! As a caregiver it’s important you embrace imperfection to help them feel more comfortable. If you are someone who likes things neat and tidy in work/life why not use this time to practice some self-expression to encourage them to let go too!
3. Ask questions! Allow them to explain to you what they have created, say that you have been inspired and maybe try and add some of their ideas to your journal too. This is will instill confidence and help them build self-esteem.
4. Do it with them! Work on your own journal, but keep looking up and engaging with them. If they run out of ideas inspire them with themes or ideas you have seen.
5. Give positive feedback, encourage them, tell them you like the colours they have used or that it really reminds you of something. It’s important you keep building them up.
6. If your child struggles with writing, pictures work just as well! Maybe you could get some glue and scissors and cut out pictures from magazines? Or display tickets or foliage you have picked up on your travels together. Make sure you have colouring pens at the ready as its all about the state mindfulness they achieve. Words are great but shapes and images can be just as good.
7. Leave judgement out of it, its really important that only positive words are shared. Try and explore feelings through shapes and colours to help them explain themselves more clearly. If you are struggling for a starting point, get them to choose to ‘illustrate’ or write about the best thing that happened that day? Or something in their life they really enjoy?
BONUS TIP: If you're keen to get started with journaling with children, take a look at our Positive Doodle Diary. The Doodle is a mindful gratitude journal designed to empower children with confidence through creativity. We think it's perfect to pair with The Positive Planner, so you and the little person in your life can journal together. You can find out more on our Positive Doodle Diary Instagram page.