Prepared by: Michelle Molle- Krowiak, Ed.S., LCSW
Journaling as a Tool for your Anxious Child
The concept of journaling has been around for a long time. The idea is to have a sacred and private place to write down your private thoughts. Those thoughts, good or bad, then have a home, a place to live.
Anxious Thoughts are Distracting
In working with anxious children, adolescents, adults and their parents, anxious thoughts can be mean, popping up during times when you should be having fun with a friend or at a birthday party, listening to a lesson in class, or doing homework. Anxious thoughts are distracting and sometimes, they come back again and again and again and again and again and again.
Oops! I hit ‘Send’
I know you’ve had a moment or two in your life when your feelings were so angry or so hurt, and you wrote a text or an email and it felt good to write it out, right? You felt relieved because you got the swirl of thoughts and feelings out of your head and body, out onto a screen, and you knew the other person read it with all of your intent. Have you ever regret hitting send because the emotion was a little too raw and intense, and maybe with a little bit of processing, you could have expressed your thoughts more directly and with less emotion? Join the large club of the “Senders of the Regretted Text/Email! Hello, my name is (insert your name here)!”
The Intimacy of Writing
A safe and productive way of expressing your thoughts and emotions without the “danger” of hitting the send button is journaling. In our technology driven world, sadly, the art of writing is lost. Our children are lost in the world of abbreviations (LOL, LMAO, TTYL, TU, GM, etc, etc, etc). The act of writing has strong neuropsychological benefits. The multi-sensory aspects of generating a thought, transferring it to paper, the physical act of writing, reading over what you read and making changes to your thoughts (or grammar, or punctuation) is a complex process that taps into executive functioning skills, emotional expression, and communication. It’s an intimate process that also allows gives you freedom to express your deepest thoughts and feelings, whether they are for sharing or for private consumption only! In essence, it’s allowing you or your child to re-connect with your thoughts, feelings, and yourself. That’s an activity that a lot of us have stopped doing because of our rushed lifestyles, overbooking ourselves and our children, and ‘running’ and rushing to get to bed. Where is our downtime? In essence, journaling allows you to reconnect - with yourself!
Think About It
Another way you can use that handy dandy journal is to share your thoughts and struggles in between sessions with your Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT).
When you and your therapist are sitting together, it’s hard to remember what happened in the last week or two weeks. By documenting your thought journey, it’s easy to reference what triggered illogical or negative thoughts that increased anxiety or lowered self esteem. When you are able to discuss together, you now have insight about how you were feeling in that moment and where you are now in your thoughts. What a powerful way to make the connection that how you felt in that moment (no matter how negative or powerful), the feeling does pass, and things doget better.
Even if you don’t end up sharing your journal with your therapist, journaling takes those irrational thoughts or fears and makes them visual and tangible without judgement, just in black (blue, red, pencil) and white!
Show Your Gratitude
In our practice, we encourage parents to sit down with their child at bedtime and create a new routine of using their journal to identify worries so that they can get ‘rid’ of them and hopefully, sleep well. We also encourage the practice of gratitude – for every worry, identify one thing you are grateful for (e.g., I had a great lunch today, I finished my homework quickly today, I loved the sunshine today, etc). We start with the worries and end with the things we are grateful for as a way of pumping those endorphins and promoting positive feelings about one’s self and day.
We didn’t share with you anything you didn’t already know, but it’s all here in one place for you to read and practice. Pick up a journal for yourself or your child and get that pen, pencil, crayon or marker moving!
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles