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Today's Family Magazine

Journaling to improve communication…or not

Jan 17, 2017 12:13PM ● By Today's Family
By Stacy Turner

Awhile ago, I found what I thought was a great idea on Pinterest…a mother/daughter journal.  As someone admittedly more gifted in writing than speaking, I totally bought into the concept wholeheartedly, and created individual books for each of my girls.  I was excited for an opportunity to share dialog as they grew up, and the chance to chronicle the fun things we did.  I read that journaling helps enhance learning and helps kids gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.  It also provides a place to gain insights about the world around us, and our place in it.  But I’m not going to lie -- I also wanted a way to encourage my kids to work on their writing skills over the summer. I thought this might be a simple and fun way to encourage that effort prior to their fourth and second-grade school years.

As an idealist, I was excited to give them each a special journal, complete with the first entry explaining how we could use it to write notes and draw pictures for each other, and then leave it in a place for the other to find.  I had visions of us sharing thoughts about our road trips to see grandma and cousins, trips to the waterpark, and summer camping adventures.  I thought this would appeal to each child, since they regularly added silly notes and drawings to my planner and to-do list.  I’ve even found fictitious shopping lists written by the dog, tucked neatly under her doggy bed, waiting to be discovered.  But like many well-intentioned pins, the journal project eventually flopped.

Initially, my older child dove into the idea, writing back and leaving her notebook where I could find it.  She wrote about fun things she did at the end of the school year, swimming in grandma’s pond, and riding all the water slides throughout the summer months.  My second-grader, the realist, saw it as drudgery.  I tried to entice her by making my entries more engaging, but after three entries that garnered no response, I came up with a questionnaire-type note.  All she needed to do was simply answer a few questions. She bring it with her as we headed out on a camping trip.  In the two-hour car ride, she penned her six-words of response.  At this point, I was happy to see her replies, even if they weren’t in complete sentences. I still foolishly believed she would eventually become interested in responding.  This pattern continued, until eventually, the journal was ‘lost’ somewhere in the recesses of her messy bedroom.  As the new school year progressed, my older daughter’s responses dwindled, as well.  Eventually, her journal went MIA too.

I learned that my younger daughter’s elusive journal was spotted a short time later, tucked under her mattress.  By the time I went to investigate the sighting, it had vanished once again into oblivion, like Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. The mystery continued until recently. In our New Year's clutter-busting effort, the illusive journal was unearthed, jammed behind a dresser. My journal-challenged daughter is currently in the fifth grade.  And her view on writing outside of school assignments hasn’t improved much in the intervening years.

But as cold weather prompts more indoor activities both at school and at home, her sketchbook has become her constant companion.  And since writing has become more of a priority at school, I’ve decided to dust off the trusty mother/daughter journal and try again.  This time, I’ll include more sketches and doodles, since that’s my younger daughter’s favorite way to communicate.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment but I think this time, it just might work.  I’m looking forward to seeing her responses -- hopefully sometime before she hits high school.

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