Several months ago I read about using a parent-child journal to communicate with your kids. I thought it was an excellent idea, and immediately started one with my oldest child (the only one that was reading and writing at the time). It has been a BIG hit. She loves writing back and forth with me and dad. She usually responds within a day, if not a few hours, and is good at holding us accountable for responding promptly as well.
What is a Parent-Child Journal?
A parent-child journal is simply a notebook where we can write to each other. We bought a plain composition notebook, and started with writing our daughter a letter about how much we loved her that pointed out several of her strengths, and things that she did that we appreciated. I told her that she could write back anything she wanted. She could draw a picture, ask a question or tell a story. It didn’t matter, she could say anything she wanted. After one of us writes in the journal we place it on the pillow of the other person so that they can read it and respond. There are so many benefits! It is an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, spelling and grammar, handwriting, and increasing communication. We’ve even started learning/teaching cursive.
As adults we usually write far more to our eight year old daughter than she writes to us. It’s a great opportunity for me to use words that she may not know or tell a story about myself as a child. This gives her a chance to expand her vocabulary and practice her reading comprehension. I often will ask her a question at the end of what I write to gently test that comprehension. I’ve also let her know that she can always bring the journal to me to ask about anything she doesn’t understand or look up a word while reading.
Spelling and Grammar
The journal should be a fun activity with no pressure, so I NEVER correct her spelling and grammar. I do, however, pay attention to the mistakes she makes. This allows me to identify gaps in her knowledge of grammar or specific spelling rules she may be struggling with. I can then incorporate these things into our lessons at a later time. Every now and then I can ask her a question designed to get a specific answer to test whether that rule is still a problem.
Handwriting and Cursive Instruction
The journal is a great way to get in handwriting practice. It is a fun activity, rather than a chore, and she doesn’t even realize I’m making her work! If her handwriting gets too sloppy I simply bring her the journal and say “I’m sorry sweetie, but I can’t tell what you wrote here.” She tells me and I write it in next to the word “so I won’t forget”. That’s it. I don’t say anything that will put pressure on her to write better, as stated before this is supposed to be a fun, no pressure activity. She will inevitably try to write neater on the next exchange, because she doesn’t want me to have to ask her what her words say. When she expressed an interest in learning cursive I began writing to her in cursive. She is now getting practice at reading cursive. She has to ask me what certain words are occasionally, but her comprehension is quickly improving. We practice her own cursive writing outside of the journal and she can choose to use it in the journal when she is ready.
Creating Connection and Increasing Communication
At 8 years and younger communication isn’t much of a problem, yet. Our kids are pretty much an open book. As they age, however kids start to have problems, questions, and concerns that maybe they don’t know how to talk about with their parents. This journal gives them an opportunity to bring up those issues in a safe environment. As parents is gives us the chance to pray, discuss and plan how to respond to these problems and questions they will have. It is also a place where we can introduce topics of conversation to our child. For example at age 8 she is ready to start learning about menstruation and how puberty will affect her body. I can introduce the topic through the journal so that when we sit down to have the talk it isn’t uncomfortable or awkward, it’s just an extension of a topic that has already been discussed. As my children get older I hope they will use it to ask me questions about their religious beliefs, relationships with friends, sexual purity, and anything else that is on their mind. This is why it is so important to keep the journal a safe and fun activity when kids are young. As they age they need to know that it is not a place for judgment, it is a place for open communication.
Have you ever used a parent-child journal? In what other ways do you encourage open communication with your children?