Paper Thoughts

Alright grown ups, here’s all you need to know about getting your kid to journal!

 

Parents often want kids to be able to speak with them about how they are feeling, sometimes kids, especially teenagers can be pretty…resistant…to talking with their parents about important stuff. Journaling can be a great first step in fostering healthy communication about emotions between you and your child.

Most parents can agree that they want their kids to be able to express their emotions in a healthy way. Most parents can also agree that they often struggle to get their kids to do things that they suggest.

Here are some helpful tips on getting your kids to journal and minimizing their eye rolling and resistance:

 

  • Pitch the idea to them in the right way: If you think your kid might benefit from journaling explain to them how can be helpful; that it can help them learn about themselves, grow, express themselves, find their voice, and track their progress. Give your kid as much choice as possible. If you force them it becomes like homework…and no one likes homework.

 

  • Gather materials: We all like nice things. A kid is much more likely to write in a journal if they are able to pick out a cool one that they like (that’s why Paper Thoughts works to give kids in need journals!) Make it a special event to pick out a nice journal and a nice pen/pencil for your child to use when journaling. Encourage your kid to choose something that speaks to them. The more exciting and special it is the more likely your kid is to try it.

 

  • Set the stage: Encourage your child to find a good space to journal. Encourage them to limit distractions like cell phones and television. Calming music or quiet work best. They may want to journal outside or they may want to journal in their room. Let your child know they can journal for as long or as short as they’d like. Encourage them to do what feels most comfortable for them.

 

  • Make it as easy as possible: Check out our resources page to find a printable PDF of different methods of journaling. If your child is having a hard time knowing where to start, give them some direction. There are lots of free journal prompts in our resources section that you can use to help your child get started. They’re divided by topic and are available for PDF download. 

 

  • Respect Privacy: while it might be really tempting to peek in your kid’s journal to see what they’re writing about, try to avoid it. Journaling will be more effective and helpful for your child if they feel like it’s a safe place to let their feelings out. If you feel like you must check what they are writing to make sure they are safe, let them know about it. Be honest and up front; avoid sneaking and snooping. If you want your child to be able to communicate their feelings with you, it’s important that they trust you. Take the first step in building that trust by making sure you’re honest and open with them.

 

  • Set a good example: If you want your kid to journal and express their emotions in a healthy way, it’s important for you to set a good example by doing the same. You can set aside time where you both journal at the same time next to one another. You can encourage them to share what they wrote. If your child doesn’t want to talk about what they wrote, that’s okay, try to avoid pressuring them, instead ask what you can do to make it easier for them to talk to you, or ask them what the experience of journaling was like for them. This can be a cool way to bond with your kid and both learn about yourselves and grow!

 

Journaling offers a place for kids to learn to express themselves with words, but also maintain privacy and not have to worry about the reactions from others. It gives kids the opportunity to think about their feelings and express them in a safe and healthy way. It can also be a great coping skill when your child is upset or frustrated and it can facilitate healing and growth. It’s also a great way to jumpstart communication between you and your child!

 

 

 

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Journaling for Mental Health

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Today is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! And although I think EVERY day should be children’s mental health awareness day, its a good day to celebrate and have a conversation about mental health and how it all relates to…you guessed it…journaling. 

1 in 5 children  suffer from a mental health or learning disorder and 80% of chronic mental illnesses begin in childhood. That’s why it is SO important to talk about mental health.

Lots of kids (and even adults) feel like they have to hold all of their feelings inside, that they are weak if they express them. Bottling up of emotions can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety, problems managing anger, making good choices and a bunch of other issues. 

Journaling can help manage mental health symptoms because its a great way to express your emotions and get your thoughts and feelings out. 

Many times, those struggling with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety have thoughts that bother them a lot. Someone with depression might think a lot about how bad things are always going to happen to them, or how they aren’t good at anything. Someone with anxiety might think about how if they make a mistake it could ruin their lives. Journaling is an awesome way to work through that. Here’s a good way to structure it: 

  1. Write down the thought that’s bothering you. 
  2. Take a few deep breaths and try to “center” yourself. 
  3. Take a step back and re-read what you wrote. 
  4. Think about it: Does this thought make sense? Is it based in fact or opinion? How would you react if someone you cared about said this thought out loud to you?
  5. If you’re like most people, your thought might not make total sense (even though they FEEL really true). Try writing a counter thought. A counter thought is one that is based on fact and not on the way you’re feeling.   

Here’s an example of an anxious thought pattern and how journaling like this might help: 

I’m feeling REALLY anxious about my upcoming finals. It’s almost the end of school and I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail and I’m never going to get into college. I’m going to fail and I’m never going to get a good job. I’m going to fail because I’m stupid and can’t ever do anything right….” 

I’m feeling pretty terrible and scared. Let me try to journal to feel better, I’m not sure it will work, but whatever, I’ll try because I’m feeling really crappy right now and anything is better than just sitting here worrying. 

I write down “I’m going to fail because I’m stupid and can’t ever do anything right.”

I look at the page for a few seconds. I really believe this. I feel bad about myself. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I focus on my breathing for a few seconds. I open my eyes again and read what I wrote.

I have a hard time coming up with a “counter thought” that makes more sense. I still feel like I’m stupid and can’t do anything right. So I ask myself how I would respond if my friend said these mean words about themselves to me.

….I would say she was silly, that it’s just a final and it won’t determine what happens to her for the rest of her life, I would tell her that she’s smart and if she puts her mind to it she’ll be okay. I’d remind her of all the things she’s good at. I’d offer to help her study if she wanted, and remind her that I’m her friend and I’m here for her. 

I try to re-frame the way I think about the situation and myself. I know that beating myself up isn’t helpful and usually only makes me feel worse. 

I write down “sometimes I make mistakes and that’s okay because everyone does, I’ll study hard and try to pass my test, if I don’t it will still be okay and I’ll try harder next time.” 

I’m not sure I really believe it, but I write it down anyway because all of those things are facts. They are true and not just based on how I’m thinking and feeling. I keep going and writing down things that are nicer about myself. I try to stay positive. I feel a little better. It’s good to get my thoughts and feelings out, even if it is hard to come up with counter thoughts. Even if I don’t fully believe the positive things I wrote down, I’ve still stopped my “runaway train” of anxiety. That alone helps me feel better. 

This is just an example of how journaling can be used to manage thoughts that are really common in people struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. It is SO important to be able to express yourself in a way that works for you. Journaling can be a great way to do that. It doesn’t matter if you express yourself better with art or with words, its just important to express yourself. 

 

REMEMBER: It is SO important to seek treatment from a mental health professional if you are struggling or think you might have a mental illness. Nothing is a substitute for quality care from a professional.
If you are in crisis please call your local crisis number, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or 911. 

 

If you’d like more resources on journaling check out our resources page. Make sure to follow our blog for updates and more content like this!

 

 

We are SUPER excited to announce that Paper Thoughts has been accepted as a speaker at the inaugural TedXNewburgh event! On May 18th Jen O. will be speaking about the work Paper Thoughts is doing and how we are working to support kids in our community. Check out their website and follow them on Facebook for more information! Tickets are limited and first come first serve, but aren’t on sale yet. Make sure you follow them for updates!

Do you remember how it felt to be in middle school? Oh, yes, we’re going there. Everything is changing, your body is changing, relationships are changing, roles in your family, how you’re educated: it’s all changing. During all of that, you’re somehow expected to naturally know how to cope with all of it, right?

Where does all of this go, before it all boils over?

A few months ago I was working with a student who was really struggling. We tried lots of different things, different skills to help her feel better, but none of them really “stuck.” We had stopped making progress.

Then we started writing together. Writing became a wonderful tool for her to express herself and release her pain. Things improved immensely, she was able to communicate with others better, focus in school, and just looked happier.

I was so proud of her, but my heart sank, She told me she tried not to write everyday Because she was afraid of filling up her nice journal too quickly. Writing in a notebook from the dollar store, or on scraps of paper may technically work, but the cheap paper, the scattered nature all served as a reminder of her current situation, while the nice journal helped her travel into the future and ponder what she truly wanted for herself. It allowed her to let go and dream.

So I bought some journals, nice ones, the kind a person could dream in. She was so ecstatic, I couldn’t help myself…I bought more journals… I bought… SOOO many journals and offered them to more kids, and the same thing happened.

Then the magic really hit, I started talking about it and grownups really loved the idea of helping kids journal. It was as if they could remember what it was it was like in middle school, and while no one ever handed them a journal, they had the chance to do that now for someone.

Not only did friends and coworkers bring me journals, but others were donating through facebook, and even volunteering as local collection points in their home towns, sending me cases of journals. I was able to offer these special things to more kids, and not only were more kids journaling, but more kids were reaching out for help.

So I started the Paper Thoughts Program.

The Paper Thoughts Program allows me to provide journals and sketchbooks to schools and other youth serving organizations, giving children the tools to find their voice, and manage emotions that might otherwise boil over. While I’m not psychic I do believe that such a thing ensures a brighter future for all.

Our goal started out small, hoping to collect enough journals to provide any student at South Middle School that needs an outlet for their emotions. Now, we hope to branch out to other schools, mental health providers, and youth serving organizations. With your help we can do that! Check out our Get Involved page for more info!