As my daughters get older, it seems increasingly difficult to know what they are feeling or thinking. There are sad days, mad days, happy days… and then the days where all of the emotions seem to happen at the same time. I have found that shared journaling has helped me to communicate better with my teens.
How do I keep up with all of these teen emotions? How can I communicate with my daughters and make it meaningful?
Many, many years ago, when I was a teen, I can’t recall having so many feelings. Nor do I remember having to option to use shared journaling. Maybe I was lucky to have missed this phase in life or maybe I chose to forget about it. But either way, I want to be there for my children as they go through this roller coaster of teen emotions. I want to be there on the days that they just need support from their mom, and on the days when I am (for no good reason) enemy number 1.
I was wracking my brain trying to come up with ways to communicate with my girls without giving them the impression I was trying to invade their privacy. As we all know, teens and especially (in my experience) teen girls can be hard to effectively communicate with. They keep their emotions hidden until one day they burst into tears or slam down some books or huff and stomp- and finally tell me what’s been troubling them. Nobody told me how hard it would be to raise teens!
In my ongoing quest to become a better mom to my teens, I stumbled upon an article that talked about shared journaling that goes back and forth between a parent and a child.
I thought this was such a great, productive way to communicate without it feeling forced. It’s a way for my girls to express how they feel at their own pace, in their own words, and without my influence.
Once a week, we each take turns filling in the journal and leaving it on each other’s nightstand for the other to find and read. The thought behind this journal is simple. It offers writing prompts such as their future dreams and goals, conversations about friends they feel they can trust, and goals and dreams. The prompts for the parent are similar but slightly different with the goal of teaching the children about what you went through as a child and what you and your teen have in common.
Occasionally, you will find me outside my teens’ bedroom door listening to them giggling and chatting about the prompts that I have filled in. I guess the journal is working because we haven’t had any explosive tears lately! I have also learned that sometimes I don’t need to write anything wise. Sometimes, I just need to start the conversation and let my girls have the chance to take the discuss whatever way they want. I am grateful we have found a way to communicate.
This exercise has also taught me patience. My girls bring up issues and concerns to me when they are ready and pushing them to talk seems to only alienate them. For now, writing to each other is a great way to stay in touch and bond, and it also helps us approach delicate topics.