Journaling has been one of my primary tools of communication with God throughout my life. With a smooth pen and a brave hand, writing down my thoughts, feelings, and prayers onto paper has been a significant part of my personal expression, growth, and relationship with my Creator. As a homeschool mom of three, this exercise is something I’ve wanted to pass down to our children as a simple and proven method of sharing their voices with the One who wants to know everything they’re thinking!
These days, children are bombarded with media and the busy rush of adults and caregivers. We’re living in a season of life that is unparalleled when it comes to quarantine, schooling from home, parents working from home, and also parents teaching their kids while working from home. It overwhelms feelings and sensory processing.
Though we may not always be able to get out for a walk or run, grab park time with a friend, or see an outside family member, we can always bring our thoughts to God. And so, throughout life, and especially in this season of life, I’ve found it extremely encouraging to give my kids the opportunity to outwardly express their hands, hearts, and writing in the form of journaling.
As many childhood and occupational therapists note, writing by hand is one of the primary ways to wire or rewire the brain. It aids children in releasing emotion and imagination, and it engages them in creating healthy habits and neural pathways. It’s a skill that can aid them in mental health throughout the longevity of their lives.
Here are a few tips that I’ve used in my personal life, as a parent, and in my homeschool classroom. I pray they increase the joy of communication, connection, and fun in your relationships with your kids!
- Encourage a brain dump. That simply means to let the kids write out whatever thoughts and feelings come to the surface of their brain at any time. Being able to have a free space where they can write, ask God questions, not have to worry about grammar, and be super honest gives them the freedom to share things inside their hearts that they may be holding onto. They can share this “brain dump,” or they can keep it private. What matters is that it’s no longer in their heads, but it’s been given a healthy outlet on paper.
- Encourage a prayer list or gratitude list. Being thankful for what we have is one of the best ways to have a great day. In this day and age where immediate gratification can buy kids whatever they want quickly (especially things to keep them “busy”), it’s so important for them to acknowledge all the good, practical things they’ve been given in life. I always encourage my kids to think about being grateful for the food we have to eat, the movement of our healthy bodies, the joy that we know Jesus, the family we are part of, etc. This helps remind them of the important things in life. It refreshes moms, too!
- Encourage a prayer of repentance. It doesn’t have to be super serious, but it’s actually a crucial part of a child’s learning process with God and others! Have your kids write down a few things that are going well in their lives and walk with God, as well as a few things they are struggling with. It’s good for all of us to learn how to become self-aware, evaluate, and grow in our skills and mental health. The kids can simply write down where they have had mishaps for the day and where they have had growth. They can tell Jesus they are sorry for where they’ve missed the mark, and they can ask Him for forgiveness to help them do better next time. This encourages healthy dialogue with God and releases any shame for where mistakes occur.
- Encourage a prayer of praise. This can be through a variety of ways depending on the age of your children. You can have the child write down a Bible verse in fun handwriting, color a picture that represents their feelings or thoughts about God, or add some art to their prayers, words, or Bible verse. It’s a space where there is room for free play with writing! It gives kids a healthy, creative, and fun outlet to express themselves in a way that is real to them. It also gives me special glimpses into the unique heart of each of my children. I can then pray for them with the verse they choose.
- Encourage creativity and story. Depending on the age of your child, this is the perfect place to add some fun and flair. Have your child make up a story and write it down. My kids love this! They can use descriptive words, all kinds of feelings, a good guy and a bad guy, a plot, or art and song. Giving kids an opportunity to build a skill like storytelling teaches them creativity, compassion for others, and helps them find common ground with people around them. Who doesn’t love to hear a good story? Especially when it comes from the heart of a child!
Try some of these tips the next time your kids are working through something tough, need a new outlet, want to color with a purpose, or would like to grow in their creativity. As they do, you can easily and gently incorporate grammar and neatness (if necessary). But as they play, you can see their feelings expressed, their imagination released, and their mental health supported. You don’t have to do all five tips in one day; take it one day at a time and let them pick and choose some of the fun for the day. It gives children both a safe and creative outlet to gain independence, as well as a productive and helpful guide for spiritual growth. And most of all, it’s fun!
As you see Jesus living in them, enjoy learning new aspects of your children’s personalities, witnessing their creative ideas come to life, sparking new joy, and fostering peace. You’ll be inspired and refreshed as you do!
Sarah Humphrey is a wife and homeschool mom to three kids while also working as an artist, author, and voice actor. Her writing and doodling can be found in her devotional, 40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood, and her voice can be heard in several commercials, children’s books, and audiobooks. She loves encouraging women and kids to embrace self-care, utilize their gifts, and become leaders in the community around them.