How to Use a Journal to Communicate with Your Teen

Get your teen to communicate with you by journaling together.
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In households everywhere, parents are trying to get their teen to talk to them. But often, the more a parent pries, the more a teen shut downs and stops talking. Unfortunately, many parents are left in the dark about how their teen is doing.

Writing in a journal could be the key to sparking ongoing conversation with a teen. Often, teens who seem to have little to contribute to a conversation, have a lot to write about.

The Benefits of a Journal

Face-to-face communication can be too intense for teens at times. Being bombarded with questions over dinner, or confronted with uncomfortable lectures about alcohol or sex while on a ride in the car, can cause teens to withdraw. A journal however, provides them with time to think about what they want to say, without feeling like they’re on the spot.

Another benefit to journaling is that you can communicate in different ways. You can draw pictures to portray how they’re feeling or what they’re dreaming about.

You can also use a journal to communicate your ideas differently. Rather than holding a single conversation, a journal can keep the conversation going for days, weeks, or even months.

You can create lists together, such as, “The Worst Jobs in the World Are…” and then take turns writing down a job you think would be awful and the reasons why. Or, you can share things like, “I Feel Angry When…” and talk about your feelings on an ongoing basis.

Paper Vs. Electronic Journals

A journal can be a physical notebook or an online journal. An online journal could simply be emailed back and forth or accessed from a website.

Teens often spend a lot of time behind their digital devices, however, and an electronic journal may increase their screen time.

And of course there are potential security issues associated with sharing information online.

A physical journal offers some other advantages. Passing a journal back and forth can make you and your teen more mindful of the process. While an email can easily get lost in the shuffle, a notebook or journal is less likely to be forgotten.

You can also doodle or draw in a physical journal easily. It’s simple to place stickers in a journal as well to decorate pages, or you can add mementos, like a ticket stub and turn it into somewhat of a scrap book.

Bright screens can interfere with sleep when used right before bed. So if you think your teen may want to write in the journal at bedtime, a paper journal may be best.

Here are some tips for making journaling with your teen successful:

  • Introduce the journaling idea as a fun way for you and your teen to communicate. Start by writing a light-hearted entry that ends with a few open-ended questions to get your teen started.
  • Avoid setting rules about writing in the journal. Telling your teen to write a page-long entry every day for example, will turn it into a chore and it won’t be fun anymore.
  • Don’t use the journal to lecture your teen. Your teen won’t look forward to reading what you have to say if you are too negative.
  • Mix fun journal entries with more serious entries. Talk about current events and social concerns, but mix that in with silly lists, questions, or drawings.
  • Encourage self-expression. Journaling is a great way to get to know your teen better and teens often communicate differently in writing than they do in-person. So be open to learning as much as you can about your teen’s ideas, dreams, emotions, and morals.  

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