Writing a Diary has many benefits for young people including helping them gain confidence, deal with issues and improve their writing overall.
We are often talking about the lost art of writing. We know it makes sense for children and young people to write more and recent research has shown us that students learn quickly when using a pen and paper, but I feel there are far more benefits in writing than improving learning and being able to write a letter to a future employee. Writing also provides a way for us to express feelings, solve problems and empathise with others. With 1 in 10 young people being affected with mental health problems, maybe a way to support young people through difficult times could be by helping them to express themselves through writing.
My daughter, always very thin, was teased a lot at school, even to the extent that she was called anorexic. She was and still is an introverted type, not one who wants to discuss or talk over her feelings, but give her a pen and paper and she can solve most of her problems. She wrote out all her feelings about her body and eventually felt empowered to do something about it. For her, that was entering a modelling completion and writing a book about her experience, and while that may not be everyone’s way out of a similar situation, her ability to express herself on paper brought her to a unique solution.
We also effectively used writing to get her over her first boy band crash but I am banned from mentioning that…oops!
Expressing yourself through words is a powerful form of self-support. It allows us to think or should I say write our way through possible solutions and consequences. It allows us to express what is truly inside, how we really feel, without feeling judged by a listener or worrying that someone may overhear us. We can distance ourselves from the situation by writing in the third person and learn to empathise with others by writing from different viewpoints. Using narrative to write through our problems is a very powerful way to reflect on our current behavioural pattern and learn to self-generate new ones.
Maybe your child isn’t as creative as mine; maybe she doesn’t want to use her new notebook to plan her next blockbuster. That’s fine, because journaling how we feel, how our day has gone, how we feel and what we want to do differently is as powerful as penning the next best-seller. Teenagers have always loved keeping diaries. Often feeling like no-one understands them, often confused by new feelings and exciting choices, it can be a challenge to work out who you want to be and what choices you want to make. Writing this out can often become the substitute for a best friend and can really support young people to deal with complex problems.
I have used writing all my life to support young people, from a criminal writing a letter of apology to the victim in the police to young girls recounting for the first time in words a rape they have not yet spoken about, to a teenager solving everyday problems by turning to their journal or diary, The power of writing is often overlooked.
Every Christmas since my children were little I have bought them both a blank journal. But it is never just a blank journal, is it is a promise of a new year to come, a promise of new ideas, new challenges, new friends, new adventures and I know that they are always better if they have a trusty journal by their side.