Journaling as a Tool in Healing


The other day my daughter announced that she was “doing her own therapy.” When I asked her what this meant she said that she was journaling and writing down her feelings. I’ll admit that this made my social worker heart proud. At the top of her page she wrote her own journal prompt and asked herself how she felt when she was adopted. Her answer was raw, honest and thoughtful, which was evidence just how therapeutic journaling can be. Journaling is a great way to process thoughts and emotions, even those emotions below the surface that you didn’t even know were there. Our brains can benefit from the opportunity to outline and process thoughts and emotion, which can bring healing. Older children who join their family through adoption may not feel comfortable yet sharing their history with their new parents, so a journal can be a safe place to mentally dump out feelings and think through life events or past trauma. Journaling can be very therapeutic even if no one else ever reads the words written on the page.

My children are not always the most forthcoming with their emotions, or if they do it, it always seems to be when they’re supposed to be in bed! I recently started doing a “Mom and Me” journal with my kids. I indicated that the journal was just between me and my child and it was a safe place to ask questions, write down feelings and share stories. They can write in the journal when they want and give it to me when they’re ready for me to read it. I started off with light easy questions to build trust. One of the first questions we journaled about was “If you had more time, what would you do?” I’ll admit my list was fairly long (one can always dream!). One item on my list in particular made my daughter laugh. I wrote that if I had more time I would sleep more. I’m sure fellow parents can relate! My daughter, however, didn’t understand and thought it was a joke. Trust me, it wasn’t a joke! I feel like I haven’t been well rested since having kids. The journal prompt presented us with an opportunity to have a discussion about how parents may not get as much sleep as kids because of the extra responsibilities they have such as household chores usually completed after the kids go to bed. I went on to explain that is why I like to sleep in on the weekends but unfortunately my children wake me up early, which continues the trend of sleeplessness. I have no delusions that my children are now going to let me sleep in on the weekends now, but I liked that journaling provided an opportunity to have a discussion about how not everyone values or needs the same things, and these can vary drastically depending on several factors such as the age and development.

While many of our journal entries are about frivolous and random musings, every once in a while, however, we encounter a really thought-provoking question. Journaling can improve your thought processing and mindfulness. I love the idea of sharing stories with my children because it breaks down the barriers created between parent and child and lets them know that we are human, we were once kids, and we make mistakes too. I also hope that my children can learn from some of my mistakes, but this isn’t possible if I don’t share my stories with them. Open communication with your children strengthens attachment.

I don’t know what it is about a crisp leather-bound journal that to me is so enticing. I may be old-fashioned, but I think there’s something about physically writing with pen and paper. But I know that with advances in technology the habit of writing with pen and paper has nearly become a foreign concept. Many kids (mine included) do their school work and homework on an electronic device. However, I think that journaling can very easily be adapted electronically as well because, as you may have guessed, there’s an app for that (several actually)! Many of these apps allow you to include digital pictures in your journal entries, send reminders to journal daily, allow you to access your journal across multiple devices among many other alluring features. Since many people carry a smart phone your journal could go with you wherever you go!

Journaling can be a very powerful tool whether it is done individually or with your child. It provides an outlet and opportunity to outline events, process thoughts and discuss topics which may never otherwise be discussed. Over time it can also be cathartic to look back and see how emotions and events unfold and how they impacted you and your adopted child. If you’re looking for another therapeutic strategy you may want to give journaling a try. All you need is pen and paper, or a journaling app if you prefer!

Angela Simpson is an adoptive parent, social worker and adoption advocate. Angela is MLJ Adoptions’ Support Services Specialist and works with families throughout their adoption process. Angela and her husband have two sons and have just recently added a daughter to their family through adoption.