Monday, June 1, 2015

Using Journals To Guide Children To Stronger Emotional Health

     In my last post I mentioned the journals we have been using. At TAP (The Attachment Place) they write in their journals daily. Everyone chooses a certain thing they want to work on, be it interrupting, losing their temper etc. Sometime during the course of the day, each child rates themselves on a scale of 1-10. Miss Sharon then grades each child as well and they compare grades and discuss what they could do differently in the future. This is a non confrontational way to bring to attention those nagging actions and attitudes.
   There is something about putting your feelings and emotions down on paper that takes away their power to cause pain. It also helps identify "big feelings." When I was working through some issues in my life, I was unable to express what I was feeling so the therapist told me to write them down. I was skeptical about the whole idea. If you don't know what is bothering you, how are you going to write about it? But I did what the therapist advised and took a blank sheet of paper and a pen and started writing whatever thoughts came to my mind, and it worked!
  So with these examples and also because I hope my children can someday deescalate themselves, I bought tablets, labeled them journals and handed them pens. The first few times they were a little lost and needed to be coached along. I made a book mark for Joseph and made facial expressions for mad, sad, happy, scared and worried. He keeps it in his journal and when I tell him to sit down and write about his feelings he is able, with the help of his book mark, to draw the faces that match his feelings. Under each expression, I have him write why he is feeling that way.

Joseph with his journal and book mark

   An entry in their journals may look something like this:
     Why did you tear the picture Tristan drew?
      Because I wanted to
      Why do you think you wanted to do that?
      I was angry 
      I wonder what you were angry about?
     Tristan's paper made me angry
     Why do you think the paper make you angry?
     I wish I could draw like Tristan
     So you felt angry because you wish you could draw as well as Tristan?
  After summarizing what the child wrote I usually have them write down what they could do instead of choosing to be angry, sad etc.
  I finish each entry by writing the date in the corner and clarifying anything that may be confusing when we read back through the book.

   Kiana does very well at writing. Last week when I wasn't feeling well, she was getting into trouble so I sat her down with her journal and told her to write. She wrote, "I am afraid mom will die because she is sick." Poor girl! I told her I wasn't that sick but she wasn't about to believe me. Once I was feeling better and working again she kept checking up on me to make sure I didn't work to hard.

   I forget that "Trauma doesn't tell time," and my children are still living with the trauma of their past. They have a deep set fear that Dean and I are going to abandon them. The only way we can help them is to continually show them that we love them and will never leave them alone. I cannot imagine what it would be like going through life with that huge fear in the back of your mind.

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