Mother/daughter journaling is something we’ve done for a while.
On the surface it’s as simple as a shared notebook where we both write.
Sometimes serious and frequently silly our joint-journaling offers easy, silent connection.
Right now uncomfortable face-to-face talks are not something which challenge the Child and me.
At almost-12 she’s still in the ask anything/tell anything phase. She has zero fear of shocking me with her curiosities or of embarrassing herself with (finger quote) silly (unFQ) questions.
Puberty is here.
I’m all too aware the Child before me now, whom I know as well as I know myself, is changing.
Physically and emotionally.
The former I’ve got covered. The latter I hope the shared foundation built from our Mother/Daughter Journal will help us navigate.
Spelling? Grammar? Unimportant. (Correction by now 12 year old.)
I launched our writing practice before a major move when my daughter was seven.
As parent I had no idea how to handle the transition. As human I’d spent all my formative years in the same house and found myself unable to completely empathize. Creating a communal space seemed a way for us to maintain communication and serve as emotional check-in during that unpredictable time.
She’s older now, life is more staid, yet we’ve still chosen to maintain our writing habit.
A fact which, when mentioned to mom-friends, elicits equal amounts shock (she still shares? what do you write about?) and curiosity (is it too late to begin? how would we start?!).
How to launch a shared journal.
Make introduction of shared writing special.
Anyone who’s spent time with children knows they react to how we respond to situations. For the most part, even though tweens may attempt to hide it, if we’re excited then they’re excited.
Journaling is special shared time together and it’s helpful to present the idea in this same fashion (perhaps a mother/daughter date?).
I definitely found making the journal concept a sacred space (from inception to execution) helped facilitate a sense of safety and connection.
Allow your daughter to choose the notebook you’ll keep your writings in. In addition, if she’s artistic or young enough to find it enjoyable, suggest you decorate the journal cover together.
The more excitement you create about the idea and the physical journal (the latter is surprisingly important) the more likely she is to take ownership and want to keep the shared writing going.
We immediately chose special journal-use-only! fine tipped Sharpies and gel pens. Keeping these writing implements sacrosanct/separate tremendously helped launch our habit. As with our Gilmore Girls viewing, when she was younger joint-journaling was initially more about ritual than words set on paper.
Initially my daughter chose for our journal to be like Fight Club (she didn’t want her father to know about our writings). Making our journal clandestine created a sense of privacy and “it’s just us girls!” which resulted in her sharing more freely.
The rest of our journal expectations, however, evolved as our shared writing gained momentum.
We decided there’s no need to only write in our notebook. Drawings conveyed feelings powerfully, too.
We learned the importance of never self-editing. We agreed any questions were allowed, but there was never “pressure” to respond.
We also have no expectations about writing frequency. The journal is a zero-pressure thing in our condo.
No matter what your duo decides (or consciously choose not to decide!) it’s important to clarify expectations early in the process.
What do we write about?
A Mother/Daughter journal can be approached any way your duo determines!
At the beginning, my daughter filled pages with questions/prompts she created (Did you ever move? Was it scary? and How do I feel about moving?) and, when we completed those, we brainstormed new ones together.
Each time we journaled she’d decide who wrote first and when we finished we’d read our responses to each other.
You might choose to let your daughter pose the questions you each answer.
You may decide to use the journal like a diary where you each share snippets of your day (a written version of hi/low).
You could decide the shared writing serves as a space for her to journal thoughts/concerns and where you respond with encouragement, normalization and reminders of unconditional love.
There are no rules for either process or topic. It’s only important you decide everything as a team.
(entries can be silly like listing current fave songs.)
Our journaling is in the midst of a shift.
My daughter used to always be the one surprising me with journal & pens and asking to write. These days, more often than not, I’m the one spontaneously snagging our notebook by way of an unspoken Is there anything you want to talk about?
Instead of writing/reading together we now write and pass the notebook back and forth. I spend time with what she’s written and respond with words unspoken.
Our practice launched as a place for her to learn about our similarities & differences (Who was your BFF in 2nd grade?) and has evolved to a safe-space for her feelings.
A space where she’s confident she will be heard without judgement.
To equal parts delight and dismay on my end she has a wider, more complex world and richer inner life than when she was little.
This co-writing habit will help us navigate relationship shifts as she separates from me yet still has fleeting pangs of needing her Mama.
Or so I hope, anyway.
- Have you ever participated in a shared writing journal?
Allie saysDecember 4, 2017 at 4:50 am
I can say I have never done this but I’ve kept a journal on and off for most of my life. I still have the one from when my mom died and the several years afterward, when I moved to CA, etc. It’s so hard to read!!!
I love that you share this with your daughter. As you know, it can be so much easier to write things down then to speak the words. My boys keep journals (really just lists of important things or ideas) so maybe I’ll ask to share their space…or see if they want to create a new shared one! I bet they do!!
Bea saysDecember 4, 2017 at 6:05 am
I love this idea. I had never thought about starting it with my twins but I journal all the time and I know they’re watching and noticing.
Marcia saysDecember 4, 2017 at 7:42 am
I love this so much. What a wonderful idea. I feel lucky that both my tween and teen still come to me to talk about “stuff” but writing it down and sharing is brilliant.
Haralee saysDecember 4, 2017 at 8:30 am
What a great idea. How wonderful that this has been an ongoing successful Mother/Daughter experience. I can only imagine 15-20 years from now you both reading this together and reliving it!
Wendy saysDecember 4, 2017 at 9:22 am
I love that you do this with your daughter. My youngest son will still talk to me (about most things) but my oldest is pretty quiet. When he was young, he and I were best buds. Maybe a journal would have helped that. Sometimes it’s easier not to speak, but to write.
Ellen Dolgen saysDecember 4, 2017 at 9:46 am
What a fantastic idea! Brilliant! I am going to definitely going to mention this to my daughter. She will love doing this with her daughter. Maybe a Grandma – granddaughter version would be fun!
email@example.com saysDecember 4, 2017 at 9:59 am
What a fabulous idea Carla. It sounds like it’s a very special way to communicate.
Kate saysDecember 4, 2017 at 10:27 am
I wish I’d thought of this… and done it when my kids were young!
What a great idea!
Lisa saysDecember 4, 2017 at 12:06 pm
I want to do this with all 3 of my kids- looks like I might be writing all the time, lol!
Estelle saysDecember 4, 2017 at 1:25 pm
This is such a great idea. I really want to do it with my daughter. I will ask her if she is interested (you never know, she’s eight). Thanks for sharing it.
Beth Havey saysDecember 4, 2017 at 4:05 pm
As usual, great idea. Your daughter is so fortunate to have you as a mom. My daughter has done similar things with my granddaughter. It cements the relationship and often you
will write something down that would be so much harder to say. I missed that boat when raising my older daughter who found it hard to tell me things–but we are as close as ever now.
messymimi saysDecember 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm
My girls are grown now, but if they ever have girls of their own, i am going to suggest this.
Pamela saysDecember 4, 2017 at 11:13 pm
Very interesting, I’ve never thought about this before but I can see the many benefits in it. Great way to stay in tune with your daughter and any personal anxieties she may be facing.
Carly @ Fine Fit Day saysDecember 5, 2017 at 1:16 pm
What a special ritual! And I’m sure it’s helped/helping both of you during tough times. It’s funny how sometimes the things we start doing for our kids end up helping us as well. My 5 year old loves drawing, I might suggest to him we start a drawing book like this. 🙂
Jody- Strong & Sassy at 60 saysDecember 5, 2017 at 3:07 pm
Love!!! I have never even done this much for myself –
Michele Morin saysDecember 9, 2017 at 6:34 am
I did this for a season with each of my sons in turn, and loved it. We shared one notebook and took turns writing in it, and then would “hide” it somewhere for the other person to find and reply. It was such an important connection with my growing up boys.