Science supports the power of Journaling

Journaling for self-care and coping: A study of mothers of troubled children in the community.

As the mother of a young child, I believe I could create a blog solely dedicated to my experience as a parent.  However, I would like today’s post to focus on parents who are suffering from depression due to their children’s behaviors. I will also provide evidence-based benefits related to journaling when faced with parenting troubled children. 

As a parent of a fairly well-behaved 5-year-old, I can only speak as one who was once that troubled kid. Growing up, I lived in a single-parent household with four siblings. In retrospect, it was not a pretty or pleasant experience, but it helped shape me as a parent now. As a result of my childhood memories keeping me awake so many nights, many pages of my diary are devoted to my upbringing. That’s a whole discussion in itself. In this post, I hope to provide comfort to parents with troubled children.

“Hope is always present. The sorrow may blind us, but hope still exists.”

– Denisha Powell

An experiment done by three researchers in 2020 explored the benefits of a six-week mixed-method writing intervention program. It was the purpose of this study to identify the coping strategies used by mothers during the difficult time of raising children who displayed emotional and behavioral problems. During the six-week study, participants were required to journal three times a week, mothers were asked to journal using different writing techniques. My experiences are similar to those they describe when they release their thoughts in a diary. Researchers found that the mothers experienced numerous and statistically significant changes in many aspects of their lives. I will highlight three of these themes below. 

Benefits To Journaling

1. Optimism increases through journaling

The first thing that departs from our minds when we are going through a difficult period in life is our thoughts of optimism and confidence when we look forward to the future. Journaling for parents means regaining hope for our children’s future, well-being, and happiness. Expecting things to turn out well does not make them occur, but an optimistic perspective will always make hardships more bearable.

2. Gratitude increases thanks to journaling

It cannot be overstated how important gratitude is to all individuals who possess life. Nonetheless, expressing gratitude to our children can greatly alter the way we perceive their behavior as parents. Many of us who were troubled kids often felt as if we weren’t wanted, let alone loved. We, as children, ignorant of the harm, therefore reacted in kind to those feelings. In reflecting on my struggles as an adolescent, I believe we can all benefit from being shown gratitude. The word gratitude derives from the Latin word gratus, meaning thankful. The act of journaling can assist us with acknowledging the gift of a child and open the doors of thankfulness. 

3. Coping skills are improved by journaling

When a parent has to deal with a child who does not operate at their full potential naturally, they may experience significant stress on their mental health. By using an easy yet powerful technique such as journaling, the parent will be able to release the tension and consequently foster a healthier mental state, benefitting all parties concerned. In addition to being the parent of multiple children and family members, you are also the sole person responsible for your own mental health. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, and as we are instructed to do upon boarding an airplane, we must put on our gas masks before we can help those around us.  

References: Kim-Godwin, Yeoun Soo et al. “Journaling for self-care and coping in mothers of troubled children in the community.” Archives of psychiatric nursing vol. 34,2 (2020): 50-57. doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2020.02.005

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