Using Journaling to Talk to Tweens: Mother Daughter Diaries

Ever since I could put pen to paper, I’ve had a diary. My mom recently found my first one and sent it to me, the kind with the lock, although the lock was long gone. The first few pages are filled with colorful drawings, then the pages move to cramped, furious script, long diatribes about how much my parents prefer my sister and how unfair they are. The anger in those pages still moves me, still resonates, although that pesky little sister is now one of my closest friend, the one I call every day to commiserate about motherhood, blogging, and life.

The Artist's WayOver the years, I’ve wrestled how to address my diary. Once dear diary seemed too juvenile, I addressed my rants to future self, but the pressure to catch the diary up to the present day happenings was too strong, and I took a hiatus from journaling. Today my diary is in the form of morning pages, inspired by Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. Although Julia gave me the discipline to do the morning pages, they’ve quickly become as therapeutic as that early locket diary. With the house coming to life all around me, I scribble three freeform pages feverishly about the filaments of my dreams, my goals of the day, and my deep dark burning ambitions. The kids call them my secret pages and they know to slip into the bed and snuggle quietly while I write. It’s a new rituatl for us, but it brings peace to everyone as we start our day.

9780811868952_p0_v2_s260x420There’s another type of journaling going on in our home which has been as important if not more so than the morning pages. It’s a shared journal called Just Between Us that I write with Bella. We started it at Christmas, after the journal along with various art supplies made its way into her stocking. Through the journal’s prompts, we’ve broached many difficult topics. Some have morphed into a real life conversations. Others have remained on the page, a written conversation.

The journal has writing prompts to guide conversation. Some are mom prompts, some are daughter prompts, and some are shared. Here are a few:

  • Before I fall asleep, I think about…
  • Something I’d do if I knew I’d never fail
  • Favorite thing about my mom
  • What I was like when I was your age

The blank pages in the journal increase as you move through it, getting us slowly ready to just share a journal without prompts.

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 10.55.29 AMWe pass the journal back and forth every few weeks, leaving it on each other’s pillow with the updated pages marked with a bookmark. Seeing that book waiting for me at bedtime is like a special gift, the trust of secrets shared only with me, the gift of conversation with my tween. Bella started middle school this year, a new world with lockers, advanced placement classes, clubs, and a whole new set of social rules. I cried hot tears of fear during parent orientation night, bur our journal has helped us both transition and keep the conversation going through change.

2 Responses to Using Journaling to Talk to Tweens: Mother Daughter Diaries

  1. What an excellent idea. It will be really interesting when your daughter graduates to being a bona fide teen. Face to face “chats” with parental units become something seemingly akin to root canal for teens. We always insisted on family dinners. When our sons were teens, the “conversations” went something like:
    Me and their father: So what did you do in school today?
    Them, often in unison: “Nothing” (Your tax dollars at work, people).

    When our older son left for college, the younger one, 3.5 years his junior, started conversing some at the dinner table, but our best exchanges of information were when he and I got a dog (Dino)and I semi-retired from full time lawyering and wrote briefs at home. Dino and I would drive Jeremy to school on our way to a park for our morning walk.I think it’s no secret that some of the best communication with teens takes (took) place while driving them somewhere (but, hmmm, this is before smart phones). If you have a teen who will write (and it might move to a keyboard), that should be fascinating.

    When my parents downsized some years ago, my mother gave me all the letters I had written to them over the years—they were very journalesque—long, hand-written, newsy, and sometimes angst filled. They included letters from my 1974 semester living with a Colombian family and attending university in Bogota. I left for college when I was 17 and it sounds quaint, but we corresponded. Both my parents wrote to me and I wrote back. Long distance telephone calls were a big deal in my parents’ household. The rate didn’t go down until after 11 PM, so the call had to be after that and was pretty much reserved for truly catastrophic or earthshaking news.

    My last experience with a shared journal was over 40 years ago with an ex-husband (the marriage lasted from when I was 21, until I was 23). I still have it. I haven’t looked at it for years. I’m considering destroying it. I don’t think it would be constructive for my husband of 31 years and our 20-something sons to read.

    I apologize for the comment in essay form. Write on!
    PS: I found this blog post from a Tweet that to me seemed intriguing.

    • Suzanne,
      So glad this post resonnated with you and thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I know the teenage storm is coming and for us with four kids, it will feel like a building tsunami! I am terrified, and hope that we come out with our heads above water. Great to meet you via Twitter – looking forward to reading your blog.


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