A diary is set on fire in this photograph


I Want My Children To Have Their Privacy — So I’m Giving Them A Tool To Have Some

Jan 11, 2021

Did you keep a diary as a kid? I did — complete with a lock and a key.

I poured my heart out onto those lined pages. The writing became decidedly juicier as I entered my high school and university years, but I didn’t write every day. This wasn’t a log of everything I did, eat, saw or said. I wrote when I wanted to, or needed a release. It was a wonderful way to process.

And then I burned those journals.

But this isn’t something I recommend.

"The very act of writing is like yoga or meditation: it releases stress and boosts feel-good feelings."

I lament this action and the loss of those diaries. But the day I started re-reading my diaries I was in a mood to be harsh rather than kind with myself. I hated some of the emotions I expressed in those pages, equating it with weakness. I cringed at my awkward antics and missed opportunities, berating myself for sacrificing my happiness. In a stinking, foul mood I decided I needed a clean slate. I burned them all.

Don’t do this.

Here’s the cool thing about journaling or keeping a diary: the writing doesn’t have to be good. And so I tell my kids to write out their ideas, feelings and experiences. The very act of writing is like yoga or meditation: it releases stress and boosts feel-good feelings. And if it’s about an emotional topic, that’s even better for processing and healing. There’s no need for kids, parents or anyone else to critique their expressive writing. This isn’t a literacy test; it’s self-care.

Kids don’t seem to keep diaries so much anymore, and that’s a shame, because there is so much value in it, especially if they trust that no one will ever read what they write.

Don’t read your kids’ diaries.

If you're going to encourage your kids to diarize or journal, I think it's best not to snoop.

That’s breaking a sacred trust, and besides, you might not like what you read about yourself. Let them have this one secret place, and let them use it to process their big thoughts and even bigger emotions. Kids these days are so watched, monitored and reviewed, I’m not surprised they have little idea of freedom or independence. This isn’t social media, so let their diaries be private.

As kids, and their parents, get more used to journaling, there is great potential to learn from past experiences chronicled on those lined pages. Encourage your kids, and yourselves, to re-read your diaries when you are in the mood to be gentle and kind with yourself.

Start to look for patterns in your approach and reactions to new situations, conflict with friends, drama within the family and dreams for your lives.

Thinking of spying on your kids? Here's what Laura Mulling discovered when she did.

In listening to a podcast with Dax Shepherd and Matthew McConaughey, both discussed writing in a journal regularly. Dax mentioned being able to learn so much about his individual patterned responses to scenarios in life by looking back on recorded doubts and dreams when approaching similar situations. He noted the patterns and was able to learn from the way he processed stress, change and opportunities. Matthew discussed keeping the journal as a way to figure out a credo and outlook on life, and I have to say it seems to have worked out pretty well for him.

As busy parents, we seem to be constantly looking for fancy new solutions to the basic ups and downs that our kids must face as part of being human. We’re looking for a TED Talk to have it all make sense, or an app to provide self-care. Those might help, but start simple. Find an empty notebook and a good pen, and give them to your kids.

If they’re stuck on where to start, Google some journal prompts. Promise complete confidence and security. And then go find yourselves a journal and do the same.

Love yourself when you re-read your diaries, and stay away from the lighter. Not everything needs to burn. 

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. 

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