Article by Wendy McCance
Back when my youngest daughter was in elementary school, she went through a really bad rough patch. She was having self-esteem issues and saw the bad in most situations no matter how good they really were. I was so worried about the path she had ventured down. I desperately wanted to break these poor thoughts she would consume herself with.
At the end of the day when I would tuck the kids into bed, I would read them a story and talk with them about anything that had been on their mind that day. For my youngest daughter, she would always talk about a situation and then the negativity would come out. It became an exhausting and worrisome experience. I knew I had to find a way to break these habits she was developing and after some thought, put together a plan.
I went out and bought a really cute notepad and a fun pen to make what I was going to teach my daughter more exciting. The following night, I tucked my daughter into bed and then pulled out two notebooks and two pens. I handed one notepad and one pen to my daughter and then informed her that we were going to do something special, just the two of us. This was not something I did with any of the other kids, and the fact that it was something special just for the two of us intrigued my daughter.
We started keeping appreciation journals. That first night I asked my daughter to write 5 things down that had made her happy that day. I would write 5 things in my journal as well and then we would share what made us happy that day.
The first few times we wrote in our journals, my daughter was stumped. She just didn’t know what to write. Each time I would read my journal first. I put down that I enjoyed a dinner we had one night or the hug I got from one of the kids. I said that I appreciated one of the kids clearing the table or that I had fun watching a show with the family. There was nothing too outrageous, just simple parts of my day that made me feel content and loved.
After I would read my journal, my daughter would want help with hers. We would talk about different events and then would pull out a happy moment from one of her daily experiences.
Within a week, my daughter started getting excited for this special time we were sharing. She loved to know personal things that made me happy that I shared with just her. Eventually, she got so good at finding the good moments that she asked if it would be okay if she wrote more than 5 things. That snowballed into page long entries of what made her feel good.
After a couple of months, I saw the change the journal was making. She would announce during the day that something made her happy. She had mushy moments where she would go on and on with things that made her feel good.
Of course there were times when she was in a bad mood and the negative emotions came out. Overall though, the journal was a success. There were even a few times when it was too late to do the journal and she would beg to put something into her journal before bed. It had become a ritual and she didn’t feel complete until she had put her thoughts down.
The journal has been great for my daughter’s confidence. She has grateful moments over the smallest of things. She also has a record of what life was like for her at that age. The other thing that was so terrific about the journal was that at the end of each night, the last thing on my daughter’s mind was something positive. She would go to sleep feeling peaceful and would wake up the next morning in a better mood as well.
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