Enrich the Lives of Your Kids by Keeping an “Emotion” Diary

emotions iconsAs a parent, it’s very important to pay attention to the emotional, as well as the physical, well-being of your children. As your children mature, it’s vital that they understand when and why they feel certain emotions.
When they can identify what provokes such emotions, they learn powerful concepts that will strengthen their mental health, relationships, and confidence for the rest of their lives.
Recording your children’s emotions is the key. Write about the times that your children feel intense emotions. Later on, when their emotions about the event have subsided, you can share these diary entries and discuss them.
In talking about these journal entries, you’ll help guide your children to accept their feelings and make sense of their emotions.
Follow these steps to get the most benefit from your “emotion” diary:
1. Obtain a journal. Any sort of journal will do, even a spiral notebook. Use it as a diary to make notes about your kids’ emotions.
2. Record instances when your child experiences a particularly strong emotion. Write down the date, situation, and your best guess about the emotions your child is experiencing. How did your child demonstrate his feelings? A diary entry might look something like:

  • June 7, 2013. Heather yelled and threw a doll at Greg. Then, she began crying. It seemed to me that she felt frustrated and angry.
  • July 4, 2013. Greg yelled loudly and didn’t want to share his ball and bat with his cousin. Greg seemed uncomfortable and overwhelmed much of the day, as if he didn’t like the fact that so many people were here for the July 4th celebration.

3. Document how you handled the situation. Your diary of such events will not only help you tune in with your kids, but you’ll also strengthen your parenting skills.

  • What did you do to intervene?
  • Did it work? If not, what else did you try?
  • What parts of your “solution” were and were not effective.

4. Write about how you could manage the situation in the future. Give yourself advice for handling a similar situation should it occur again. 

  • For example, when Heather throws her doll at Greg, an immediate help is to acknowledge her feelings. Say something like, “It’s okay to feel mad and frustrated sometimes.” Explain that it’s not appropriate, however, to throw things, no matter how frustrated she feels. Suggest she leave the room, instead, when she feels frustrated.
  • Then, document your actions, whether they helped or not, and any advice you might want to note for next time in your “emotion” journal. Discuss the situation later when emotions are calmer.

5. Talk with each child about your diary entries. Although you may have noticed a pattern of negative behavior in a child, take special care in how you speak to him.

  • Rather than “You’re always hitting everyone,” say something like, “Let’s figure out something else for you to do instead of hitting your sister.” You could mention, “It’s not acceptable to hit your sister. What could you do instead when you get frustrated?”
  • In situations like where Greg was overwhelmed on July 4th, when you discuss your journal entry, you could brainstorm ways to provide him with some alone time on days when company comes over.
  • Use plenty of praise when kids make important points or figure out their own acceptable solutions to troubling behavior.

6. Remember your goal in keeping the diary. The goal is to help your kids understand and learn to manage feelings appropriately. Avoid using the information in the journal to punish your kids or to make them feel uncomfortable in any way.
In using these strategies, you’ll discover so much about your kids. You’ll learn how they feel and what they think. You’ll strengthen your parenting skills in using positive ways to teach your children right from wrong.
These diaries will also provide some nostalgic memories of your children’s temperaments, adventures, and emotional progression through childhood.
Help your kids to flourish by keeping a diary of their emotions.

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