You are a busy parent. By the end of your workday and after your child’s various activities, it seems near impossible to engage in a rich, meaningful conversation with your child. More times than not, when asking about their day, you barely get a “fine” for an answer.

Having a close relationship with our children and truly connecting with them in a meaningful way is what we all want as parents. And for that to happen, keeping the lines of communication open is a must. Yet, it seems that no matter what question you ask, the answer is either “yes”, “no” or “I don’t know”. How do you go about turning these short answers into actual conversations?

A great way to achieve this is to invite them to start a journal. In it, your child can write the things that are most memorable about that day, while you explore them together. If you can, set aside some time to spend with each one of your children while they journal. If you are pressed for time, you can always have ten to fifteen minutes as a family, where everyone writes n their journal and shares the highlights of their day. Daily journaling not only gives you a glimpse into your child’s life, it also has great health benefits.

Journaling is shown to reduce anxiety and stress in adults and children. It helps your child clarify their thoughts and feelings, and get in touch with their internal world, which in turns helps you know your child better, by giving you a glimpse into their internal world.

Even if your children are too young to write, journaling can be a wonderful activity. Instead of writing, they can draw the things they loved the most about their day, or tape photos and even objects onto their journal, like a feather they found on the way to the park, or the wrapper from the most delicious candy they tasted.

At any age, journaling is a wonderful way to connect with your children because it gives you the chance to learn about the things that matter most to them. Journaling not only helps you understand your child, it will also help them get to know themselves, as they discover the things they like, the things that make them happy, and the things they do not like so much. A child’s understanding of their identity can have a big impact on their self-esteem and emotional health. Strengthen the bond you have with your children by staying with them while they work on their journal. Make sure, however, that you are only an observer. Do not judge, correct, or influence your child in any way during this time. If your child is writing, do not spell-check. Keep in mind that this is not a school assignment, nor is it an opportunity to improve academic skills – it is a way for you to communicate with your children and get to know them. All you need to do is be present, and make the most of the experience by talking to them with interest about the memories they choose to include in their journal.

In addition to the health benefits of journaling, the activity also helps develop your child’s emotional intelligence, vocabulary and critical thinking skills. This, in turn, directly impacts your child’s school performance. Journaling is a wonderful outlet and inspiration for young writers in the making as well!

If your child does not like the idea of journaling, an alternative would be to film short videos where your child talks about the things they loved most and least about their day, or the things they are looking forward to. Because talking to a camera is much more simple than drawing, writing, or assembling the contents of a journal entry, your child will have less time to explore their feeling around what they have chosen to talk about, and the experience may be less impactful for both of you. Still, it will get you closer to your child.

Encourage your child to document not just the big, obvious events in their day, but also the little things, like a new song they like, a photo of a caterpillar they found in the backyard, a drawing of their favourite swing, or the recipe for a meal they tried and really liked that day. Journaling is less about re-telling what we do, and more about discovering who we are.

Through time, you can bring up the things that you remember them mentioning in their journal and include them in your daily activities. For example, you can plan a picnic to the beach and mention “I remember you writing about how much you like the sea, and I thought you might enjoy coming here today.”. By paying attention to what matters most to your child, they will feel understood by you and open up not only while they are journaling, but also throughout the day. This is a sure way to strengthen the bond between parent and child.

Once journaling becomes a habit, you can also share your own thoughts and feelings with your child throughout the day. This will help your child develop empathy skills, by being aware of your interests and needs, as well as their own.

Soon you will see that these journals are not only your most treasured keepsakes as your children grow, they are also a guaranteed way to provide rich and fulfilling conversations, and a close relationship for years to come. Happy journaling!