Using a shared journal to open teen communication


I have not been a parent of a teen for long and, unlike most parents, I didn’t get to  make way into it day by day. It happened in just one day. And it is about to happen again.

You see, my husband and I were foreign exchange parents last year and are about to be this year, too.

And although I made a  few mistakes, I think I did a few things right, too.

When Emma (our Danish daughter) came to live with us, I presented her with a simple spiral notebook in which I wrote a short welcome note. Then I suggested she write back to me. And the notebook went back and forth until I tucked it into her luggage for her flight home.

I started the journal as a way to communicate about things she might be too shy to say face to face, but wanted to share. I also started it as a way to make her feel welcomed right away and have some type of momento and journal of her thoughts when our time was up.

I loved our little notebook and, to be honest, I was sad to let it go with Emma in June.

It did turn out to be a great way to talk about some things and share our thoughts when we could sit and think them out completely by ourselves. Sure, we shared lots of light notes, but we also had our share of deep thoughts and opinions in there.

I just bought a new notebook for our new daughter who arrives from Germany this week.

And I think I’ll even start one with my almost nine-year-old son.

I can’t wait to get started writing to each of them… and reading what they write back to me.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

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  1. says

    Ah, such great memories. I did this with my daughter (now 21) when she was in 6th grade. We used fun gel pens and chatted about real and imagined stuff. I always wished I could get my sons to keep one with me but it is not the same. :-(

  2. says

    This is an awesome idea!!! My daughter will be ready for this before I know it. I linked on my weekly roundup – post is under my name. Thanks for sharing!

  3. greendragonfly says

    I bet this would be great with spouses, too. Sometimes it is hard to talk… this might be a big help! Thanks so much for the idea!

  4. AllieZirkle says

    Amy, we use this in my house too! My daughter just turned 12 and is starting 7th grade. She’s quite the drama queen and already rolls her eyes as though everything I say is lame. When her attitude picks up, I start talking about something non-confidential I’ll have written her or she wrote to me, and the attitude drops and the lights go on in her eyes. It’s almost as though her eyes are saying “you listened! you cared!”. This definitely works well!

  5. says

    love it! as a youth pastor, i see over and over that parents give up on talking to their teenagers because what has worked doesn’t work anymore. i know how frustrating that can be and how hopeless trying to engage them in a conversation can feel! instead, finding creative ways to communicate that allow them to open up can really help them express all those things they keep inside. your exchange student will definitely be blessed to have a mom that is thinking outside the box! :)

  6. Emma says

    Amy, it was such a good way to share deep thoughts with you, and I really miss writing with you in it. I read our notes a lot, and it makes me smile. I love you,

  7. says

    Such a great idea! I have a few years before mine is old enough for this, but I’m definitely tucking it away! I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures in teenage parenting!

  8. Somebody's Mimi says

    Why didn’t you think of this 25 years ago? I wish my Mom would have thought of this 50 years ago. Great idea.

  9. Beth Smith says

    I love this and am going out to buy Meagan and I a journal today. There are times a 9 year old girl can not communicate her feelings so writing might be easier. I LOVE THIS!!! Thank you for a wonderful idea.

  10. says

    Great idea!
    We had a sweet girl from Germany live with us last summer. She is back for the school year but living with another family because our high school would not accept foreign exchange students this year. We are having her over this weekend just to visit and are excited to see her. I hope your experience goes really well! I’m sure, from what I know of you, she will love living at your home!!

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