Separation and divorce are traumatic events for families.
This journal is designed to help children express, explore and understand some of the strong emotions that they may be feeling and to help them process the divorce for themselves.
Keeping a Journal is a very simple, but powerful way to support children.
As caring adults, we can help by simply acknowledging & listening to how a child may be feeling, without trying to “fix it”.
This Journal is designed to support open and honest communication and to help children feel heard, understood and supported during a time of great upheaval.
Suggestions for Parents
It’s very important to explain to your child that this is a different kind of book. This is a Journal where your child can share their feelings and thoughts or simply process what’s happening to them for themselves. It won’t be marked, they won’t be judged and it is totally up to them how they use it.
Young children may need to have the Journal read aloud to them and to do the Journal little and often.
Some children prefer to write and draw in their Journal at their own pace and in their own time. They may enjoy picking and choosing the order in which they write in it. Let your child decide for themselves how they’d like to use their Journal. They will enjoy feeling in control of the process and exploring their thoughts.
Help your child to decide a safe place to keep their Journal.
Let your child know that they can write in their Journal whenever they like.
Make sure your child has plenty of writing and drawing materials available. It’s also a good idea to buy new pens and pencils to make the Journal important and special. It helps to make the process of writing in their Journal important.
If you are reading the Journal with your child and doing it together, pick a quiet time, turn off the TV, and put away your mobile phone. Choose a private place, create a safe space and focus on really listening to your child without interrupting or making them feel judged, or guilty about what may come up. This is about helping your child feel heard, understood and supported while they go through this life changing event. Be accepting and non-judgemental. There are no right or wrong answers to their feelings and experiences. Accept everything and ponder and reflect later about what you discover.
Suggestions for Counsellors and Therapists
This Journal may be used in individual therapy to support the child in exploring their thoughts and emotions.
You can work through the pages systematically or go through it in themes.
The Journal can be part of a holistic approach to helping children and can be used in conjunction with play therapy, art therapy or music, dance and drama.
Some children may want to read through the Journal without participating in the drawing and writing to start with. Use the opportunity to just listen and share the questions. Don’t force them and don’t rush them.
Sometimes the Journal can help you correct misunderstandings or misinformation or confusion if your child has got the wrong end of the stick.
Keep to the facts, park up your own emotions and remember to divorce with dignity. This is not a time to criticise their other parent.
When your child is tired or has had enough, respect their wishes. Divorce is a process, not an event, and children need time to process their emotions in their own time.
Parents, teachers, counsellors or therapists may find the Journal helpful in seeing the divorce from the child’s perspective.
Suggestions for Teachers
Thousands of children experience the difficulties of divorce every year, and in spite of their parents’ best intentions, divorce always has both long term and short term effects on children.
Some children due to their circumstances, personalities or sensitivity will be particularly vulnerable to the changes that divorce inevitably brings.
This Journal is an entirely new way to help children through a divorce. The activities in this Journal will teach children some new emotional and social skills, empowering them with ways of coping so they can become more resilient.
Children learn emotional intelligence skills just like they learn academic or sporting skills – through practice, encouragement and patience.
Some aspects of this Journal can be done alone, in small groups, some can be done with your support, or some can be done with the child’s parents.
Some children whose parents are divorcing will experience depression, anxiety, anger or behavioural problems. Some children will cope better than others, but if you are at all concerned with a child then seek professional help for them.
There is no right or wrong way to use this Journal and it may take several years for a child to feel life is ‘normal’ after experiencing a divorce. A positive, respectful, patient approach is all that’s needed.
When a class has a number of children from a separated or divorced family, sharing a book with the whole group can help children begin to talk about their individual situations with their school peers, free from finger pointing, judgement or criticism. 2
It’s not a good idea to point out the children in the class from a separated or divorced family, but rather to allow them to speak up for themselves if they feel comfortable.
Children using the Journal in a classroom setting should never feel that it will be marked, judged or openly discussed unless they feel that they want to share their thoughts and feelings with others. It’s not a school book.
It is reassuring to a child to know that they are not the only ones going through this experience.
This Journal will elicit strong emotions from some children, so create a safe space for a child to express themselves openly.
Using the Journal may help you to identify a child who is struggling, and may need extra support and who would also benefit from being referred to a trained counsellor or therapist.
This Journal can be used individually, either by a teacher with the permission of the child’s parents, or by recommending the Journal to a parent for use at home.