The notes broke my heart. They were folded up, stuffed in a corner, and angry. The bold, capital letters of my 8-year-old’s handwriting spelled out all the emotions she hadn’t told me.
I smoothed the pages, reading those words over and over again, tears springing to my eyes at the thought that I had caused her this pain—and that she didn’t know how to deal with it, except to scribble it out on tiny bits of paper.
I found a blank notebook and carefully glued each of Lily’s notes to a page. Then I wrote back to my daughter. That was the start of our mother-daughter journal.
I’d seen the idea of a mother-daughter journal on Pinterest for quite a while. As a writer, I loved the idea. I’ve kept a journal since I was 10 and often turn to writing as a way to process the events and emotions of my life.
While Sunshine doesn’t like writing, Lily takes after me. She writes notes, stories, and doodles in her math book, in letters, and on random scraps of paper shoved into corners. A mother-daughter journal seemed like a perfect way for us to connect and communicate about hard topics.
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Creating a Mother-Daughter Journal
On the first page of our mother-daughter journal, I wrote a brief explanation:
This is a journal for you and me. We can use it to write each other notes. You can write to me about anything you want, anytime you want. When you want me to read it, put it under my pillow. When I write back, I’ll put it under your pillow. We can keep it in my desk drawer when we aren’t writing so your sisters don’t read it. Love, Mommy.
In the next pages, I glued my daughter’s notes and responded to them. Then I tucked it under her pillow and waited for her to find it. It didn’t take her long to put it under my pillow.
She wrote, “Dear Mom, I’m really sorry you found these notes. I didn’t mean most of these notes. Mostly they were just to express my feelings, to let them out.”
This sparked a great discussion (in writing) between us about emotions and how we express them. I apologized for some of my actions that had caused the notes. I also shared some stories from my childhood and the lessons (good and bad) I’ve learned about emotions. I appreciated that writing gave us each time to think about what we wanted to say, to put our emotions into words and have time to respond to them.
Communicating via Our Journal
That was almost a year ago. Since then, we’ve continued to write back and forth in our mother-daughter journal.
Lily writes in pencil; I write in multi-coloured pen. I make sure to print my letters to her, as she isn’t quite reading handwriting yet. I also decorate the pages of the (rather plain) notebook with stickers. She draws pictures and doodles for me.
Sometimes, the journal goes back and forth daily. Other times, a week or two pass before the journal appears again under my pillow.
Sometimes, we talk about big things, like our feelings over certain events or things we needed to apologize for. Sometimes, we talk about smaller things, like what sort of food to make for her birthday party. I ask her questions about her dreams and interests. She asks me questions about my childhood.
This is not a space where I correct Lily’s writing. She writes all over the page, in big and small letters, with capitals and lower cases randomly throughout words. She’s a very phonetic reader and writer, so sometimes I laugh at her spellings. Yet she’s also a better speller / writer than her big sister, as she seems to have a natural grasp for words.
Creating Connections with My Daughter
Our mother-daughter journal has helped me connect more with my daughter. Big emotions are sometimes hard to say. Even I, as an adult, struggle with expressing my feelings verbally. Our mother-daughter journal gave us a safe space to talk about big and little things together.
Another friend of mine, whose oldest daughter is just a few years older than mine, agreed that a mother-daughter journal is helpful during these years. The tweens are hard; girls are navigating so many new emotions, on the verge of greater independence, starting to face hormonal changes, and yet still little girls in so many ways.
My friend said her daughter would stomp around the house, grumpy about something but unable to express it. When they started their journal, her daughter could write down what was going on. It was then easier to talk about it in person (once it was out there) or to keep responding via the journal.
“Having a mother-daughter journal keeps you in the loop of what’s going on with your daughter, but also keeps her feeling accepted, loved and secure.” ~ Jody from Mommy Moment
Does a Mother-Daughter Journal Fit Your Daughter?
As my daughters have gotten older, I’ve realized how each of them is unique and different. They express their needs, interests and emotions in different ways. It’s hard, at times, to figure out their personalities and what makes them tick and what they need from me as a mom.
When Sunshine discovered her sister’s journal, she also wanted one. I found another blank notebook to create a journal for her, but we’ve had much briefer (and less deep) discussions because she’s not as interested in writing. She’s a talker, and she processes more verbally. It’s easy to sit down and chat with her about what’s going on in her life.
For Sunshine, a scripted mother-daughter journal may work better. Instead of having to come up with her own ideas to discuss with me, the journal provides prompts or questions that each of us can answer. I suspect Sunshine would have fun doing that, rather than deciding what to write.
Lily seems to have bigger emotions and needs more time to calm down and process those emotions. It’s often frustrating to ask her what caused a big explosion and get no response (except a grunt) because she’s still in the midst of emotional upheaval.
Yet, as someone very similar to her, I can understand what that’s like for her. That’s why I try to give her space—and her journal and a pencil. She also has no problem coming up with things to write about!
A mother-daughter journal obviously requires that your child can write independently. Right now, that’s my two oldest daughters (Jade, age 6, is still learning to read). If your daughter can write and sounds like Lily, a mother-daughter journal may be a great way for the two of you to connect and communicate.
Choosing a Mother-Daughter Journal
I used a simple coil-bound blank notebook for our mother-daughter journals. We’ve been using them for about a year now and covers have been ripped off both journals. I’d recommend choosing a sturdier journal or notebook, or buying a mother-daughter journal.
Here are some awesome mother-daughter journals:
You can also DIY your mother-daughter journal. Kimberlee from the Peaceful Mom has some free printables to glue into a blank notebook to start your journal. If you or your daughter enjoy scrapbooking or crafting, this can be a fun way to get creative together!
What about Moms of Boys?
Joey isn’t writing yet (LOL), but I can certainly imagine that if your son likes to write too, he’d enjoy this journal. There’s a stereotype that boys don’t show emotions, so a journal can be a way to let your son keep his stoic face while also expressing what’s going on for him.
Choose a journal that reflects your son’s interests. Think about whether a blank journal or notebook would encourage sharing, or whether a guided / prompted journal would be better. A child may be more likely to answer a question written “from the book” instead of “from Mom.” (Questions may seem less pointed.)
Here’s a few ideas for you to browse:
Starting Your Mother-Child Journal
You could start your mother-child journal by taking your child on a date to choose a journal or notebook. Or select the journal yourself and present it to your child on a one-on-one date or just by leaving it on their desk or bed, as I did.
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Have you used a mother-daughter journal or a mother-son journal with your child? How did it help you build connections with your son or daughter?
Love this idea!