Journal Prompts to Help Uncover the Root Cause of Your Child's Anxiety

"Studies show that journaling results in decreased mental distress and increased well-being in as little as one month."
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When you were a child or teen, you may have kept a secret diary where you poured all your thoughts, feelings, and hopes for the future. For many youngsters, keeping a diary or journal is a creative and safe outlet for their fears and worries. Some experts say that journaling can help us accept rather than judge our mental experiences, resulting in fewer negative emotions in response to stressors.1 And when it comes to children and teens dealing with anxiety, the positive impact of journaling can be even more beneficial as it helps them build emotional literacy, or the ability to express their emotional state and communicate their needs.

Explore in more detail why journaling is important for children and teens and start this practice with the help of five journal prompts for kids with anxiety.

The Importance of Teaching Your Child or Teen to Journal 

Studies show that journaling results in decreased mental distress and increased well-being in as little as one month.2 Kids dealing with anxiety may not know how to express their feelings yet, but journaling gives them an opportunity to practice. By creating distance from their worries, they have a chance to see that they are not identified with their anxiety; it’s merely a temporary problem they can learn to manage. Journaling creates more clarity, enhances your child or teen’s communication skills, and even improves their writing skills at the same time. 

Even more, journaling is a form of mindfulness that helps ground your child in the present moment. By streamlining their thoughts, your child or teen can become more aware of certain thought patterns keeping them stuck. And the process of taking uncomfortable thoughts and feelings out of the head and putting them onto the page, is a proactive way to let go. 

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Journal Prompts to Give Your Child or Teen as an Exercise 

Journal prompts are a great way to get your child’s pen moving (or their fingers typing) as they explore their inner state and the roots of their anxiety. If they don’t know where to start, try using the following:

Describe a Moment When You Started Feeling Anxious 

By breaking down a specific moment when your child or teen started feeling anxious, they can learn so much about their anxiety: What triggered their feelings? What did the anxiety feel like physically? What thoughts were going through their head? What did they do in response? Did they feel stuck? Did they run away? 

When your child identifies their triggers, they can prepare themselves for facing the same triggers in the future. By analyzing how your child felt physically, they can learn coping mechanisms to deal with those exact symptoms: slowing down breathing, unfurling tensed hands, etc. Identifying thoughts can help your child challenge irrational ones and potentially replace them with positive self-talk. And by becoming aware of what they do when anxious, they can start to build more effective strategies for dealing with their anxiety, or feel proud of themselves for facing difficult situations.  

List the Top Five Emotions You Feel Today 

Even the littlest kids have big emotions they may not be able to identify or understand. Having a daily check-in on what your child is feeling will help them understand their emotions and why they feel the way they do. As the unparalleled Fred Rogers famously said, “Anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”3 Even when not journaling, invite your child to talk about their feelings so that they learn there is no stigma attached to them. You can even make a game of it, such as taking turns acting out different emotions and having the other person name them.

If Something or Someone is Causing You Anxiety, Use Your Journal to Write Them a Letter You Never Intend to Send

By having your child or teen write a letter to their emotional trigger, whether it’s a person or situation, they can yet again create distance between themselves and their anxiety. Encourage them to tell their trigger how they feel, and maybe even have them speculate what their anxiety might say back. Is there anything their emotions are trying to teach them? Does your child’s anxiety need them to do something (breathe, cry, etc.) to calm it down? By reiterating the letter won’t be sent, your child will feel less pressure about how they’ll be perceived and freer to express themselves honestly.

Write About What You’re Most Scared of and Explain Why You’re Scared of it 

When we know what we’re most scared of, chances are we’ll do our best to avoid it. Having your child identify what they’re scared of is one crucial step, but explaining why they find it scary is another. As they unpack their fear, they may start to see that their worries are irrational and the thing they’re most scared of is not so scary after all once they analyze it long enough.

Fill in the Blank: “I was Anxious Today Because ___” 

Maybe your child or teen is reluctant to do this whole journaling thing. They’re already coming up with excuses: they write at school, they have homework to do, they’re tired, etc. A fill-in-the-blank journal prompt simply requires them to complete a sentence, maybe even write just one word. Getting in the daily practice of naming their feelings, however short, will still build their emotional literacy.

Journaling is just one approach your child or teen can use to manage their anxiety. Brillia’s 5 Pillars include other lifestyle habits they can take on, such as following a healthy diet, getting better sleep, controlling their screen time, and practicing other mindfulness techniques.

If they still need more support, consider trying Brillia, a non-prescription homeopathic medication designed to reduce anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and stress without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Without affecting any other systems in the body, causing drowsiness, or masking your child’s personality, Brillia promotes a balanced mood when practiced alongside the 5 Pillars.

Learn more about how Brillia works and find more resources on managing anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References: 1https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/, 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6305886/, 3https://eddinscounseling.com/how-naming-emotions-helps-children-tame-them/

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