When I was in high school, I had a notebook that I passed around with two friends. We’d each take turns writing in it, handing it off in the hallways between classes like one endless spiral-bound note — texting before there was texting. We’d draw pictures, we’d complain about how boring biology class was, we’d make plans for the weekend. It was a sort of conversation journal — and it’s something you can do with your kids, too.
Karenna Meredith, an assistant editor at PopSugar, writes that a teacher started conversation journals with her and her classmates when she was in kindergarten. Her mum saw the value in this technique, so when kindergarten ended, they started their own — and she and her mum kept at it, writing back and forth, right up until she went to college:
I wrote to her about my worries and triumphs, my crushes and grades, my frustrations and embarrassments. When I got into a fight with my dad, when I wanted my first cell phone or Facebook account — it all went in the journal. She’d respond with advice, sympathy, and love. We almost never talked about my entries out loud — not until I was ready to, at least. There was an element of trust that went into what we wrote. If it was written in the journal, it was safe from judgments.
It’s similar to how deep talks can often happen with kids during a car ride — there’s something about not being face-to-face that gives space for them to be a little more open and vulnerable. And it doesn’t have to be all serious, all the time; use the journal for fun, too, by telling each other jokes or funny stories from your day.
Any notebook you have around the house will do; maybe you can add some stickers or drawings to the front to personalise it. Designate a private place to put the journal once you’ve written an entry so the other person knows it’s their turn to read and write, but it won’t get into the hands of another family member. Pass it back and forth on a regular schedule or whenever the mood strikes — whatever works best for you both. The specific rules are less important than the act of connecting.
It seems like the key, though, is this: The conversation journal is a sacred space. What is said in the journal should stay in the journal — at least until they come to you to discuss something they’ve written about in person.