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  • Lori K Walters

Journaling for Parents: A Faithful Companion for Raising Teens and Young Adults

Updated: Mar 25

Woman sitting on a rock in the forest writing in a notebook

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

~ William Wordsworth

It's difficult for parents to find the right place to process your struggles. Who can you tell when you feel like you’ve really screwed up? Where can you go when you feel so triggered that you could crumple or explode? When you know you’ve got to let go a little more and don’t know how?

It’s not easy to be open about those complicated thoughts and tender feelings.

If you’ve got someone with whom you can show up in any state and talk about anything, that’s fantastic. But for many, parenting and the pressure to do it well comes with a bit of hiding: you don't want to admit how you behaved, where you're hurting or what’s really happening with your kid. The thoughts and feelings keep you awake at night and you feel like there's nowhere to put them.

For me, the place to pour it all out is my journal., my faithful companion who never judges and always helps me know myself better.

I was in grade 5 when I started writing a diary. It was actually a series of KeyTab school notebooks in which I penciled the workings of my pre-adolescent heart and brain. Friendships changed on a dime in those days so my journal was my one reliable friend. A safe place where I didn’t have to worry about stepping on toes or smiling at the wrong person. My complaints about my parents, speculations about boys, self-doubts and big dreams were carefully tucked away every night under my mattress.

My writings were sporadic through my teens and twenties but became a steady part of my life in my thirties. I graduated to hardcover notebooks and, while some of my entries were about my daily life and interactions, they became more and more an exploration of my inner thoughts and feelings, wonderings about the universe and observations about becoming Me.

There was something about writing down my thoughts and feelings that made them more concrete. There on the page, readable, committed. And I loved how you can surprise yourself with a phrase that flows from the tip of your pen and differs from what you might have said aloud. A slightly different angle to consider or an idea emerging.

Some people think of a journal as an archive, but I don’t write to record my life. There have been periods in which I’ve written several times a day and others where there was silence for six months. Like any true friend, my journal isn’t tracking how often I show up, it’s there when I need it.

It's not a literary memoir either, but more of an ongoing draft with crossed out words (and pages), arrows and sketches, lists and half-finished poems. I express emotions that are just of this moment and ideas that may seem meaningless by tomorrow. I experiment with statements that might not ring true moments after I write them. It’s all about the exploration.

When we’re going through change, as parents of teens and young adults constantly are, a journal can be the perfect companion as you try to make sense of your ever-shifting world. One that allows you to slow down, watch your mind and feel into your heart. The words can keep you still for a moment and show you where you are. Like signposts.


Journaling for parents is part of my approach to coaching, too. I ask my clients to start a new notebook for their journey and, after every session, I give them questions to reflect upon. (You've seen examples of these in my previous Sunday Letters.)

They may feel a flood of response from their heart and write a 3-page answer. They may write an answer that only begs another question, and another, and follow the thread to the kernel of their truth. They may sit with confusion, resistance and not knowing. I may ask them to answer the same question every 5 days to see how their perspective is shifting or discover an even fuller answer. In their transformative process, their writing reveals all sorts of new learnings.

One of the real benefits of journaling has been, and continues to be, having a place where I am completely honest with myself. No façade, no filter. Feelings too tender to utter. Rants that don't come from my highest self. Whining and wishing. Me, as I am. My unaltered voice.

Writing is potent medicine. It gives me a way to slip under the surface of my conscious mind to touch into deeper, wider truths. Profound wisdom and blessings have arrived at the tip of my pen and, in the decades of my journal writing practice, it has been as life-changing as any shamanic ritual I’ve participated in.

Finally, I must express my gratitude to the manufacturers of the beautiful hardbound journals. When I take it in my hands, feel the fine paper and turn the gilt-edged pages, I hold my story in my hands. Not all of it, of course, just what was important, excruciating or amazing to earlier versions of me as I navigated my way in the world.

It’s there on the pages: the detangling of my shame, the slow but sure quietening of my anxiety, babies and teenagers, the development of my gifts, heartbreak and resilience, visions and blessings... a celebration of the emergence of Lori.

Sometimes you need a private trustworthy companion on your parenting journey to help you explore, find meaning and discover more about your Self.

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