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November 2012 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / Letter from College

Teens managing emotions

Dear Diary, this is me

There is much truth behind the phrase “time flies,” especially when it applies to childhood. It feels like yesterday I was just a toddler, playing with my stuffed animals and climbing all over the living room furniture like a monkey. Yet memories fade over time. I’m sure we’ve all stopped to wonder how much we’ll remember 20 years from now. One way for your child to preserve special (and terrible) moments of their life is through a diary.

Diary-writing is becoming a lost art. Most kids see a diary as old-fashioned. However, a diary can actually foster discipline, creativity, written communication skills, and self-reflection. With support and encouragement from parents, kids can learn that keeping a diary is time well spent.

One Christmas, I received a blank Barbie notebook as a present. My dad suggested that I use the book as a diary and write about my life. At the time, I was only 5, and writing about my day, which really wasn’t fascinating at all, was not appealing. Still, enthralled by my dad’s ridiculous suggestions about how I could sell my diary for tons of money if I ever became famous, I began to write. Back then, my entries were short. They weren’t even half a page long, but I wrote almost every day up until the beginning of middle school. I eventually stopped journaling due to schoolwork and tests.

Recently, I looked back at my diary, and it was an amazing trip down memory lane. I couldn’t help but laugh at my naivete for starting my journal from the back and writing to the front! I realized how much I’ve grown and learned over time.

My diary is a scrapbook of memories. As I read, I found little gems here and there that I had forgotten. I was amazed (and at times baffled) by some of the preposterous stories about how I used to purposely trap myself in a tight corner in the playground of my school just to be rescued by a boy I had a crush on! We can’t recall every moment of our past, but, we usually can call up specific moments when we are reminded of the experience. By writing about himself in his journal, your teen will have something to look back on in the future. The best part is that he’ll never know what will be meaningful to him in the future. He will probably be surprised, like I was. What seems ordinary today might not seem so plain-Jane in 20 years.

Besides storing memories, a diary is a good place to store emotions and thoughts. Kids and teenagers don’t always feel comfortable sharing how they feel. They may be embarrassed or afraid of being judged or criticized for what they think. Yet, it is imperative that kids do not suppress how they feel. A diary acts as an ideal place for kids to express themselves without the fear of being labeled or branded. It’s healthy for kids and teenagers to take control of how they feel. Writing about their experiences helps to channel any stress or emotions. It helps them accept how they feel and try to cope.

Also, kids will probably be more prepared and willing to talk about their feelings after collecting their thoughts in their diary. When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a fuming entry about how I couldn’t stand special treatment a girl in my class was getting from my teacher because she had a learning disability. Yet, looking back, I quickly realized how ignorant I was to let my jealousy affect my emotions. I appreciate how my parents have taught me about respect and tolerance. I still feel guilty about the entry, even though my perspective changed a long time ago.

Journaling also promotes practical and creative-writing skills for kids. By writing a short diary entry about each day, kids and teens get a lot of practice writing. Because they can choose what they want to write about, they feel empowered and are more willing to do it. Kids are not limited to just writing about the events of the day, though. Encourage them to expand on specific events, topics, challenges, or emotions that occurred during the day. This nurtures creativity and teaches them to describe and analyze. Over time, this can help prepare kids for school where writing is a key part of assignments and activities.

I’ve started writing a diary again, for I notice how incomplete I was without it. My first entry wound up being six full pages! I didn’t realize I had so much to write about. Wow, I’ve come a long way since I was little.

Aglaia Ho is a 17-year-old student from Queens who enjoys writing. Her work has been published in Creative Kids, Skipping Stones, Daily News-Children’s Pressline, and The State of the Wild.

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