I have an 8-year-old daughter with a big imagination who loves art, animals and playing with her friends. That same little girl is a child with vitiligo who struggles with fears, anxiety and self-doubt. And one Sunday, she taught me a little life lesson – as children often do – on how to better understand her frustrations.
Realizing the Communication Barrier
It was a seemingly simple conversation in our kitchen. Yet as our daughter ran up the stairs towards her bedroom, the only sounds that could be heard were of her pounding footsteps. Reaching her bedroom, you could hear her cry – the cry that parents hate. The cry where she almost can’t breathe because she is so mad, and holds her breath between outbursts. That cry that seems a bit too dramatic for the situation.
A few minutes passed and I went upstairs and peeked into her bedroom. When she saw me, she held up a large piece of purple paper with bold black writing. In her eight-year-old handwriting, it said quite simply: “I am sad.”
When I saw my beautiful teary-eyed daughter holding this sign, I was stunned. Almost shocked. Instead of having the normal reaction of downplaying her intense footsteps and obnoxious cry, I was momentarily speechless. For the first time in a long time, I was actually hearing my daughter.
Using Journaling to Help My Child with Vitiligo
That simple sign spurred a conversation filled with questions, ideas, empathy, and much more. I realized that drawing and writing was a tool she could use to put into words and pictures how she is feeling. It was a place for her to express herself without judgement.
A feelings journal, where kids use writing and drawing to express emotions is especially beneficial for kids who have anxiety, who get frustrated easily and often express themselves with anger. It’s an outlet for your child to be dramatic, direct, and to be able to let out what maybe they can’t share face to face. It’s a safe place.
Leah’s safe place is definitely in her room with her journal. Often, I catch her doodling in her notebook when she’s had a tough moment or experience. We don’t force it and or make her do it every day. I think she knows herself well enough to know when she needs to use journaling as an outlet. Once her emotions are on paper her initial feelings of frustration or disappointment seem to disappear. This makes it easier for her to move on and get back to being her silly, imaginative and happy self.
How to Get Started with Journaling
Paper, pen and thoughts. That’s all you really need to journal. Kids want to be creative outside of words. They want color, texture, and movement. Supply them with a few things to make the experience fun like letter stamps, stickers, stencils and a journal.
If your child has trouble initiating journal entries, you can always look to prompt journaling for some guidance. You can also spark ideas by asking them open-ended questions. For example, “what makes you special?” or “write about a difficult decision you’ve had to make.”
Kids also love hearing stories from mom and dad too – or even siblings. Grab your own journal and join in. Let your child with vitiligo know they aren’t alone when it comes to fears, anxiety or just having one of those unexplained bad days. So, put your phone down, stop doing the dishes, and spend some time being a kid again with colored pencils, ink pads and your imagination.
Here are a few great websites that focus on kids and journaling:
Julie Hartley is a proud mom to Leah who has vitiligo. Leah loves animals, art and playing with friends. Julie lives in Northern Kentucky with her husband Chad, son Chase and Leah.