The Healing Power of Writing
Aug 01, 2015 03:35AM
By Shannon Marzella
Dylan* sat down at the desk and put his head in his hands. The final weeks of school were getting to him. Anticipating the transition to his new school and having to say goodbye to some friends was creating a lot of anxiety. As he picked up his pen and began to describe his feelings in a poem, his anxiety started to fade. Dylan was completely immersed in his writing as he bent over the page. Ten minutes later he looked up, smiling. “Okay, I think I’m done.” “How do you feel?” he was asked. His smile broadened and his shoulders softened. “Better,” he said, and he began to read his poem aloud.
It is no secret that children and teens have trouble identifying and expressing their emotions in a clear and healthy manner. A fight with a friend at school may translate into a slammed door at home. A child who is dealing with peer pressure or bullying may not share their troubles and only show signs of isolation, lack of interest in social activities or decreased academic investment. Traditional psychotherapy can be of great service to children and teens dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. However, sitting down and talking can be a daunting task for a young person. Expressive writing is a beneficial complement to traditional therapy. It is also very helpful for kids and teens who may not have mental health challenges but who just need a little extra support in exploring their life’s challenges and triumphs.
Writing provides a safe space for children and teens to explore their emotions and life experiences. Many kids keep a diary, and this is a great example of expressive writing. Following are some other ways writing can be used to help children and adolescents become more self-aware and express their emotions in a healthy, productive way:
• If there is a conflict with a friend or family member, have your child write them a letter expressing their emotions.
• If your child has an upcoming event that is causing them anxiety, ask them to write out a description of the worst-case scenario and the best possible scenario.
• Help your child increase their confidence by asking them to make a list of their great qualities. This list could turn into a poem or a collage of words and pictures.
Studies show that expressive writing has numerous long-term benefits including better moods, increased physical health, higher GPA and improved social interactions. Expressive writing does not focus on perfect spelling, grammar and organization of ideas. However, as students write more, their ability to express themselves in writing improves dramatically and leads to higher levels of academic achievement. Expressive writing is a powerful healing tool that is easy to use and can make positive changes in children’s lives.
*Name changed for privacy
Shannon Marzella, MA CPC, is a certified New York and Connecticut English teacher and a certified professional coach. Marzella is the founder and expressive writing coach at The Center for Expressive Writing in Norwalk. Connect with her at [email protected] or TheCenterForExpressiveWriting.com