The Imagine Project™: Using Expressive Writing to Help Children Overcome Stress and Trauma
Dianne I. Maroney
Pediatric nurses who work in hospitals, clinics, or schools often see children who are showing signs of stress, or their parents report their child is experiencing stress. Children may also show signs of trauma. Stress and trauma can cause numerous short- and long-term mental and physical health issues, such as anxiety, depression, aggression, learning impairments, decreased immune function, and adult onset disease. It is imperative that medical professionals assess and support children who are experiencing stress and/or trauma – past or present. Once it is determined that a child is undergoing stress and/or has had a traumatic event in their life, tools should be made available for the family to mitigate the negative effects of stress and trauma. The Imagine Project™, a simple and free expressive writing tool, can help families facing the difficult task of helping their child to cope with challenging life circumstances. Research on expressive writing has shown improved outcomes on immune function, physiologic changes, such as positive cortisol shifts and decreased anxiety and depression, and improved school norms, such as increased grade point averages and decreased dropout rates. Encouraging children to write about their emotions and difficult life experiences using this standardized, easily implemented tool can have profound positive effects on their short- and long-term physical and mental health.