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Are You Repeating Your Parents’ Patterns? Try These 30 Therapist Approved Journaling Prompts

Have you ever found yourself reacting to a situation in a way that felt strangely familiar as if you have lived through it before? as if you're mirroring your parents' behaviors and attitudes? Perhaps you are reflecting on your parents' behaviors. Keep reading for 30 therapist-approved journaling prompts to help you gain insight into your own behavior.

journaling prompts

If you ever wondered whether you are repeating your parents' behaviors, you are not alone. Most of us have grappled with this question as we navigate our lives, whether it is our response to stress or in our relationships. We inherit both positive and negative patterns from our parents, and these patterns influence our lives. It is important to recognize these patterns to understand why you act the way you do and change what isn't working for you.

These daily journaling prompts will allow you to reflect on your inherited patterns and make changes in your life. Whether you are struggling with communication, emotional expression, or just general life choices, think of these prompts as a guide to help.

Remember, the goal is not to blame or criticize your parents but to understand how their influence has shaped you. When you start reflecting on your patterns with curiosity instead of blaming, you can take proactive steps to change what no longer serves you. So, grab your journal and start with these 30 therapist-approved journaling prompts.

What Are Journaling Prompts? 

So, what exactly are journaling prompts? Well, they are statements or questions designed to explore your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and experiences more deeply.

I am a HUGE advocate for journaling prompts and their ability to uncover patterns you might not have recognized otherwise. When you put your thoughts on paper, you can create some space to gain clarity and a better understanding of your behavior.

When I first started journaling, I realized it was that pause I needed before approaching situations. It allows me to rethink my behavior and understand the why behind my emotions. 

Because it can be challenging to know where to start when it comes to family dynamics and your behavioral patterns, I am providing you with 30 journaling prompts to help you reflect on your family patterns. I encourage you to dig deeper into your behaviors and work through these prompts with your therapist if needed.

Why Bother Using Journaling Prompts? 

If you are new to journaling, it can be challenging to express your thoughts or feelings without having any prompts. Many people wonder what they should write about or where to start. Using journaling prompts not only provides structure to your writing but also tells you what to write about to help you understand yourself and your behaviors.

Even if you journal regularly, these 30 prompts will help you self-reflect to a deeper level. I am someone who journals regularly, but I appreciate the prompts because they help me think about a topic in a way I had never thought about before, which I like. 

Also, these journaling prompts are meant to be a guide for you to reflect on your patterns thoughtfully and constructively to help you make informed choices and take proactive steps toward positive changes.

Either way, everyone can benefit from them.

How To Use These Journaling Prompts? 

1) Plan Ahead by Dedicating Uninterrupted Time to Journal 

When I am intentional about journaling, I am much more likely to stick with it. When you set aside time each day (or week) for your journaling practice, you are able to dedicate uninterrupted space for self-reflection and growth.

So, think about when you would like to journal. This could be first thing in the morning when you are wide awake or the end of the day when you have more time. 

You want this time to be where you can focus on your thoughts and emotions without distractions.  For example, if you decide to journal every week on Saturday mornings, you want to block off that time on your calendar, put away your phone, stay away from TV and stay present with your practice.

I like my space to feel inviting and safe when I journal, so think about how you can set the mood to help you dive into your experience entirely. Add music, candles, small snacks, or water to your environment to help create a more peaceful environment.

If you are new to journaling or struggle to make it a consistent practice, be realistic about how much time you are able to spend journaling. I find people completely giving up on journaling after not being able to keep up with unrealistic goals.

You can start with 15 minutes every week and build your way up instead of setting an unrealistic goal of daily journaling if you are worried about overwhelming yourself. This gradual increase in frequency and duration will allow you to make journaling a part of your routine over time.

Both morning journaling prompts and evening journaling can help you with reflection and growth. It's about finding what works best for YOU.  

2) Choose Journaling Prompts

Now that you have dedicated time to journaling, it's time to browse through the journaling prompts provided in the blog post and choose one. Start by reading through all the 30 journaling prompts and consider how they relate to your life.

To make it easier for you, this post will have six separate categories that include positive traits, emotional responses, communication styles, relationship dynamics, self-care, and life choices. It can be helpful to think about your personal goals and areas that may need more immediate attention when deciding what journaling prompts you want to choose. 

For example, if you want to communicate your needs in a relationship, you can choose a journaling prompt from the 'Communications and Conflict' category. 

3) Start Writing

It's time to start writing! If you are wondering what should you write when journaling, don't overcomplicate it. Just write what comes to mind based on the chosen journaling prompts. No grammar police are going to come after you, so don't worry about being perfect- this practice is for YOU to write about your thoughts and experiences. 

Journaling about past experiences can sometimes bring up intense emotions or difficult memories. When and if that happens, it is important to recognize when you need a break. Whether you need to step away from your journal, take a few deep breaths, or engage in a distraction activity, it is OKAY to pause and return to your journaling when you feel ready to continue.

Here are some of my favorite breathing exercises to help you stay grounded and present during your journaling practice: 

1) 4-7-8 Breathing to calm your nervous system: Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale completely through your nose for 8 seconds. Repeat for 3 times. 

2) Box Breathing to regain focus: Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale through your nose for 4 seconds, and pause for 4 seconds before starting a new cycle. Repeat for 3 times. 

3) Belly Breathing to calm your mind:  Take slow, deep breaths, expanding your diaphragm and filling your lungs with air. Inhale through your nose, hold briefly, and exhale through your mouth. Focus on the sensation of your breath to help calm your mind.

You can also choose to discuss these prompts with your therapist to help process your thoughts and emotions in a safe and supportive environment. 

4) Highlight Insights and Reflect

My favorite part about journaling is having an 'Aha' moment, which is when you realize something important about the situation, your behaviors, feelings, or something you hadn't noticed before. There are so many times when I prioritize journaling when I am upset because it allows me to connect the dots before I take any further steps.

These aha moments are super important in understanding how your family's experiences continue to show up in your current patterns, helping you to decide whether you want to keep them or change them. The goal is to make a conscious choice about your behavior, not just go along with old patterns.

For example, let's say you are writing about expressing your needs, and as you write, you think about a situation where you felt unappreciated by your partner. Instead of openly discussing your needs and how you feel when you aren't appreciated, you become passive-aggressive and withdraw. You communicated with silent treatment or made sarcastic comments in the hopes that your partner would know your feelings were hurt.

As you continue journaling about the situation, the aha moment becomes clear when you realize you are mirroring how you saw your mom handle her needs with your dad. You may write about your mom making sarcastic comments or sacrificing her own needs for your dads, leading to increased resentment instead of expressing her needs for appreciation.

Knowing this pattern about yourself can help connect the dots between your behavior and what you observed between your parents. Remember, this is the point where you extend self-compassion to yourself for unconsciously adopting a similar approach. Now that you recognize this pattern, it allows you to make an informed decision about how to address your needs more productively in a relationship.

I will say that it is important to remember that not every journaling prompts will bring you these 'aha' moments. Some of the reflections will simply be entries of your thoughts and experiences without profound realizations, and that is OKAY.

Honestly, 'aha' moments tend to be when you least expect it, and as you continue to journal, you will start understanding that the goal is not to force an insight but it is to create space for exploration and reflect on how your experiences might be linked to your family patterns. 

5) Formulate Healthier Patterns

After reflecting on the journaling prompts, it is now time to think about the parental patterns you would like to change and work on formulating healthier patterns. The goal is to start intentionally thinking about insights and reflections from step 4 and what behaviors, emotions, or beliefs you want to modify or change. Let's use the example from step 4 about passive-aggressive behaviors.

1) Identify your triggers: The first step is to be aware of the triggers that led to the response you had in the first place. In order to be mindful of what your triggers are, pay attention to things that happen in your environment (certain sounds, past experiences, certain words, actions, etc, that are associated with the reaction) that lead to your emotions and physical responses. Being aware of your triggers can help address and alter the pattern.

In the example from step 4, the trigger is feeling unappreciated in a relationship. 

2) Understand your triggers: After you have identified a trigger, ask yourself these questions:

  • What made me feel unappreciated in this situation? (Lack of acknowledgment, unmet needs, etc.)
  • How did I feel? (Label the emotions) and why did the trigger provoke a strong reaction? (Think childhood experiences, attachment style, self-esteem, etc.) 
  • How have these triggers influenced my past behavior and choices? (Coping mechanisms, impact of triggers on your past relationships, etc.) 

3) Identify Your Needs: Now that you know your trigger, think about what you truly need in those moments. Your reactions are tied to unmet emotional needs, and if you don't know what those unmet needs are, you can't know how to get them met.

Are you looking to be understood, validated, or heard, or something different entirely? If you are new to identifying and understanding what you need, don't worry. You are not alone. Everyone has basic, universal human needs like the need for autonomy, respect, to understand and be understood, etc; start there. As you continue to reflect on your emotions and reactions, you will have a better understanding of your own needs.

Some questions you can ask to identify your needs include: 1) What am I feeling right now? 2) What is making me feel unappreciated? 3)What would help me feel better (needs) 3) What's the outcome I am looking for from expressing my needs?

journaling prompts

Journaling Prompts

6) Implement a Healthier Pattern 

At this step, you should have a clear understanding of your triggers, feelings, and needs. Let's discuss how to put this into practice. If your usual response to unmet needs has been being passive-aggressive, your new pattern will focus on practicing being open and assertive with your needs. Here's how you can do it:

  • Choose a time that works for both of you to talk about how you have been feeling. (You have identified your triggers, emotions, and needs already.) If your emotions are highly heightened, prioritize managing the emotions first (step away temporarily or self-soothe) before going into the conversation so you can focus on resolution rather than escalation. Remember, you are now practicing a new pattern, so if you need more time to cool down, communicate. Let the other person know you want some more time to feel calmer and composed and revisit the conversation at a later time. 
  • Use "I" statements: You are talking about how YOU feel and what you need. When you use "I" statements, it can help reduce feelings of blame by taking responsibility for your own emotions. 
  • Start with taking accountability for your behavior: It is important to share that you recognize your passive-aggressive tendencies and that you are working on learning more about the underlying triggers and needs. Apologize for how the other person might have felt because of your action, and talk about how you are working on changing the pattern. 
  • Use the Non-Violent Communication Method (NVC): 
    • Be specific and focus on observable behaviors: You are going to describe observable behaviors without judgment or evaluation. For example, "I have noticed instances in our relationship more recently where my contributions are not acknowledged or valued. For example, last week, I spent hours cleaning the house for us, and you didn't notice or say thank you for the efforts I put into it."
    • Feeling: Identify and share how you feel. For example, "I feel sad when my efforts frequently go unnoticed or unacknowledged."
    • Express Needs: For example, "It is important to me to feel valued for my contributions." 
    • Request: You want to make requests keeping in mind the needs and capabilities of the other person. Also, be open to compromises. For example, " Could we talk about how we can express appreciation for each other's contribution or efforts more regularly? It would mean a lot to me if you could acknowledge my efforts, even in small ways, when I go the extra mile to make our home comfortable for both of us."  

Once you have communicated your perspective and needs, you want to give the other person the opportunity to share how they are feeling so you can better understand their perspective and adjust your request as needed.

7) Practice Your New Pattern

It takes time to implement changes. If you are conditioned to respond in a certain way, it will take time to change the pattern. You will revert to your old patterns, and that is OKAY. Try to catch yourself and make any minor changes you can. Self-compassion and self-reflection are the two key things here.

Reflect on situations where you practiced the new pattern and write about what worked well and what was challenging. This self-reflection will help you make the new pattern a natural part of your life.  When you revert to old behaviors, extend self-compassion and think about what you could have done differently.

As you continue to practice your new pattern and work through different journaling prompts for healing, it can be helpful to talk to a therapist or trusted friend for encouragement, feedback, or support. And finally, remember to celebrate your success. Being able to choose a healthier way of responding is a BIG win. Appreciate your own efforts.

30 Journaling Prompts for Reflecting on Your Parents' Patterns

Having journaling writing prompts can be a huge time saver and help with self-discovery. Here are 30 creative journal prompts to help you get started:

Positive Lessons and Traditions Journaling Prompts 

1) Reflect on the positive qualities that you have inherited from your parents and how that has helped your personal growth.

2) What are some of your parents' values and beliefs that align with your own and that influence decision-making?

3) What are some valuable lessons that you have inherited from your family that you want to continue passing on to future generations?

4) Reflect on your family traditions that you admire and want to continue in your own life. (gratitude journaling prompts)

5) Reflect on your parents' relationships with their own parents.

Communication & Conflict Resolution Journaling Prompts 

1) How would you describe your parents' communication style? (Passive, Passive-Aggressive, Aggressive, Assertive). Now, explore your own communication style. Are there any similarities between how your parents communicate and how you communicate?

2) Reflect on how your parents' handled disagreements or difficult conversations (think about the patterns they used to resolve conflicts). How did that shape your communication style?

3) Reflect on a recent conflict or disagreement you had. Did you notice any similarities to how your parents would have handled similar situations? What were the consequences? 

4) How do you express your needs in your relationships? How does it relate to your upbringing? 

5) Reflect on a pattern of communication in your family or your relationships.

Emotional Expression & Coping Journaling Prompts 

1) How did your parents express their emotions when you were a child, and how did that shape your understanding of emotions & coping?

2) Reflect on your own emotions. Were there rules or expectations about your emotional expression in your family? (Think about any common related phrases that were used; for example, men don't cry, or suppressing certain emotions)

3) How did your parents handle stress or difficult emotions? How do you handle them?

4) Reflect on a recent emotional experience. How did you express your emotions and cope with the situation Were there similarities between how you expressed yourself and how your parents' expressed their emotions?

5) How do your emotions impact your relationships?

Attachment & Relationships Journaling Prompts  

1) What is your attachment style? (anxious, secure, avoidant, disorganized)

2) Growing up, how did your parents' relationship with each other impact your understanding of love and relationships?

3) What patterns have you noticed in your relationships that are similar to those of your parents?

4) How does your attachment style influence your choices and behaviors in a relationship?

5) Reflect on your past relationships and write about a pattern you noticed (being clingy, emotional distance, shutting down, fear of abandonment, etc). Does your attachment style play a role?

Self-Care & Rest Journaling Prompts 

1) Did your parents/caregivers engage in self-care or rest during your upbringing?

2) Write about your current self-care practices. Reflect on whether you adopted any patterns as your parents.

3) What life circumstances or responsibilities did your parents have to face that may have made it difficult for them to prioritize self-care and rest? (also think access to resources, challenges of immigration, cultural expectations, and financial stressors)

4) Reflect on your parents' beliefs about having individual needs and how that impacts your own ability to recognize and prioritize your own needs.

5) Are there any guilt patterns from prioritizing yourself? Where might these come from?

Career & Life Choices Journaling Prompts 

1) Reflect on your current career choice. Are you pursuing a career that your parents had envisioned for you, or did you choose a different direction? (Reflect on challenges with balancing passion and practicality)

2) Were you encouraged to take risks in your careers or pursue job stability? How did that influence your decision to choose a career?

3)How do your parents make important decisions? How do your parents make important decisions that involve you?

4) Reflect on the level of autonomy you have in your life choices. How much influence do external factors have on the decision-making process?

5) Reflect on your goals and priorities in life. Are they aligned with what you want, or do you find yourself repeating any patterns based on expectations?

Let's Recap...

Being curious and exploring the patterns you inherited from your parents is an insightful journey. The 30 good journaling prompts for self reflection is a starting point for your self-growth and making intentional choices to change behaviors that no longer serve you. 

Self-discovery through creative journaling ideas can be a fun way to get started on your journey. 

Remember to also acknowledge the healthy patterns you have inherited that continues to help you and it's not a blame game. The goal with using journaling prompts for self discovery includes reflecting on your past and being mindful of not repeating the same cycle. 

So the next time you are wondering what to write in a journal, I hope these journaling prompts for mental health help you get started. 


journaling prompts

Journal Prompts for Self Discovery

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