MAIN STREET — When she was younger, Summer Germann wouldn’t tell her mother things because she was afraid of her reaction.
So when she had her own child, she vowed that she would be different. Germann got her chance when her 9-year-old daughter Ocean had a secret to tell, but wasn’t comfortable disclosing it.
Summer Germann suggested that she should write her secret down.
“I was kind of scared at first because I thought that it was basically the same as telling her, but then I realized that it wasn’t and it was kind of scary,” Ocean Germann said while sitting next to her mom at a coffee shop on Main Street.
The result of that innocent exchange was the beginning of a deep trust with her mother for Ocean Germann, and the beginning of a new career venture for Summer Germann which came to be known as “The Trust Journal.”
“Right when I had this, I knew it was gold,” Summer Germann said.
The journals come in four variations, each being designated for a different kind of relationship: “For Mothers & Daughters,” “For Grandmother & Granddaughters,” “For Best Friends, and “Just Between Us.” Inside each book, there is a signable “certificate of trust” stating that the information shared in the journal is only between the two people who write in it.
The pages are split into two horizontal sections — the top half saying “me,” which is meant for the child, and the bottom saying “you” for the parent.
“I think that kids and people would benefit from [the journals] because you’re starting out with little problems and as they work their way through tween and teen years, they’re working their way up to bigger problems and they know that they’ve already built that trust with someone,” Summer Germann said.
She thinks the right time for a parent to start a journal with their child is between the ages of 8 and 10.
“They’re still young enough, their problems are still small enough that they’re willing to be more open and share them with you, so you kind of get that shot,” she said.
Ocean Germann, now 10, has seen a significant change since starting the journal with her mother and both of her grandmothers, one of which lives in Chicago.
“I would use these trust journals when I have to tell my mom a really, really deep secret,” she said. “It’s helped me to come out and really not be as shy and help tell her more stuff and be more comfortable around her.”
Summer Germann has also noticed a change in herself.
“I think everything about [these journals] has made me a better parent,” she said. “I think it’s made me more compassionate to the kids.”
While it was a dual effort to develop and design the journals, Summer seems to give most of the credit to her daughter.
“If it wasn’t for her and she wasn’t willing to write it down that day, this wouldn’t have came to,” she said.
Sue Flynn, Summer Germann’s mother, believes her relationship with her daughter would have changed “dramatically” if she had a trust journal when she was raising her, and feels that one could still be started today.
“I would be so mindful of the non-reactive part,” Flynn said.
Flynn has sponsored the journals on behalf of her foundation that raises money to help pay for funerals or celebrations of life for families that are victims of pediatric cancer, a disease that tragically ended her son Mac’s life in 2002.
Gerry Owen, licensed marriage and family therapist for over 20 years, thinks the journals can be one of the many tools used by parents in order to better communicate with their kids.
“Anything that helps smooth and facilitate conversation between parents and children is a good thing,” said Owen, who has an office in Downtown Santa Monica with his wife, Linda. “The more that that conversation is experienced by both people as safe, and that both feel seen — the parent feels seen, the kid feels seen — the better off the whole family unit is.”
Owen said writing in the journals satisfies at least two, possibly all four, of an attachment theory called the “Four S’s,” which are that a child has to feel seen, safe, soothed and secure.
Summer Germann has lived in Santa Monica for most of her life, and said that it’s “a really great place to live and a really hard place to live,” citing the cost of living and that children in the city by the sea seem to not have much down time.
However, she appreciates that the community is filled with individuals who want to help others.
“There’s such a community of activism [in Santa Monica],” she said. “Everyone has a cause or a purpose. I don’t think there’s many people in Santa Monica that aren’t doing something to try and help or make a difference.”
The journals have been sponsored by such organizations as OPCC, The Boys & Girls Club and the National Children’s Cancer Society.
All four journals are available online through Amazon or Summer Germann’s website, happyditto.com.