Friends, I am so excited to share about this journal from a fellow writer and friend, Kristin Vanderlip. I was on her launch team and shared about it on Instagram, and here we are today to share more about the Living Life Well Journal for Kids! This is a Q&A format interview where she shares more about it…
1. First, tell us a bit about you!
I am a former 8th grade language arts teacher turned stay-at-home mom turned writer. I’m a wife to my husband of 12 years and mama to my two rainbow boys (who are ages 5 and 8). We are an Army family currently living in Tennessee. My family and I know a lot about what it’s like to process through the hard things of life with God. I am passionate about encouraging women to find hope and live in expectation of God’s promises in the midst of unexpected pain and suffering. I am the author of Life Worth Living: A Daily Growth Journal (for women) and this new journal, Living Life Well: A Daily Growth Journal for Kids.
2. Where did the idea of a journal for kids come from?
For years, I defined my life by its struggles—and I let them define me. I watched as the color drained right out of my life. My life with Jesus didn’t feel full or abundant. Instead, I felt empty and weary. This was not how it was supposed to be. So I leaned in and dug in and began to open myself up to deep soul work with Jesus, therapists, and mentors. Out of this work came my first journal, the pages of which both absorbed and acted as catalyst for growth and transformation.
As I learned and grew and wrote in my Life Worth Living journal, my kids (then ages 4 and 7) drew near and grew curious. What’s that mommy? What are you doing mommy? What are you writing mommy? Their questions were an invitation for me to share with them about the work God and I were doing together. Almost immediately they began asking me when I was going to make a journal for kids so they could have their own. Then the moms using my Life Worth Living journal were expressing their interest in having a journal like this for their kids too.
As a former teacher and a mom (and former kid myself), I understood that kids need tools, encouragement, and safe spaces to process their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. When it came to my own kids, I am aware of the hard things they face–like their dad deploying or enduring long separations from him, moving into a new house almost every year of their lives, changing schools, making and saying goodbye to neighbors and friends, and so on. I saw how those things affected them. Often times my kids were unaware and unable to articulate what they were experiencing and feeling and didn’t know how to process or navigate it.
How could I help them understand themselves? How could I help them name the emotions behind their behaviors? How could I empower and equip them to make good choices when they felt like they couldn’t control anything? How could I point them toward God and help grow their faiths through these hard things? These were the questions I asked myself and was doing my best to formulate answers to as I parented.
I saw how others kids struggled too, some in deep and heartbreaking ways. A couple of years ago friends of ours lost their child to suicide. Within the past year two acquaintances of ours shared of their children’s suicide attempts. Almost every week I’m having a conversation with a friend or neighbor about their child being bullied. We all know that suicide, bullying, anxiety, depression, and so on are prevalent issues affecting our kids today–even young children. Bottom line, the world can be hard on our kids. What can we do about it? How can we equip them to process and handle their experiences and live rooted in Christ?
I realized I could create a version of the journal I’d made and had been using in my own life for kids in an attempt to provide a tangible tool to meet this need I saw in front of me.
3. What does living life well mean to you?
This is such a great question. Some may equate this idea with striving or performance, but that is not what this journal is about or the message it delivers. I include a note to kids in the beginning of the journal that says this:
Living life well doesn’t mean that you or your life will be perfect. It doesn’t mean that life will be easy. And it doesn’t mean that you will always be able to do what you want to do. There will be times when life will seem unfair and hard. Some days it might even feel like there is a big, dark, storm cloud hanging over your head. The good news is that when you live life with God you can live well even when life doesn’t seem to be going so well.
Living life well means:
- · You think and act in ways that honor God, yourself, and others.
- · Your confidence and joy come from knowing God and His love.
- · You know that it’s okay to make mistakes.
- · You try to learn new ways to handle hard things.
- · You find reasons to thank God every day.
4. What are the differences between Living Life Well for Kids and Life Worth Living for women?
Both journals share the overarching concepts of growing in awareness of God and yourself to live a life that is vibrant and full with God—even when it’s imperfect and hard. Both journals contain growth pages that start the journal process, but the content in each is quite different. The daily templates in both journals are also similar in that they both offer space to name the hard things or the things you’re struggling with, space to focus on actions and choices we can make to handle those hard things (because we’re not stuck or passive or hopeless or helpless), and space to focus on the good and cultivate gratitude.
The main difference in the journals is the way in which the content is written so that it’s age appropriate for each audience. The children’s journal is written so that it can be read by children in elementary school. The children’s journal also focuses more directly on building a foundation of God’s Word into kids’ hearts.
It would absolutely work for a family to journal together using both journals. In fact, I cherish the times when my boys see me writing in my journal and they grab theirs and come sit next to me and get to work in theirs. I don’t always share what I’m writing in mine with them, but when they ask, I find a way to share something that’s appropriate for them so they can see how I’m using it in my own life. I want them to know that sometimes mommy has a hard time to or makes mistakes and show them how I’m processing and working through that hard thing.
6. I love the pages about handling hard things and big feelings. You focused a lot on teaching kids to understand our God given feelings, and how God can help us. Why did you take that approach?
I think gratitude and prayer are essential, which is why both are included in this journal, but our emotions are a huge part of us that we need to talk about and learn about. We (adults and children) receive mixed messages about our emotions in both culture and the Church and even in our families. Some of these messages can be harmful to our well-being and our faith. If we don’t understand our emotions, can’t name them, don’t feel safe to talk about them, etc., then our emotions can control us or overwhelm us or we can engage in harmful behaviors that try to numb them. When we can name what we feel and center our feelings in God’s truth, we can live well and free no matter what we’re feeling.
7. Where did the TAP (Tell God, Ask God, Praise God) method of prayer come from?
That one sort of divinely fell into my lap. When I first introduced my journal concept to a group of beta readers, the prayer section wasn’t in the daily journal page, but the beta readers really wanted a way to encourage their children to pray. As I reflected and thought about how I used my own Life Worth Living journal, I thought about how I used what I wrote to pray on my own. As I looked at the main sections within the children’s journal pages, I realized that each component could be introduced as a component of prayer. We can tell God about what’s hard for us, we can ask God for help when something’s hard or we don’t know what to do, and we can look at the good things in our days and in Him and praise Him. I wanted an easy way for kids to think about prayer, and I noticed that telling, asking, and praising formed the acronym TAP, which just so happened to be perfect because we can talk to our kids about using prayer to tap into the connection we have with God.
5. What are your hopes for this journal?
I hope that this journal will be a starting point and an invitation for kids to discover how to live well and be well no matter how unwell their day or their life feels, and that this journal will help kids grow in awareness of themselves and God, to be mindful, to live intentionally, to increase their emotional intelligence, to cultivate gratitude, to learn how to connect with God through prayer, and more. I want to equip kids with tools and instill the foundation that builds a deeply rooted confidence in Him. I hope that parents using this journal with their children will see it as a tool that helps them plant seeds that God will use to help their kids understand Him, themselves, and how to handle themselves when they face hard things in life. And I hope the journal sparks a lifelong openness and communication about faith, feelings, and more between children and their parents.
8. Can you tell us a bit more what you’ve learned in the process of writing the journal, and where we can find you?
As I’ve written this journal and my first journal, I’ve realized just how much these concepts and tools are lifelong ones. As I’ve journaled in my own journal for years and as my kids have started to use theirs, I’ve seen how what’s on the pages transfers becomes normal parts of our conversations on any given day and ultimately becomes a stepping point for behavior change. These concepts and tools are lifelong ones, but what’s in these pages are seeds of transformation that can help us and our kids grow into the people God has created and called us to be.
If you’re interested in joining me on the journey of living well especially when life isn’t going so well, you can find me at my home online www.kristinvanderlip.com and on Instagram @kristinvanderlip.