How I'm teaching my kids to write a journal
Last summer I purchased journals for my kids. Knowing that prayer/scripture journaling has made a big impact on my faith, I thought I’d introduce my boys to the practice. I wanted them to experience the connection with God that comes from expressing our thoughts, revelations, and anxieties in writing, then going back months later and reading what you wrote to see just how much God is working in your life.
If you’ve ever journaled like this, you know what I’m talking about.
However, simply buying the journals wasn’t enough. At the end of the summer my kids had each written a page or two, then cast them aside and moved on to other activities. When I bought the journals, I had assumed that if they were given the materials, they would use them. It turns out, journaling--like so many other spiritual practices--takes coaching, which led me to do some research on journaling for kids. After talking with friends, a couple of pastors, and brainstorming with my husband, I came up with a few things to do/keep in mind as we encourage our kids in the spiritual practice.
How I'm teaching my kids to journal (in six steps)
- I explain that journaling is not for a grade. Throughout the school year my kids are meticulous in their writing. Knowing that they'll be graded on it, they stress about every sentence, about flow and spelling. Writing in a personal journal should be different. It should be relaxing. I remind my boys that when you journal, what you write doesn’t need to make sense to anyone. Handwriting can be sloppy, you can draw pictures instead of using words, and as long as you’re expressing yourself, the sky's the limit.
- We do it together. The Bible encourages us to live in community, and to do things together as a team. As such, any spiritual activity when done with others will bring more revelation and life than when we go it alone. Because of this, I'm planning to journal alongside my kids to show them how working together in faith can bring about an even better experience.
- Teaching them to SOAP. One of the ways I like to journal is to use the SOAP method. Write down on a piece of paper a Scripture, then any Observations you have, possible Applications of the Scripture, and finally a Prayer. Using this method helps to direct my thoughts, and after talking with other parents who've taught their kids how to SOAP, I’ve learned that it can really help kids as well. (>> Related: a best-selling Bible just for kids)
- Setting aside time to journal. I've learned not to expect that my kids will journal on their own. As an adult, it’s easy to get busy or sidetracked, and it’s just as easy for kids. Their friends call, they get into sports, and more. At times, my kids' schedules are more crammed than my own! That’s why I’m planning to set aside the time, as a family, to ensure that we spend time journaling each day.
- I explain that they don’t have to share. A lot of what I write in my prayer/Scripture journals can be shared. In fact, most of the time I like to talk through my observations with others, but sometimes I like to keep it private. Sometimes God speaks something into my heart that I’m meant to treasure up and keep to myself. Though I’m planning to allow time for discussion at the end of our journaling time, I also want my kids to know that it’s okay if there’s something they want to keep to themselves.
- Teach them that they have valuable insights. As noted in number four, I want to allow time at the end of each session to share our writing with each other, and I want my kids to know that their insights are welcome. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus tells his followers to approach him like a child, and one of the best ways to do that is to view him through the eyes of your own kids. I’m often amazed by how insightful they are. I’ve learned a lot about faith from my kids, and I want to keep learning from them for as long as they’ll let me.
>> Related: these journals are uniquely Jesus-centered.
In years past, I’ve experienced so much growth from journaling and I can’t wait for my kids to experience the same thing. With these six tips, we can start a journaling journey together that will most definitely end in spiritual growth for all of us.
Do you know of any other tips or tricks for teaching kids to journal? Share your ideas in the comments below.