This guide is for Big Life Journal for Kids — 2nd Edition
You’ve heard how much Big Life Journal rocks. And you’re pumped to get started with helping your child develop a growth mindset. You’ve sampled some of the free printable activities and you know the excellent quality behind this work.
Perhaps as you start flipping through the book, questions start popping up. And you’re scratching your head wondering how to make your Big Life Journal time enjoyable for all.
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In this quick start guide, we have suggestions for customizing your Big Life Journal experience to best meet the needs of your family. You will also find answers to the most frequently asked questions at the end.
Consider this Before Starting the Journal
Before diving into your Big Life Journal, take the time to think about WHY you want your child to develop a growth mindset. Remember that Big Life Journal is a connection tool that provides you with an opportunity to discuss important topics with your child, even when life gets busy.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I hope my child will GAIN by using the Journal? Take a look at the 10 topics listed at the beginning of the Big Life Journal (page 7). Is there a certain quality or attitude you believe your child could benefit the most from developing? For example, perhaps your child has a tendency to give up when faced with a challenge. Or maybe you would like your child to learn new skills in practicing persistence and overcoming perfectionism.
How much do I KNOW about growth mindset?
If your answer is nothing or not much, no worries! Instead of playing an expert role, you can be more like learning buddies or pals, each gaining something through the process. Also, be sure to check out this article on how to explain growth mindset to your kids.
What TIME do I have available to be my child's Journal Buddy?
Ideally, you want to make the most of this precious time with your child. To reduce stress, pick a time and day that allows for some wiggle room and make it consistent. If consistency is an issue due to an erratic schedule, include your child in the planning so they know when to expect your next Big Life Journal get-together.
How to get them EXCITED about it
Your child will mirror your attitude towards the journal. If you treat your Big Life Journal time as a fun and relaxing activity, chances are your child will, too. When you show excitement, your child will be curious and will want to know why.
Will you be the Journal Buddy? If so, focus on your desire to do the Big Life Journal. Share your positive thoughts and feelings associated with learning from each other. Your excitement and curiosity will be contagious and your child will get excited too!
Where to Begin
Begin with All About Me and the My Superpowers pages at the beginning of the journal (pp 8-9). Have your child complete the pages and sit by their side to see if they want to share (you can be journaling too!)
That can be lesson one. Yes, a super simple yet effective way to set the stage for the amazing work ahead of you.
Don’t worry it’s not enough. This isn’t a race and there is no need to rush. Feel free to slow down, as this will set the stage for you and your child and give you time to mentally prepare and process this new journey.
How to make it EASY for you
- Focus on your purpose. Refer back to your responses to the questions at the beginning of this quick start guide. Jot down your answers on a sticky note or index card. Place it at the beginning of your Big Life Journal to remind yourself of your focus and goals.
- Do a bit of prep work. Some easy planning can do wonders to create a relaxed flow. Simply look at the next topic you’ll be discussing and get a feel for it. You are free to just skim the title and story. Taking a few seconds, or maybe even a minute, will allow you to familiarize yourself with what’s coming up and help you feel more relaxed. And when you’re chilled, your child will be more comfortable.
- If using our free 4-Week Guide, highlight. Add notes and make it feel like you. Again, don’t go overboard and scribble too many comments. Just pick words or phrases you want to touch upon when chatting about a specific topic.
How to make it ENJOYABLE
- Keep It Simple, Sweetie. That’s right! A big ol’ K.I.S.S. Adults have the tendency to complicate and overthink things with a "more is better" attitude. Kids like simple ideas and topics, which can be taken in and turned into something relatable and doable. Trust the process.
- Have realistic expectations. Change usually doesn’t happen overnight. Your child may even demonstrate an ebb and a flow in interest and applying skills during your Big Life Journal time. It happens and it's okay. Just like adults, kids have ups and downs, Just crank up your patience dial and, once again, trust the process.
- Release the pressure. This is a special tie to connect with your child. Your level of excitement about helping your child develop a growth mindset might be boiling over and that is perfectly ok! Just remember to keep it relaxed: no tests, no grades, no wrong answers.
- Writing prompts are ONLY suggestions. You can customize the material to make it more applicable to your child/family. And your child doesn’t have to write (see tips and suggestions below to deal with writing resistance).
How to make it FUN
- At the end of each chapter, your child will color an inspiring message (e.g., "I never give up" or "I am kind"). Cut out all these pages to create a beautiful growth mindset poster. Hang the poster somewhere they can see it every day!
- Use any of the hands-on activities listed below in the writing resistance question.
For each topic, make a poster, collage, or picture. Add the theme name at the top (e.g., be grateful). As you learn about the topic, invite your child to doodle, add stickers, cut out pictures from old magazines — whatever your child finds inspirational and applies to the topic.
For example, when working on the topic “Be Grateful”, your child might select pictures that represent people, places, and things they appreciate. Phrases or quotes from that Big Life Journal topic can be added, too.
- Listen to the Big Life Kids podcast! Our kids' growth mindset podcast accompanies the journal for a multisensory learning experience. The podcast is absolutely free and includes helpful show notes for parents which include additional resource links and discussion questions.
Finally, how to make THE MOST of it
It’s important to put ideas into practice! Make it a fun game to brainstorm how you both can apply the topics in real life. Add a challenge of thinking of three ways you and your child can practice the positive skills.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
When should we use the Big Life Journal?
You know your schedule best. Although it’s recommended to remain consistent, you have to do what works best for your family with as little stress as possible. Things to think about:
What day and time do you have available in your upcoming week? If your weekly schedule is packed, think of alternatives. For example, try Saturday morning at a coffee shop or Sunday afternoon snuggled on the couch.
- When does your child function best? If you have an early bird, consider morning time, perhaps over breakfast. Your child might like to switch gears after a long day and enjoy chatting about Big Life Journal topics over dinner. Night owls might prefer having Big Life Journals paired with bedtime for a relaxed atmosphere.
Who can be a Journal Buddy?
The purpose of a Journal Buddy is to provide your child with a trusted person to discuss the topics, provide real-life examples, and clarify any questions.
A Journal Buddy can be a parent, peer, older sibling, or grandparent. Big Life Journal is a fabulous connection tool that can also be used to help your child stay in contact with distant relatives or friends via Skype or Facetime.
When I look at the themes, I see one I know my child could benefit from now. Is it okay to start there? Can we do the lessons in any order?
Absolutely! All ten themes are wonderful and can be done in ANY order. You can look at your purpose and make a custom list that’s perfect for your child.
To help your child feel even more a part of the process, have a chat about the topics and select a flexible schedule of topics with them. This activity builds mutual respect and trust plus provides wiggle room if you find a topic needs to be shifted.
My child just doesn’t seem interested in the Big Life Journal. What can I do to get my child on board?
Your child might be tired or maybe a bit apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect. Here are some things you can do.
- Be clear that Big Life Journal is a great way to spend time together, chat, and just hang out. It’s a safe space to talk about these topics and how to overcome personal struggles.
- Take out your Big Life Journal and talk about the ten topics. As you flip through the book, glance at the stories and illustrations.
- Point out that Big Life Journal isn’t like other books and workbooks. There’s the freedom to express yourself!
- Highlight Big Life Journal builds different kinds of muscles - mental, emotional, psychological, and interpersonal.
Let your child know Big Life Journal time isn’t a time to perform or be under pressure. Share YOUR excitement about the conversations you’ll be having and how you can work together to explore each others’ worlds.
Pro tip: Pair your Big Life Journal time with a fun activity! Make a sweet treat, like brownies or hot cocoa, to enjoy during your discussion. Chat about the Big Life Journal over a breakfast date or donuts. If you’d rather avoid sweets, pick out a game or hobby to do together after your Big Life Journal time. Check out our Growth Mindset Activity Kit for fun games and activities.
After we read the story, my child has trouble answering the questions. I hear, “I dunno” a lot or get one-word answers. What can I do to get them talking?
Well, your child may only have a one-word answer to that question. And that’s OKAY!
If you feel your child could go deeper, feel free to change up the question a bit to make it applicable to their life. Or provide an answer of your own. Often, that’s all it takes to help them open up and start talking.
If they’re still struggling, leave it. They may need time to process. There’s no rush. Reinforce the idea that part of developing a growth mindset is giving ourselves room to learn more about ourselves and dig deep. Invite your child to give the question more thought and to let you know when they’re ready to discuss.
My kid zones out during our lesson. What’s a fun way to keep them engaged?
Pick a buzz word related to the topic. Whenever that word is said, make a funny noise, dance, or gesture. For example, if you’re in Chapter 8 "Love Learning", you could make a heart with your fingers every time the word “love” is said. Make it a fun game to encourage listening and participation.
My child puts up such a fuss when it comes to writing. I don’t know how to deal with their writing resistance. Help!
Guess what? Your child does NOT have to write when using the Big Life Journal.
This journal doesn’t have to be one of the battles you pick to fight. Remove the struggle and tension by using one of these alternatives:
- Be the scribe! Do the writing for your child. Jot their answers down and read back to them. Let them clarify where necessary. This process helps them solidify and own their response.
- Use writing alternatives. Some kids love chalkboards or dry erase boards. Got a kid who loves to type? Show them the keyboard and let them go!
- Allow your child to tape their response. Use an app with a voice recorder or a good ol’ tape recorder.
- Let your child get dramatic. They can sing, dance, or act out their response.
- Puppets or favorite small toys can be used to act out responses through play. Your child can make their own paper bag puppet or use a toy to represent a character or self.
- Playdough is a fun way to provide your child with another hands-on activity to create characters and talk through responses.
- Read one of the suggested growth mindset books on our list and discuss it.
- Do a real-life project! For example, in “Make a Difference in the World” chapter, work with your child to select a cause they’re interested in and determine how to volunteer or raise donations. Another example would be to create a vision or dream board when working on the “Dream Big” chapter.
- Watch a movie and discuss the growth mindset topics! Check out the list of 75 Growth Mindset Movies for Children available in our Growth Mindset Activity Kit.
Let Your Growth Mindset Journey Begin!
The very best thing you can do is allow yourself to get started. These considerations, tips, and solutions will help you enjoy the development of the growth mindset process with your child. Be open to the shared experiences and observations made along this incredible journey. As you walk this path with your child, you’re taking another positive step in providing your child with invaluable skills that will last a lifetime.
Amy Milcic writes about creative solutions to make time for learning fun, even when life is busy, at www.rockyourhomeschool.net. A former mental health therapist, she now uses those skills to help her family shine. Amy loves to connect with homeschoolers, especially through Facebook Live and podcasting.
Amy juggles homeschool soccer mom life near Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and five boys.