Last Updated: August 21, 2018 Having recently completed my PhD in the area of young children’s spirituality, one of the things that really challenged my thinking and perception of young children was all the wonderful things they offer us as parents, adults and teachers. I started to make a list of 8 things I’d like to share with you.
. Young children are infinitely curious. They are interested in everything around them inside and even more so outside the house. I think as we get older, we get into the mindset that we already know things and our questions get fewer. We think we know how things work, or at least a rough idea, until things like crypto-currency comes along and we are once again baffled. I love Einstein’s famous quote; “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity
One of the things I try to do when I am talking to people is to take a stance of curiosity. Someone may be explaining a feeling of sadness. Well I’ve been sad, so I could assume I know what they mean by sad, but maybe sad feels different for them, or actually it’s not so much sadness they are describing but really loneliness or despair. The other lovely application of curiosity, is when we feel really strong emotions during the day, someone cuts you off or is rude and you feel emotion rising to the top. If you can pause and ask a question from the point of view of curious, it can be very insightful, ‘gee I’m really feeling anger right now, I wonder where it is coming from’ or ‘that’s interesting, I wonder why I am feeling anger right now’.
It can just be a pause between the action and the reaction that can point us to what might be going on at a deeper level. So embrace your child’s curiosity and all those ‘why’ questions.
Have you noticed just how fully present young children are? If they are playing with Lego or drawing, that is taking all their attention. They aren’t worrying about a conversation that happened last week or what they are going to do on the weekend, checking their phone or noticing what’s on the TV. Nope, they are just playing. I suspect the path to our inner selves, our inner wisdom and our spirituality lies in the present moment. It doesn’t come when we are rehashing the past or trying to predict the future, it is simply now in the present moment, with this one simple breath. Present moment.
. There is a lot of talk at the moment about ‘teaching’ young children mindfulness techniques. I think we have a little bit around wrong. It is young children that are our teachers in this area. The ability for children to just be, to watch the clouds, or a line of ants climbing a tree is the very essence of mindfulness. I describe mindfulness as just doing one thing at a time. Children can teach us so much in this area. I recognise this can be frustrating when we are trying to get ready in the morning but while they are young, watch in awe. Mindfulness
Speaking of awe and wonder, what better models for seeing the world in this way than young children. Whether it is raindrops on a spider’s web, a baby bird or a cloud, children will express such utter delight and pleasure in the simple world around us that if we allow ourselves to join in, we can be equally touched. So maybe be on the look out for one awesome thing today. What do you notice around you? What causes your heart to skip a beat? One of most delightful aspects of the research was seeing children’s explanation of these things. How exactly did the raindrops arrive on the spider’s nest – well there were squeezed on of course? Awe and wonder.
. Children showed me time and again in my research that sometimes you don’t have all the answers and that’s OK. It’s perfectly alright to not know everything. As adults we are always searching for the reasons why, to explain the world around us. Children do too, as I pointed out above, but they also know that some things can’t be explained. I was truly amazed that children as young as 3 and 4 were able to hold the mystery of life. Holding mystery
At some point in our childhoods, most of us are encouraged to let go of the painting and drawing and concentrate on the more academic pursuits of reading, writing and maths. It’s such a shame because creativity isn’t just about drawing, it’s about how we approach life, how we solve problems and how we begin to learn something new. There’s some new research out suggesting that the right side of the brain (the more intuitive, creative, imaginative) develops before the left (more logic, sequential) side which suggests the more children can play and be creative as young as possible for as long as possible, is an essential element to their growth and development. But it’s not too late for us adults either, think about something creative you love to do, even if it has been a while and made the time to do it. It doesn’t matter what it is, you’ll be doing your soul a favour. Creativity.
We often assume that children’s memories are short and events are soon forgotten. I certainly had that assumption challenged when I began my research. Part of the process was taking videos of children as they went on a weekly walk and then returning to the classroom a few days later to show them the videos and ask a few more questions. Sometimes, children would want to watch older videos, ones that dated back months and months and it amazed me, just how children were able to tell me exactly what they were thinking and feeling at the time. It can be a fun exercise to ask children what their earliest memories were. It might surprise you. Recall.
This last gift is one of my favourites. How much do we miss as we go about our daily lives? An empty block appears in a nearby street and we can’t recall what was there before. Children are so wonderful at stopping and noticing the world around us. They spot the bird’s nests in the tree or the lizard hiding in the undergrowth. What are you not seeing? Observation.
What do the young people in your life teach you?
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