The Joy of Connecting with Children
Children can teach us some of the qualities we often wish we had maintained as adults, like curiosity, vibrancy, strength, resilience, empathy, and forgiveness. It seems to come easily to them. Anyone who has experienced the unconditional love of a child must agree that it is one of the most beautiful things in life. Often, as adults, we forget that this kind of love really exists, as we get caught up in needless fights. We forget that being right, in the long run, is not always what matters. What people are going to judge us upon is how we made them feel. Were we kind? Were we forgiving?
A friend recently introduced me to Roots of Empathy, a classroom program originally launched in Toronto, premised on learning from those younger than ourselves. Concretely, it allowed young pupils to observe the emotional development of infants. According to 92% of teachers at the English branch of Roots of Empathy, this exposure to psychological and emotional growth meant the pupils were more accepting and understanding of their respective points of view. I also found it interesting that the pupils reportedly began to display more prosocial behavior, such as sharing, helping, and cooperating.
If children can learn from infants as suggested by such studies, what can we adults learn from children?
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”, author Anais Nin said. Children are courageous, and sometimes, even shameless: they sing in front of the family as if they have never experienced an inner critic; they are honest and tell it as it is, even though it might sometimes get them in trouble. I observed that so often, as adults, we are afraid to show our true selves. We fear being judged or laughed at. I say we need to learn this fearlessness from children: no great ideas were ever expanded upon by people who were too afraid to share them.
How many of us remember the arguments we had as children? Mine were usually fiery, but short-lived. I would argue with my best friend one minute, and another minute we would play together. That’s the “forgive and forget” mindset, which I find so important to the Wholistic Wellbeing philosophy. It’s so much better than holding grudges, which only decreases our Mental Wellbeing. Of course, as adults, we are less likely to forget altogether: our memories are stronger than when we were children, as are our principles and moral compass. But although we may never forget, we can let go, and rise above a tarnishing incident for the sake of a friendship, a relationship, or simply for our own personal growth.
I often see children consoling other children, or being incredibly affectionate toward their pets. This behavior should be considered normal, but in the adult world, showing emotions can sometimes be seen as a weakness. I want to change that. Public personas speaking of their true selves, unafraid of emotional candor or admitting to past mistakes, can make them more relatable to the general public. I believe that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is a sign of bravery.
Connecting with children is a joy that can benefit us tremendously, improve our lives, and allows us to live as we were destined to. It can enhance our Wholistic Wellbeing in incredible ways. This is especially true of Community and Social Wellbeing, as children can teach us how to build relationships founded on empathy, trust, and kindness. Society conditions us to become unforgiving and intransigent, goading us into thinking these are qualities that equate to self-assertion and empowerment. But think of a world where we were empowered by empathy; by kindness; by gratitude. Think of a world empowered by Wholistic Wellbeing. That’s something only children can truly teach us.