Natalie Frank, a Ph.D in clinical psychology, specializes in pediatrics, health psychology, and behavioral medicine.
Everyone knows that kids say the darnedest things. Sometimes they can put the adults in their life in embarrassing or awkward such as asking questions about where babies come from in public or delight us such as when they marry off their dolls or have a chat with their toys. They may be funny when they mistake one word for another or when they simply speak what’s on their mind, not having learned to filter their thoughts for appropriateness.
Kids are inquisitive, creative, endlessly interested in the world around them and discovering new things, and constantly remind us how fantastic, strange, controversial, confusing, complicated and funny life is. They are also often a lot wiser than we give them credit for and we can learn and gain a good deal of inspiration from them if only we stop to take their words to heart. If you aren’t exactly sure what I mean by this, consider the following quotes uttered innocently by children of different ages.
Take Time to Stop and Appreciate All That Life Has to Offer
This is such a beautiful quote. Although it’s a terribly overused cliche, I think this quote is a reminder for us to stop and smell the roses. Our world has become so busy. It’s filled with work, school, family, friends, errands, daily hassles, social media and technology. It seems like we’re constantly in a rush, never in one place for too long. It’s so easy to forget that life isn’t about the craziness, or at least shouldn’t be. No matter how insane your life seems to be, remember to take a break every so often, stop and just listen to the rain.
Don't Ignore Your Dreams - Let Them Out to Guide Your Way
Finding Ways to Take Time for Yourself
- Accept that not everything has to be done perfectly. Prioritize those things you won’t or can’t compromise on and let the others things slide to just an acceptable degree so you have a little extra time for you.
- If need be schedule your free time into your week. Set aside at least a small amount of time each day just for you. Schedule in at least one solid friend or family commitment. Add one hour at night to do something you enjoy by yourself or with others that you won’t break unless it’s an emergency.
- Find things you enjoy but rarely do and schedule a time to do them.
- Also find something you don’t do but have always wanted to try and find a class or even a YouTube video that teaches you how and put it on the schedule.
- Turn off the electronics for an hour a day. Electronics make many things easier but they also are stressful and provide a way for others to get to us all the time. This sets up demand characteristics such that we feel we need to check email, phone messages, texts and other types of instant communication methods. We can be found anywhere, anytime and everyone expects us to have a smartphone on us at all times. This has shrunk the window of time that we have before responding if we decide we aren’t immediately accessible. To counter this stress, find an hour a day that you can put down all the electronics and get back to basics. Take a walk, read a book, bird watch, go for a swim. Do anything you want that in no way involves any type of electronic gadget and remember what it’s like to unplug from the 24/7 tether.
- If you are constantly around people, find time to be alone. Take a bubble bath, sit in a quiet room and think, cook or order a favorite meal and sit at a nicely set table with a candle to eat it.
- Similarly, if you are always doing things alone, find extra time for social activities with those who matter the most to you.
- Identify your places of refuge - Figure out where you go to recharge your batteries and relax. Maybe it’s on your porch, in an unused room of your house the basement or the attic. It could even be a bathroom or a closet - whatever works for you. Also identify a couple of emergency spots at home and work or school. These should be places you can go to take a few deep breaths and spend a few minutes away from everything and everyone to write in a journal, read a chapter of a novel, knit a few rows or do something that brings you happiness and a sense of calm. Before starting an activity, close your eyes, breath deeply for a minute or two and imagine yourself in your favorite place, somewhere you feel safe and happy. Getting away for even a few minutes will help center and ground you so you can go back to your day with a renewed sense of purpose and increased energy.
- Make time for play and let yourself just be silly. There are now adult arcades where you can go to act like a child again. Remember how to play skee ball, whack-a-mole or pacman? Want to try out virtual reality? How about bumper cars? When was the last time you visited a water park? Challenge some friends to a game of laser tag. Hit the amusement park. Pick something you loved to do as a kid and let yourself experience it again. The best way to to do this is let your kids lead the way. They’ll remind you what play is all about. If you don’t have kids, ask a friend or family member if you can borrow theirs. Usually, parents are more than happy to let you play with their kids, especially if it’s under the guise of babysitting.
Almost all of the dreams of young children show motion, desirable activities and fantasies of things that aren’t real. Positive emotions are also common in the dreams of 4 and 5 year olds. Children are extremely creative and they often amaze us with their imaginative play. It stands to reason that their fantasy play of dragons, princesses, superpowers and flying would make its way into their dreams.
As much fun as they have pretending, how much more fun do they have when dreaming their fantasies such that they seem real? When children related positive dreams they have it is not unusual for them to become extremely excited. That is because it may almost seem like a memory of something that really happened to them.
At some point when we are growing up, we learn that fantasies and imagination need to be left behind. Whereas we can have dreams, in terms of something we want to achieve in the future, fantasies are things that we just have fun imagining but have no chance of coming true. We come to believe they are a waste of time.
Our dreams as we become adults also change. Gone are the dragons and castles. Instead our dreams are filled with anxiety. Some of the most common dreams adults have involve the following:
- Test taking
- Showing up for something important in the wrong place
- Showing up to school or work late
- Teeth falling out
- Falling from a height
- Being Chased
- Driving an out of control vehicle
Adults also sometimes dream of getting revenge or changing the negative outcome of a situation they had no control of in real life.
While we need to take care of our responsibilities, we also need to give ourselves permission to fantasize and find times to be playful. This may influence our dreams as well as our emotions and experience of real life. By being able to use our imagination and see things the way we want them to be in the future, even if what we want seems unlikely, we have a better chance of achieving it. The more we perceive something as real or at least potentially real, the more we will act as if it can become real thereby possibly changing this imagined outcome into actuality.
We can’t understand the meaning of a concept or truly believe in something until we have a clear image that we can attach to it. We can’t make our lives happier unless we can first see our lives as better than they are now. If we don’t know what a different future looks like we can’t determine how to construct it. If we are stuck only with images of things remaining the same and never getting better we can’t change our reality.
We have to let our imaginations run wild. We must dream. Dreaming in both the literal and figurative sense is necessary for creating a better life and a better world.
Maintain a Youthful Attitude for an Optimistic LIfe
Most likely, we laugh when we read this since Jackson is only 9 years old now and referring back to when he was little as if it were 50 years ago. Yet, it’s what he’s referring to that is the meaningful part. Even though he is only 9 he recognizes that as we get older, we don’t feel as able to act in the lighthearted way that we did when we were younger. By the age of 9 there are already usually a series of rules the child is expected to follow and limitations such as understanding that there are things they can’t say that they didn’t have to worry about when they were younger.
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean straying away from a youthful heart. It’s important for us to find things that let us remain young at heart as we age to maintain the fun and excitement in life. Taking on new challenges especially those that may scare us a little, will force us out of our comfort zones which, although comfortable, can also lead to us stagnating. Challenges will take us back to the times when we were constantly learning, growing and striving towards something and each new experience was a new adventure in our life.
Tell Me What You Really Mean
This is one of those cute sayings we hear from kids that make us smile. When we are small, we look to new things that don’t fit into categories we have formed in our heads and try to find a way to make them fit. Usually, we do this based on what the phenomenon, object or situation seems to resemble the most, create a familiar way of thinking about what it resembles and apply it to the new thing. This is a straight forward, simple way of understanding things. As we get older, misperceptions get corrected and we begin to construct more complex explanations for things.
However, sometimes we construct explanations that are so long winded and convoluted that others either can’t understand them or misunderstand them completely. The simplicity in our communication is lost. In fact, communication problems are one of the biggest problems in our society.
When we are young, it is expected that we express things through limited vocabulary and understanding. As we get older, however, we are expected to know not to speak about something which we aren’t knowledgeable and to use correct vocabulary to expresses our message. Yet these things don’t necessarily characterize our communication.
Young children also tend to be transparent, sometimes to a fault. They say what they think without attempting to manipulate, disguise or hide things or use language to convince people to believe, say or act the way we want. These problems can be facilitated by a culture that often rewards quantity of words over quality and intent.
As Mark Twain said: "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't."
We can manipulate language, and provide convoluted explanations to explain something in a way that can mislead people. This may prevent them from realizing that our words represent a fiction outside the realm of what is possible.
We need to look to children as an example and, instead, make our assumptions, explanations and communication simple, straight forward and as transparent as we can and expect the same of others. Then we will be less likely to be fooled by “alternate facts,” or logical sounding rhetoric that is anything but.
Don't Limit Yourself
I couldn't decide between these two quotes so I have included both. I see them as having a similar message. Kids have no problem just being who they are. Yet they recognize as the get older something happens and they have to start acting like everyone else.
It can be a little intimidating trying to be our true selves. It means we could be opening ourselves up to ridicule and having others criticize our true selves. It’s definitely more comfortable conforming, always making sure to just blend in. It takes courage, self confidence, self awareness and a good dose of resiliency to be ourselves. The risks may be a bit frightening but the reward of living an authentic life as the person we are are unlimited. The benefits of facing obstacles and overcoming them as we are not as who we think others want us to be are far greater than the comfort and perceived safety obtained by never having gone forth at all.
From the Mouth of Babes. . .
I don't think any explanation is needed on this one. I'll just say this: Sometimes we need to let the children lead the way. They truly are our future.
© 2018 Natalie Frank