We often receive the best advice by surprise. Kids, for example, have a special ability to make profound revelations on life — and spontaneously share them with us when we’re in need of a fresh perspective. No matter your relationship to the child, their little words of wisdom can help us reconnect with joy and feel a new sense of inspiration.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us the meaningful lessons they’ve learned from the kids in their lives. Which of these lessons have you learned from a child you know?
How to find beauty in the small things
“My friend recently brought her 6-year-old daughter over to pick vegetables in my garden as a safe outdoor activity. While we were picking the vegetables, Clara leaned in to pick a tomato and saw a little worm. She stopped, let the worm inch onto her hand, and said, ‘Hello, friend!’ Clara’s excitement reminded me to find the wonder and beauty in every living thing.”
—Donna Peters, career and life coach, business podcast host, Atlanta, GA
How to overcome our roadblocks
“My daughter was born with a genetic disorder that included multiple heart surgeries and other health complications. She has dreamed of becoming a doctor since she was 9 years old and has never wavered from that goal, despite hundreds of doctor appointments and several procedures and surgeries, including heart surgery in college. Today, she is a first-year medical student!”
—Natalie Marie Brobin, writer, Oceanside, CA
How to see the best in people
“One lesson that has had an impact on my life came from a child that I worked with in my first job. This child faced daily adversity with the biggest smile and positive attitude, and I often wondered how he did it. I asked him one day and he responded, ‘People aren’t mean on purpose. Maybe they’re just having a bad day and don’t have a mom and a dad to hug them.’ Lesson learned: Everyone has bad days and not everyone has a support circle to turn to. He taught me to be kind to everyone and be grateful for those you can hug on a bad day.”
—Carrie McEachran, executive director, Sarnia, ON, Canada
How to communicate in our own ways
“My daughter is autistic. She has taught me that you can communicate your needs, wants, love, support, and humor without words. She has taught me that there is power in simply sharing moments, paying attention, watching body language, and always presuming competence. Most importantly, she has taught me that there is no one ‘right way’ to communicate.”
—Lindsey Rowe Parker, marketing and PR for small businesses, Richmond, VA
How to be spontaneous
“My two grandchildren teach me something every time I see them, and I particularly love watching their spontaneity in eagerly exploring a toy in a different way. As they use building blocks in creative ways they had not tried before, their eyes shine with eagerness and hopeful expectation, completely focused on what they’re doing. As I age, they remind me to keep being spontaneous and to keep engaging in new experiences. They remind me to be present and focused in the now, which is totally natural to them.”
—Jill E. Shanks BSN MCEd, researcher and writer, Saskatchewan, Canada
How to lean into our curiosity
“One vital and precious lesson I have learned from a child is how curious children are. They move forward to know the world with ease and freedom and seemingly no fear. It’s a natural gift — the desire to know. We all were born with it, but it changes as we grow up and learn about fear. Fear can be a gift, too.”
—Michael Feeley, workshop coach, the Caribbean island of Saba
How to stay resilient during challenging times
“My 8-year-old niece, Kiki, was born with a rare kind of paraplegia and a neurological inability to control her joints. She can walk and even run short distances, but with great difficulty. And yet, I have never heard her complain. Her arms and legs are full of scrapes and bruises from constantly falling down while trying to keep up with her able bodied siblings, and still she asks her father to lay out mats in the garage so she can practice her gymnastics. Kiki has taught me much about resilience and gratitude. She has her challenges, but somehow she manages to turn them around, don a shiny pair of stick-on earrings, and emerge with a big smile to pursue whatever comes next.”
—Lorna Borenstein, CEO and founder, San Jose, CA
How to listen to our bodies
“I learned an insightful lesson from my 3-year-old niece while babysitting her for a week. Seeing her eating habits amazed me, and I noticed how different they were from most adults. She would tell me when she was hungry at the most unusual times, and when she had enough, there was no convincing her to eat more. Children are intuitive eaters, a vital skill we adults have long forgotten due to set eating times society coaches us in schools, working environments, and different dieting philosophies. She reminded me that we need to find our way back to eating like our inner child, and allow our bodies to guide us on what they need.”
—Stel Coombe-Heath, binge and emotional eating recovery specialist, Melbourne, Australia
How to stop a worry spiral
“My grandkids have become my best teachers. During the pandemic, they have taught me how to minimize worry. We waste so much time worrying about things, most of which never come to pass. Children don’t. They’re in their world, they’re not thinking ahead. They are thinking about now, living fully. Worry can be draining and exhausting, which may prevent us from truly being present.”
—Nicki Anderson, women’s leadership program, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL
How to take time for our well-being
“My autistic son taught me that we all need mental health days. I learned early on that he needed times when he controlled every part of his day in a totally relaxed way. We call them ‘do whatever you want’ days. We have them about once every two months. The kids look forward to them, and I enjoy the break from having to enforce the rules. We all get a day off, and our mental health benefits.”
—Jacqueline Kerr, CEO of Me2We Moms, San Diego, CA
How to be fully present
“Whenever I need to refocus my adult energy and feel pure joy, I think back to the days when my kids were younger. One of the greatest gifts of being a parent is to watch your young children play and discover. The positive energy, wonder, curiosity, and abandon that are markers of these playtime rituals are hallmarked by the fact that they are experienced and enjoyed in the moment. There’s no overthinking, wishing for tomorrow, or missing yesterday. When I need a pick-me-up, I access those memories and repurpose how great it feels to free myself to be fully present.”
—Randi Levin, transitional life strategist, N.J./ N.Y.
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