As long as I can remember, I've always loved children. It's something about their inquisitive natures and childlike demeanors...whatever it may be, I've created a career out of it. I started coaching kids in gymnastics when I was in high school, I've worked at summer camps, and now I'm a residential counselor at a psychiatric residential treatment facility. In each of these jobs, I have had the responsibility of teaching kids, supporting their growth, engaging in their treatment, and ultimately fostering their success. I have been the one in the leadership role, yet I often find myself wondering whether I'm the one doing the teaching, or the one being taught.
Kids are unaware of the impact they have on those around them. The inherent knowledge they possess combined with their unfiltered forms of expression exude honesty, creativity, and curiosity. Over the years, I have tried to teach my children about life; yet they have been the ones to teach me what life is truly about.
Here's some of the most important life lessons the children I work with have taught me:
Imagination has no age.
It never ceases to astound me the creative imaginations the children I work with possess. No idea is too far-fetched, nothing is impossible, and their dreams are riddled with innovation and magic. My students have taught me that you never get too old to imagine; that whatever age you are, you still have that piece of magic in you that allows you to dream big and believe in the impossible.
We all have an inner child.
The older we get, the more life becomes about work, responsibilities, and everything dull and dry in between. We need to remember to take time out to enjoy life, to find those things that remind us of our childhood days. You're never too old to play. My students have taught me that no matter what life throws at me next, I'll always have that inner child in my heart.
Feedback is critical to success.
Criticism and feedback are often difficult to give and take, but it's important to realize that the people around us can help foster our growth. We get so caught up in our mindset that it becomes difficult to break free of the ways in which we think. In order to support someone and help them achieve their full potential, it's necessary to provide feedback. Just as important, we must receive feedback and refrain from getting angry and frustrated about it. Feedback is a further opportunity for growth.
Live for the moment; for the little joys in life.
Children have a hard time thinking ahead and seeing the bigger picture. Instead, they live moment by moment--they feel and express emotions based on their current situation. As adults, our minds are full of tons of different feelings, anxieties, plans and thoughts. It's easy for us to forget about the moment we are in due to our thoughts about an upcoming situation. Kids teach us to slow down and really focus on the moment we are in.
The older we get the more we learn that loving can be hard. Love hurts. Watching the way children love those around them is one of the most inspiring things I have ever experienced. They teach us to forgive each other, that love is one of the most important things.
Children have no filter. 75% of the time, their remarks can make a situation go downhill. However, they teach us to be unafraid of how we feel and be genuine with our thoughts and feelings.
We condition ourselves to divide.
Children don't know about religion, race, and culture. They learn from observing those around them. We need to learn to be understanding of others and stop forcing divides based on personal aspects of each person's identity. Children teach us that we all are equal; none of us are better or worse than the other. Children remind us that in the end, we are all human.
Sometimes the greatest lessons come from the most unlikely places.
I never expected to learn as much as I have through my experiences working with my students. The most important lesson I've learned? You're never too old to stop learning.