I had my six (I’m nearly seven) year old great nephew to stay last week. Apart from it being really good fun (and exhausting), it got me to thinking about what we can learn from a six year old.

Lesson one – live in the moment

The first thing I noticed about J was that he lives his live completely in the moment. There is no sense of planning or thinking ahead. There is no thought of having to get back home in order to have food in time for bed. Another round of skittles will always come before leaving time for a story, although we love stories. I admired this way of living! It seemed really stress free and a sense that someone else will always take care of it.

Realisitically, of course, adulting comes with responsibilities including being aware of time other than now. We’d never eat unless we shop with a plan for a meal; we’d never get anywhere in time if we didn’t plan our journies; we’d never have that fabulous trip abroad if we didn’t save up and book ahead. However, that sense of being in the moment, being in flow as it’s described in positive psychology can be so wonderful. That feeling like time has stood still because we’re so absorbed in what we’re doing give us space to expand and grow.

Lesson two – be open to new things

J is very lucky as he’s always been encouraged to try new things. From new food to new activities, the message is always ‘have a go’. So, when we introduce a new game or a different food or a new way of doing an old activity or something puzzling, he’s always up for it. His curiosity takes over and he explores and learns. Making decisions about when it’s not for him (apparently radish is not a thing).

Obviously, all of these new experiences happen in a very safe environment. However I love that he’s always prepared for his world to grow and is learning the ability to decide for himself. It means that, in the future, he’ll have the confidence to not only keep growing but to also show others the way in a supportive way.

Lesson three – speak with strangers

Not an obvious one. And, I really don’t want him wandering off with other people or going places where there might be a risk. However, when we were out and about, we did come across people we didn’t know who spoke to us. He was quite happy to join in the conversation. Including (and I know this sounds weird – please don’t call social services) a chap in the gents who told him a joke. Don’t worry, J was completely supervised and safe, but happily chatted to a stranger (although he didn’t get the joke). There was no sense that this person might be a threat but just someone to have a chat with.

Obviously, there’s a hefty slice of making sure he’s safe and as he gets older, he’ll get that message too. But, for now, there’s no sense of him withdrawing or being disinterested. No sense of that other people might not be worthy of his time! Simply, that everyone is interesting and might have something to add to life.

Lesson four – be compassionate and non-judgemental

J demonstrated an enormous compassion for a little boy with whom he was sharing a ride at the park. Although he didn’t really understand why, J was aware that his new companion was differently abled. I could see him working it out. He then happily helped his new playmate, stepping in when he couldn’t make the ride work by himself. He was being super patient when the little boy couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted to continue or not.

There’s no downside to this at all is there? I hope that this sense of being kind and considerate to his fellow human beings (and everyone/thing in the world) continues all his life.

Lesson five – always say yes to the cupcake

There was no hesitation when J was offered a cupcake. Apparently it was super yummy and even had chocolate caramel on the top – what’s not to like? Accompanied by snacks of grapes and blueberries (and a grape thief in the guise of my partner) there were lots of giggles, smiles and ‘yummy’ sounds.

This is one of the best life lessons every – just say yes to the cupcake. Leave space in your life for those treats and special occasions, whether you’re six (I’m nearly seven) or sixty six or ninety six.

I’m sure you all have life lessons that you’ve either observed or been taught. Share your top ones so we can all have a go!

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