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  • Anna F Jolliff, Counseling Intern

5 Things I Learned Taking Care of Kids for 5 Minutes...

I don’t typically like social media posts in which parents ask their unsuspecting kids about highly politicized issues, and then proceed to tweet whatever their cherubic children happen to respond. For example, “I asked my fourth grader what it means to be a good person -- “I asked my toddler about income inequality” -- “I asked my infant son who the next supreme court justice should be” … Okay, maybe not that last one. But you probably know the posts I’m talking about.

Although I don’t think we should trust little kids to settle highly complicated social and political issues there is clearly much to the idea that...

kids can teach us a lot...IF we are willing to listen.

Recently, I started taking care of kids on the days I’m not counseling. Predictably, the lessons started piling up immediately. Although all of you may not care for kids on a daily basis, I’m guessing that most of you could benefit from more flexible living. I know I could!

After two weeks, I’m taking away the following five lessons:

  1. Let myself get as tired as I can! If I find myself inclined to save my energy, I should ask myself who or what I’m saving it for. If not these people, and this moment -- which is all I’m guaranteed -- than for what, and for whom?

  2. Say Yes whenever possible -- and even sometimes when it’s not. For example, if it’s not possible to build a roof out of blankets for the fort in the living room, let’s replace the severity of “that isn’t going to work” with the reality of blankets falling on our heads. Cause and effect is a better teacher teacher than caution and reject.

  3. Be grateful when people are honest. One of the most wonderful things about kids is mostly they haven’t learned to lie effectively, if at all, and so they often just tell the truth. What if we went around providing accurate insight into our own experience of the world? What if we said what we wanted? What if when other people spoke, we believed them?

  4. Bad feelings pass, and not because of me. In my life, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid bad feelings. And I see it in clients a lot. The reality is that when I’m feeling something bad - or when one of the kids I’m caring for is feeling something bad - I’m not responsible for erasing that feeling. Like a thunderstorm, that feeling should only last for about fifteen minutes, maybe less, and I’m only responsible for waiting it out.

  5. Stay engaged, like it’s your job (because it is). There’s something very pure about the fact that, when caring for kids, my main responsibility is to stay engaged. Alert, accepting, open, and responsive, but mostly just engaged. That isn’t so different from “regular life,” however; I know very little about what’s best for me or others, but if I had to isolate a single recommendation for every client, it would simply be this:

Stick with it. Stay engaged.

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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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