I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can help my kids reconnect with their sense of wonder. I guess I’ve been thinking about it for myself too! The transition from ‘little kid’ to ‘big kid’ brings so many challenges in so many ways. But I reckon one of the hardest things to experience as a parent is watching our big kid lose that magical sense of wonder that little kids simply ooze.
Once many kids hit a certain age, very few things make their eyes light up. A new pair of Nikes will do it, but try showing them a bug or a sunset or a circus. Meh.
One of the (few) things I actually like about TikTok is the way it highlights special people doing amazing things. It really depends (so much) on the algorithm your kid has developed, but most will be seeing some pretty wonderful stuff at least some of the time. Ballerinas ballerinering, magic tricks and majestic views from mountain tops.
With a bit of luck, they will occasionally race in with their screen to share these momentous things and peering into their tiny phone screen with your heads pressed together is as close as many of us will ever come to experiencing the ‘look, mummy, a fly’ wonder of their toddlerhood.
How can we reintroduce them to that incredible fly? How can we show them that there is just as much joy to be found IRL as on their screens?
These are important questions because experiencing awe is good for our wellbeing – and our attitude. It’s been termed ‘unselfing‘ and it basically means that when we experience something larger than ourselves, our worries and mental chatter shrink. It basically reduces stress levels and stimulates new ways of thinking. That’s good news for anxious (and every) teen.
Here are some suggestions for helping your teen reconnect with their sense of wonder and put a bit more joy into their life.
Encourage your teen to nurture their natural curiosity by asking questions and exploring new ideas. Be open to learning about different subjects, whether it’s through books, documentaries, or online resources. Engage in conversations with people who have diverse perspectives and experiences – a part-time job can help introduce them to people outside their usual scope.
Connect with nature
We know how important spending time outdoors is to our mental health and it’s especially important for teens. Go bushwalking, explore local parks, visit the beach or simply sit quietly in nature to observe and reflect. Notice the intricate details, vibrant colours and go deep into the interconnectedness of all living things.
Pursue creative activities
Whether it’s painting, writing, playing an instrument, dancing, or any other form of artistic expression, creative pursuits can tap their imagination and bring a sense of wonder to life. Allow your teen to explore new ideas and experiment with different projects and mediums. Yes, they may end up on a screen, but as long as they are creating, not consuming, this should count.
Seek out new experiences
Whenever you can, give them opportunities to leap, skip, slide or bounce out of their comfort zone and try new things. This might be attending a cultural event, exploring a museum or gallery, visiting a new suburb or town, or participating in a community activity they usually wouldn’t try.
Depending on your kid, you might find it’s easier to get them to do something new if they invite a friend. Others will find it easier to go if no one they know whatsoever will be there (and preferably no one their own age or close to it!). Or, if they’re up for it, you could make it an activity that is new to you both and do it together. It really depends on your kid.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude
Ah, the ol’ mindfulness/gratitude duo. It keeps coming up, doesn’t it? That’s because it matters. Pay attention to your senses, noticing the small details of everyday life that often go unnoticed, can be all the wonder a kid needs. The gratitude bit reminds them that whatever else is happening in their life, there is a lot to be grateful for. There is plenty that is already enough.
Engage in volunteer work
There is so much value a teen has to offer their community and getting involved in activities that align with their interests and values really brings a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Volunteering allows them to see the world from different perspectives and appreciate the resilience of the human spirit. That alone can help them reconnect with their sense of wonder.
Take a special walk
When my kids were little we used to spend hours trawling around our neighbourhood just noticing things. We hadn’t done this in years, but last week I invited my girls to take a walk with me and I treated it the same way I used to. We counted how many steps between our gate and the neighbours. Then challenged ourselves to find five sticks exactly the same length. We each found a book in the street library… and so on. It was… well, wonder-full. We’ll be sure to make it a regular thing again.
What reconnects you with your sense of wonder?