From feminism to single-shaming: life lessons we learned watching Secret Life of Five Year Olds

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Kayleigh Dray
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Secret Life of 4 and 5 Year Olds

From single-shaming and feminism, to love in times of grief.

Channel 4’s Secret Life of Five Year Olds, the documentary which allows us to listen in on the conversations of young children, has gained something of a cult following on Twitter thanks to its laugh-out-loud moments, emotionally-charged scenes, and seriously cute kids.

But, above all else, it has been heralded as one of the most thought-provoking and compelling shows on television.

So, to celebrate all things #SLO5YO, we’ve taken a look back at all the amazing life lessons the show has taught us about life, love, and feminism. You’re welcome…

We need to speak openly about death and grief

In a recent episode of #SLO5YO, the children were tasked with writing a speech dedicated to their heroes and Samuel took to the stage, explaining his dad was his favourite person. When he was asked where his dad was, he then pointed upwards, continuing: “In heaven. When he died, he wasn’t at home, he was in hospital.”

For a moment, there was silence. And then his teacher and young classmates began to ask questions, allowing him to open up about a subject that was clearly deeply important to him.

As Psychology Today notes, we can all learn something from this. Indeed, “we need, as a society, to acknowledge this grieving process; to talk openly to people living with a terminal condition and be kind and available. When we shun those experiencing death or loss we shut ourselves off from our more compassionate, empathetic selves and reduce our capacity to relate to those in distress.”

We need to “be more open about our feelings and when we meet someone bereaved or dying we can approach them and ask how they are,” the site adds. 

“They will let us know if they want to address their situation by continuing to talk to us or by changing the subject or by moving on.”

You’re never too young to embrace feminism

Oh, Eva. This little lady became our icon when she karate-chopped her way through the patriarchy and reminded boys everywhere that girls are absolutely their equals. How? Well, she nailed why women need to get out and vote, she dismissed the idea that girls can’t be scientists (“I’ve ‘distracted’ the DNA from a banana”), she’s earned the unending respect of a teeny-weeny misogynist – and, best of all, she transformed his entire outlook on gender equality in the process. All hail Eva!

Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word

It’s always difficult to swallow down your pride and apologise for your part in an argument, but the SLO5YO kids did exactly that.

“I’m sorry,” Ellie told Calla, wrapping her arms around her pal. “I am still your best friend but I just needed some time alone. I’m sorry, really sorry.”

Then, as if that weren’t enough, the pair headed off to apologise to Ellie-Mae, too.

Her response?

“I forgive you.”

Three very simple, but powerful, words. We could all stand to learn a lot from these three little girls (if only to secure our own beach party in Blackpool).

Friends always come first

It’s so easy to let a budding romance take over your life, but it can prove damaging to your friendships. Just look at what happened to poor old Oscar and Oliver; they let a girl come between them, their feelings got hurt, egos were bruised, and it all ended with a very dramatic slap to the face. Sure, they managed to pick up the pieces of their frayed relationship eventually, but don’t make the same mistakes they did. Your friends always deserve your time and affection, so be sure to keep your calendar stocked with BFF dates – no matter what your relationship status.

Sometimes it’s ok to tell a little white lie…

In the ‘empathy challenge’, SLYO5YO revealed that boys and girls have very different approaches when it comes to awkward situations. Kate carefully whipped up a batch of lemonade, but, despite her efforts, it did not taste good. At all.

The boys happily told her so, crowing over her ineptitude – but the girls decided to take a different approach and spare their teacher’s feelings.

“I think it’s incredible,” said one, “but I didn’t like the lemon in it.”

Another added: “I mean, I think it’s delicious. Even though I like it, please may I have a drink of water?”

Tact; that’s definitely the perfect approach for dinner party disasters.

Dream big

Life’s too short to be unhappy, so go after the career you truly deserve. Stop and take a moment to work out exactly what makes you happy at work, what’s important, and how to get it. Once you’ve identified this and separated it from other peoples’ opinions or aspirations, or worries about security or money, you've made your first step. You need to think about what you LOVE doing first. Find out what makes you excited and passionate enough to pour all your energy into it. And then go for it!

Or, more simply, be the Queen Vet of Ellie’s dreams.

Tea is remarkably powerful

Seriously, your nan was right; a cuppa can solve almost all of life’s woes. Why? Well, tea contains theanine, a psychoactive amino acid almost unique to tea – and it’s this which provides that famous calming effect. When theanine is given to people, their brains exhibit more α-waves, which are indicative of relaxation without drowsiness. So, when things are getting a bit crazy, you need to pop the kettle on and have a brew. Listen to Ellie Mae…

Not every relationship has a happy ending

Things change. People change. Hairstyles change. Interest rates fluctuate… and, while everyone touts love, marriage, and the baby carriage as the ultimate fairytale ending, that’s not the case for everybody. Take a step back, assess what you really want from life, and work out if your relationship is really making you happy. If it’s not, there’s absolutely no shame in calling time on it. Make like Ellie and do what’s right for you, yeah?

Don’t let outdated gender stereotypes control your life

Boys can wear dresses, girls can be karate masters, and children can grow up to be whoever they damn well please, thank you very much.

How to respond to single shaming

This is literally the perfect line to whip out when your mum starts berating you for not having a boyfriend.

Try to see things from the point of view of others

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own life – but, if things are going well for you, it doesn’t mean that it’s going well for everybody else. Check your privilege and try to see things from someone else’s perspective every once in a while; it may surprise you, and, most importantly, inspire you to make a change.

Try your hardest, always

Jet is so very, very wise.

Kindness is always the most rewarding option

No, you may not get five physical golden stars for your efforts – but you’ll feel those stars twinkling in your heart, you guys. According to the Mental Health Organisation, altruistic deeds “promote positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness”.

They explain: “These rushes are often followed by longer periods of calm and can eventually lead to better wellbeing. Helping others improves social support, encourages us to lead a more physically active lifestyle, distracts us from our own problems, allows us to engage in a meaningful activity and improves our self-esteem and competence. When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness.”

Stars, like we said. Twinkling heart stars. So have courage, and be kind; it may just lead to the best day of your life.

Life is full of ups and downs

Sometimes, no matter how much effort we put into it, things don’t always go as planned. Try to remember that life is full of ups and downs – and, if you clambered your way to the top of the slide once, you can definitely do it again.

It’s ok not to have all the answers

Life isn’t supposed to be easy. You don’t reach a certain age, a certain social status, a certain position in your career, and suddenly know everything. The best thing to do is ask questions, feed your curiosity, and surround yourself with people who can help you find the answers.

And always, always, always make time for the fun things in life

Clock off when you’re supposed to, get out of the office, and do what makes you happy. That could be singing in a choir, walking in the park, spending time with your friends, curling up with a good book, or dancing like no one’s watching. Good luck!

Images: Channel 4


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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