Growing Emotional Resiliency & Navigating Through
with Heart, Humor & Optimism
By Margo Judge
H20: Book Installment #1
Who, The Why and The What?
The tipping point for H20 came when my son was in 11th grade. I went on a baseball
trip with him to Florida.
Those of you who have children in any kind of competitive endeavor know that at
clinics or showcases, tournaments
or competitions, you meet people from all over the country you might
never have met otherwise and you develop
‘travel’ friendships. And so it was that a mom and I talked
while we sat on the bleachers. She soon shared with me that
she had Stage 3 Breast Cancer and had
just completed her last round of radiation and chemotherapy. I offered congratulations!
replied that she was confident she’d see her son graduate but was not at all sure about her daughter and she was really
Why? I asked. Because, she replied, I have really iffy health issues, my daughter is in middle school,
I'm a single parent,
we're extremely close and I don’t know what would happen to her if something
were to happen to me. I actually think
it would destroy her.
I didn’t know how to respond
to that but then I thought of my aunt (to whom I owe my own optimism) who always
had a saying, no matter
what! You know, I replied with a smile, I could die in a car accident tomorrow and you could live
be 95! Who’s to say, the horse could talk! She smiled and we went on to talk of other things.
But the statement ‘I actually think it would destroy her’ stayed with me all the way home and afterwards, Finally,
ok, Margo, this is it! You have got to put a face and a name to all the observations you’ve
made, experiences you’ve had
and thoughts you’ve gathered over the years regarding children’s
emotional health. That is when I started my H20 blog,
and began to write articles from which
grew my book.
Why Emotional Resiliency?
Reason #1: Life Happens!
We cannot promise our children a safe world—certainly not post 9/11. We cannot promise them a good or fair world.
Life is going to deal a heavier hand to some of our children than to others, in the form of handicaps
trauma, or crisis. But, we want with all our hearts and souls for our children
to survive, overcome, move forward
and accomplish. They can if they have the emotional strength.
Reason#2: No More Adult Toddlers!
How many of us know people-in our families, amongst our friends or at
our work place who are what I call,
adult toddlers! These are people who cannot deal with stress; they cannot
handle obstacles; and they cannot
So, they whine and complain,
they become control freaks and have tantrums,
or, they run away and avoid
We do not want to raise an Adult Toddler!
are too many out there already! And not only do they wreak havoc with our lives,
they wreak havoc with
everyone around them!
Reason#3: Emotional Maturity is More Important Than Smarts!
the end, it will not matter how educated or successful our children become. If they do not develop emotional maturity,
it will impact negatively on every aspect of their personal lives-be it their family, their friends,
their relationships or their co-workers.
Not only will they wreck havoc with everyone around them, they will
wreck havoc with themselves.
They will not be emotionally healthy, stable or happy adults. And
we certainly do not wish that for our children either.
We want to grow emotionally resilient children, who
can develop into emotionally healthy young people
by the time they go off to college and then out into the world.
And, we hope to raise an eventual emotionally mature adult
who can make just decisions, and lead
an ethical and principled life. So, the single most important role we have as parents
is to nurture
emotional resilience and health from the very beginning and to grow three fail-safe attributes in our children.
And They Are...?
As loving parents, each and every one of us wants our children to be safe, and become
happy, fulfilled adults. We desire
all things good for these little beings who hold our hearts. We
worry about the world they will inherit. They live in a mobile
and complex environment ull of multi-tasking
and instant global communications. Our children can see in wide screen
and high definition.
Where once the question might have been how to expand their horizons, today it becomes how to edit their view,
to keep them off the super highways of exposure until they are truly ready, and how best to protect them from all the dangers
inherit in speeding through childhood.
So, too does our parenting parallel this
panoramic, blue-ray perspective. We can look far into their future
while scrutinizing every
detail of their present.
Some of us with overly protective eyes, will search out the easiest
routes, smooth every bump in the road, and man
every crossroads. Others of us will simply drop our kids by the side
of a road and leave them to fend for themselves
without a compass, a map or the skills and instincts necessary to navigate
a safe route.
But, let’s step back and ask ourselves this. What if there were no maps?
What if the roads were washed out?
What if, outside of our presence, we had nothing to offer our children?
What could we give them? What if our children
had no more than our voice in their ear? What
should they hear? What could we do, as parents, to guarantee that in the midst
of fog and confusion,
setbacks or delays, our children could still succeed in their journey to adulthood?
There are only three gifts
we truly need give our young—three attributes that can ensure their character,
and their success.
Just as Food, Clothing and Shelter are crucial for the physical survival of a newborn,
and Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
will be essential for its intellectual and academic development, so
too are three attributes vital for a child’s spiritual
and emotional health. They are quite simply-Heart,
Humor and Optimism—in that order.
When we think Heart,
what automatically comes to mind? Love right? Love of our children, our families, our pets, our home,
friends, our work. Love is whatever we pour our hearts into. There would be no use going any further in discussing a
development if we did not first proclaim LOVE as absolutely paramount in growing a new heart. And for a newborn,
is thoroughly and totally physical. Somewhat like putting a battery in a charger, a newborn’s heart must physically
to another’s heart in order to survive and to warm. That is why we hold a baby close, we kiss,
we cuddle, we carry,
we caress. We cannot love a newborn from across a room! Babies who go untouched
do not develop emotionally.
Their hearts cannot warm. They will growweak and cold and shut down.
In short, a newborn’s heart is completely dependent upon bonding with another heart in order
to live, and to love.
But, Heart plays a much larger role than just emitting Love. It
is also the house of “noble warmth of spirit”—a child’s Soul.
That noble warmth
of spirit will introduce a child to the concept of empathy--the ability to identify
with the thoughts
or feelings of others so that he/she can feel for a relative in need, concern for a sick pet,
compassion for a sad friend. Such concern will help develop ethics—a philosophy dealing with the right or wrong of actions
so that our children will not want to intentionally hurt others by word or deed. When children become
such actions will help establish principles-rules of conduct so that when necessary, our grown sons
will have the moral courage to do what is right, and when called upon, to make just, albeit difficult
We cannot raise a human being without Heart and if we want to grow an empathetic, ethical and
we must first warm its heart with an abundance of love. A young heart, however,
remains extremely vulnerable
for quite some time, and in Chapter One, I will discuss how we can protect
Heart from harm
while it is charging, and growing.
The second attribute,
following closely behind Heart is Humor. As with Heart, Humor is not what it seems
on the surface.
When we think Humor, we think funny--something we hear, or see, or do
that makes us chuckle or laugh.
Children have a natural affinity with humor. That is why so many
young children’s books, videos and music are filled
with humorous anecdotes, scenes and lyrics.
Very young children love the exaggerated, the absurd or the silly.
And there is nothing more
infectious than the sound of a small child’s giggles. Laughter has also been said
the heart rate and relieve stress. My grandfather knew of a Russian doctor who would prescribe tickling
15 minutes to bring down a child’s fever!
But Humor offers much more than making our children
laugh and feel better. It serves as way to better understand
their world. It is actually the very
foundation of Perspective. When young children see a car in the shape of a banana,
or a candelabra
that sings, a rat as a chef, or a penguin tap dancing, they are being offered an alternative interpretation
their physical world.
When they can view something turn upside down, or inside out, become larger than life, or
shrunk to bite size,
they are learning perspective in a very creative, child-friendly yet fundamental
way. As our children move into tweenhood,
and teenage hood, the ability to step back and view circumstances
an such an alternative perspective will be critical in keeping them from getting stuck in the moment—
single most destructive trap into which a middle school or High School student can fall
of this in detail in Chapter 3 and 4--Taking in The View)
Particularly, in today’s society where our grade
school children are exposed to more reality than is healthy,
they will need an equally strong antidote—Humor-for
as long as possible. By fostering Creativity and introducing Perspective,
Humor, as a form
of expression, will remain a great coping tool throughout their entire lives. And let’s face it,
doesn’t want to be around people who have a sense of humor!
And last but not least, Optimism.
If Heart is the essential start point, and Humor, the bridge over troubled waters that leads to Perspective,
then Perspective becomes the pathway to Optimism.
can step out of their space in time, and see beyond the moment. They will no longer feel trapped.
can maneuver around obstacles, find ways to handle difficulties and see the beyond. The more they learn how to cope,
more confidence they gain and that confidence will encourage taking healthy risks, pursuing a passion,
trying a new endeavors.
Optimism is the engine that fuels motivation. It will push teenagers
towards a future dream or goal
and keep them focused and committed--trying out for the team, auditioning
for the play, traveling to foreign lands,
turning a hobby into a budding business, becoming serious about a field
Optimism can overcome disappointments and failures, fears and rejections. (I speak of this
in detail in Chapters 5 & 6)
And I am not speaking of a delusional, pie in the sky--you’re perfect because
I say so,and you’re entitled no matter what they say,
and I’ll get it for you
if it’s not wholesale, if all else fails--kind of optimism. True Optimism affirms children’s belief that
they can make it on their own
and believe that in the end, whether or not everything works out the
way they thought it would, they will be ok.
Just as Heart cannot warm itself, Optimism cannot
manufacture itself. We must supply it to our children
as abundantly as we supply Love, if it
is to become part of their being. Even when we doubt, they cannot doubt.
Ours is the only strength
they will have to draw on, and so we must show Optimism
even when and if we don’t feel it.
Children need to hear us say all the time--
good times always follow bad;
no chance is last
tomorrow is another day;
as long as there’s a captain, there’ll be another ship
this too, shall pass.
Even they roll their eyes and we think they’re not listening, we should not be fooled.
One day, when we least expect it,
we will over hear our son or daughter comforting a friend and saying—
worry, in the end it will all work out. You’ll be fine.
If we can warm our children with Heart
so that they grow Love, Empathy, Ethics, and Principles;
if we can offer Humor as a coping skill
and an introduction to Perspective;
if we can continually supply the Optimism necessary to motivate
and to pursue--
our children will be more than fine.
They will survive, they will overcome, they will move
forward, and they will achieve.
Next Installment: H20 Book Install #2 Intro/Taking Stock: Discarding Destructive, Abusive Relationships
and Collecting memories, the Good Kind!
By Margo Judge
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Permission granted for reprinting with
Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)