Durable Human (2 book series)

Tag Archives: children

Durable is the New Resilient

To explain concept of a durable human being, image is of woman in business attire standing in front of a shadow of a superwoman

As the pandemic drags on, you need to be a durable human. Simply being resilient doesn’t cut it anymore. New findings point to why.  

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci wants our response to the COVID vaccine to be as durable as possible.

Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema says only laws with bipartisan backing will be durable.  

On Joe Rogan’s podcast, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt spoke of how “parents and teachers should be helping kids develop their innate abilities to grow and learn.” He used “antifragile.”

Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicholas says he coined that term because “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile.”

But, actually—there is.

Durable: The Word We are Searching For

Endure and durable share the Latin root durare, which means to last. Meriam-Webster defines durable as “staying strong and in good condition over a long period of time.”

Resilience is “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”

To be a durable human is not merely to bounce back from adversity, but to have the inner shock absorbers to withstand the constant bumps on the road of life. 

“When we think about being durable,” I told host Hillary Wilkinson on her Healthy Screen Habits podcast, “we have to think about what are we. What is our edge as a human being.”

That is, the powers we have as human beings that our “smart” devices don’t. Phones and sensors may be able to “see” and “hear” as they try to emulate our famous five senses. But it’s all the other senses that machines lack.

“They don’t have intuition. They don’t have compassion. They don’t have curiosity.” Those are only a few that I named for Hillary.

Our job is to keep our human senses durable and our human selves different.

If kids spend too much time caught up in others’ creations (video games and social media, especially), they can’t follow their own curiosity. They won’t come up with their own ideas. Eventually, humanity could become more like a herd of sheep. 

As I write in The Durable Human Manifesto,

“The danger is that when individuals are no longer diverse in outlook and action, they will contribute less as a group. With little to differentiate them or to offer society, humans could actually become irrelevant. At that point, it will be easier and cheaper to replace them with robots.”

Positives of the Pandemic

Parents used their human intuition to help their kids be more durable during the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics surveyed thousands of its members and learned that many families managed to create a loving, safe-feeling, and even hopeful home as the pandemic raged around them. Pediatricians dub that a “positive childhood experience.”

Other adults also played a big role in kids’ COVID-era lifestyle. According to the May 2021 report in the journal Pediatrics, “Children have felt the caring of grandparents, teachers, health providers, home visitors, and others who persistently connected by phone, text, and/or video chat.”

A PCE is the opposite of an ACE, or an “adverse childhood experience.” While an ACE damages a child’s mental or physical health, a PCE builds kids’ self-esteem and emotional durability.

Adversity pushes us to dig deep into our inner resources. As I write in The Manifesto

It’s often when we’re forced from the familiar that our durability will shine.  

The Pinch of Generosity

But even with so much human-to-human support both online and off, many kids have drifted into not-so-healthy digital habits that are interfering with their human assets.

Surveys show the way they used technology during the pandemic has damaged their social skills, confidence, attention spans, and vision.

Kids need their parents and other loving adults to help them get back on track. To do that, we need to fully see and hear them so we can help sort out their hurt and confusion. 

The term “continuous partial attention” means always having an eye (and most likely a hand) on your phone, even when you’re talking with someone face-to-face.

“It’s very damaging for children’s self esteem,” I said to Hillary. “It forces them away and, in fact, can force them into relying on their devices.” Instead of on you.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to always be In The Know. It can hurt to set aside your phone so you can give your child your full attention. But when you feel that pinch of generosity, know you’re laying another brick in the foundation of your child’s life success.

The Road to Durable

Book Cover How to Be a Durable HumanBook cover of How To Be a Durable Human Book cover of How To Be a Durable Human

How To Be a Durable Human is filled with easy, no-cost ways to create secure attachment with your child as you build their (and your) durability.  

You can also listen to the Healthy Screen Habits podcast.

Health Screen Habits Podcast photo Jenifer Joy Madden

About the author:

Jenifer Joy Madden is a certified digital wellness specialist, a Syracuse University broadcast and digital journalism adjunct professor, and founder of DurableHuman.com.

12 Durable Tips for Better Distance Learning

Girl doing math on laptop

After a crushing disappointment, it became almost a miracle.

The broadcast journalism grad students from Syracuse University were supposed to spend the summer of 2020 in Washington, D.C. With media credentials dangling from their necks, they’d chase down interviews and comingle in our pop-up newsroom like network correspondents. Then, as for countless other students, their dreams were dashed. Because of the pandemic, the program would be all online.

But they rose to the challenge. Students pitched stories on Slack, did interviews on Zoom, and wrote scripts in Google Docs. We on the faculty fine-tuned the video and audio of their news reports with the powerful Frame.IO. We got the job done.  

Although I’ve been wary of digital fixes in the past, I’m the first to admit: our program was saved by technology.

As the world heads into the first full school year of the pandemic, digital teaching tools will be crucial, especially since more than half of U.S. K through 12 schools expect not to return to a physical classroom. “We have to demand that the internet is a public utility and that it is installed for families that don’t have access,” says Merrie Najimy, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Yet, last spring’s quick switch to online learning has largely been deemed a failure—and kids are still feeling the pain. Pediatricians across the U.S. report an unprecedented number of patients with anxiety and depression borne by disrupted school and home routines.  

So what’s a parent to do?

Luckily, we’ve learned from our mistakes. Based on the hard won experience served up on Zoom by boots-on-the-ground parents and education experts, here are 12 ways parents can help their kids do school better:

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Relationship Book Answers Pandemic SOS

Family of two parents and two kids confront large icesicles

When the coronavirus shuttered the world, couples and families froze in place. For some, it was an unexpected opportunity to reconnect. Others felt trapped, especially those already in distress and thinking of splitting up. To help them, relationships experts from around the world rushed to create Living Together, Separating, and Divorcing: Surviving a Pandemic.

American family mediator Michael Lang and Irish book publisher Peter Nicholson wanted to “help families strained by forced confinement and shoved suddenly into reconfiguring their lives by the impact of COVID-19,” says Lang. So he put out the call. “It took about twenty minutes after he sent out a few emails before we got our answer,” according to Nicholson. “Leading mediators and related professionals stepped up to the challenge.”

After more than seventy experts quickly submitted their gratis advice, the book was compiled and published in only three weeks. The e-book is priced at $1.99, the lowest cost allowed by Amazon.

Cover and open book Living Together, Separating, and Divorcing: Surviving a Pandemic

Start with Yourself

Coping with the crisis begins with you. Above all, writes U.S. psychologist and mediator Arnie Sheinvold, “treat yourself kindly.”

To keep your mind, body, and relationships durable, you need the basics of good nutrition, physical activity, and solid sleep. “By taking care of your own needs, you can ensure that you are in the best possible place to take care of your family during this emotional time,” says U.K. parenting advisor and author, Sue Atkins.

Keep tabs, also, on your thoughts and actions. While you may not be able to control what’s happening around you, you can manage your own response. “Don’t be reactive,” writes U.S. psychologist and mediator, Arnie Sheinvold. If you take a breath and remain calm, it’s more likely the family ship won’t capsize in stormy seas.  

Canadian family mediator Mary-Anne Popescu finds inspiration from a refrigerator magnet with the words “Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.”

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Don’t Freak Out About Screen Time, But Don’t Check Out Either

Child holds up reed basket he is weaving

Way back B.C. (Before Coronavirus), a chief complaint from kids about their parents went something like this: “All my mom cares about is her phone” or “My Dad doesn’t really talk to me.” For years, too many of us have been in a state of continuous partial attention. Even when someone was sobbing in front of us, we’d have one eye on our phones. But now, confined in the chaos, we have an opportunity: for a parenting Do Over.

First off, we need to know the difference between Us and Them—in mind and in body.

Our kids are worried and anxious, just as we are. But we’re the ones in charge—their Reassurers-in-Chief. They need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.

“Don’t wait for them to bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Dr. Robin Gurwitch, psychiatry professor at Duke University School of Medicine, on a call with reporters about the virus and mental health. “That way, you can get a sense of their understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.”

To ensure lots of reassuring face-to-face contact and hugs, we can take a tip from the helpful American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Planner: establish zones in the household and times of day (at least at meals and bedtime) that are free from distractions such as personal technology—theirs and ours.

When reading Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won (NYT March 31, 2020) by reporter Nellie Bowles, we need to consider the source: an adult with a fully formed brain.

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