Secrets To Emotional Survival for GRANDparents (and everyone else)
BY JACK LEVINE (A Grandfather-in-waiting)
When we think of physical survival, we all understand that nutrition, health, safety, and shelter are basic needs. As for emotional survival, we are more complex in our needs.
From our earliest days, the caring attention of responsible adults is essential for our infants to thrive. Babies need the positive nurturing that gives the sense of security which is the foundation of emotional stability. Absent this nurturing care, fear and frustration are inevitable.
The more we understand about the building blocks of emotional growth, the more clearly we see how valuable early care is to our future development and well-being. Infants who are neglected suffer both short and long-term damage. While there is ample evidence that children are resilient, it’s also clear that recovering from early trauma is a daunting challenge.
My experiences as a student of child development, policy advocate, and attentive father have taught me several vital lessons. First, the earlier we provide safe, supportive and sustaining environments for our youngest, the more likely their emotional wellness and educational futures will be positive.
Another important lesson is how showing respect is not limited to the young showing this vital emotion to their elders. I believe that adults have the responsibility to respect children as the unique individuals they are.
This concept of advocating mutuality of respect does not mean that the maturity and wisdom of adults should be discounted in the parental duty to be guiding beacons of values and family leadership. I hold to the belief that children learn by example, and what better way to learn how to show respect than by being respected?
Respecting ourselves is a key principle in developing the capacity to respect others. Self-respect provides the confidence to explore new frontiers with a combination of courage and caution.
Babies learn by doing…play is the work of our youngest. While measuring the learning achievements of infants is quite difficult, observing the energetic activity of their play…reaching, focusing, cooing, repeating, and their delightful glee in enjoying the approval of their caregiver…all add up to laying a firm foundation for emotional health in later life.
The Many Facets of Respect
When we seek to define respect, most of us think of paying grateful homage to someone who personifies characteristics worthy of admiration. Showing respect is the ultimate compliment. We respect someone whose qualities we aspire to emulate.
There are other facets of the concept of respect, however, which call us to examine who we are in a diverse environment. Humanity represents a wide variety of cultures, beliefs, political perspectives and personal orientations which define us.
Differences too often can be viewed suspiciously since understanding others takes time, attention and sacrifice. It is so much easier to look at someone’s skin color, lifestyle and behavior and make judgments without contemplation.
The opposite of respect is prejudicial discrimination. Judging someone because of pre-conceived assumptions based on how they appear, what language they speak, or other surface factors are neither fair nor factual. Lack of respect for reasons which do not relate to character is demeaning. People who exert dominance over others to feel superior are obnoxious and hateful.
The root of abuse of children or other vulnerable people is planted in a need to exercise power over a defenseless victim with no valid justification. That abusive attitude and damaging action, whether physical, sexual, or emotional, is symptomatic of a false sense of security. In reality, it is the ultimate insecurity – hurting another to feel strong is nothing but moral weakness.
At their core, bullies are unable to admit that offending others is a perverse pleasure. Confronting a bully is necessary whenever the means and method are available. Silence and inaction feed future abuse. If self-defense is not practical, acting to protect the victim is true courage.
We are inundated with reports of abusive behavior perpetrated by people whose actions are horrible. Victimization as an exertion of power is the result of someone’s sense of immunity from violations of the social norms of respect, kindness and caring for the feelings of others. Abusive behavior is egregious egotism – a perverse sense of self which should never be tolerated no matter the purported power of the abuser.
My intent in sharing these thoughts is to give you a perspective on how important it is for us to serve as positive forces for good and to exert energy to confront negative treatment of all vulnerable people who need our respect and protection.
I hope you will make every effort give voice to the weak and confront those who choose to victimize the vulnerable. We can survive this plague of egregious abuse if we act with conscience and make a commitment to respect, equality, peace, and justice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JACK LEVINE
My service as the advocates’ advocate is a role I cherish. I am so fortunate to have the friendships and allies I’ve nurtured over the years. I value our communication and sincerely appreciate you and your advocate voice.
Jack Levine, Founder
The Advocate’s Credo:
Thou art my child, my parent, and my elder,
I love thee best,
But could not love thee half as much,
Loved I not all the rest.