Between the lines: showing children how to cope with adversity
I love Twinkle, the little girl on Higglytown Heroes, an animated children's TV series. Every person and animal is a Matryoshka doll, hopping around on their limbless stump, and pulling out useful items from their hollowed torsos.
Each episode focuses on a different hero, such as a firefighter, zookeeper, postal worker or dentist. Viewers learn about various vocations when main characters encounter some challenges which only an adult in the appropriate line of work can solve.
Before the hero appears to save the day, Twinkle never fails to enthusiastically offer some outrageously impractical and complicated solution. I love Twinkle because she has such an admirable "can-do" spirit, and doesn't shy away from perplexing problems.
In the field of cognitive psychology, Twinkle would measure a high AQ, or adversity quotient. AQ was developed by Dr Paul Stoltz, who defines it as "the capacity of the person to deal with the adversities of his life. As such, it is the science of human resilience."
Who Moved My Cheese? For Kids is Spencer Johnson's version of his bestselling book for adults, about adapting to change and viewing change in a positive light.
This modern parable about two mice and two little humans in a maze provides insight into the different approaches of those with high AQ and those with low AQ when presented with the same challenge.
In the beginning, they find a big room full of "magical cheese" that makes them happy and contented. But when supplies dwindle, the mice resolve to look elsewhere in the maze for more cheese, while the little people keep returning to the empty room to rue the loss of the cheese.
The many concepts introduced in this story make good discussion tools for young children, especially as children by nature tend to resist change.
The message of adapting to change is more subtly portrayed in Kevin Henkes' Wemberly Worried. Also a story featuring mice characters, Wemberly is a little mouse that worries about everything.
For example, she worried that no one would come to her birthday party; but when lots of mice showed up, she worried that there wouldn't be enough cake. By the time the first day of school arrived, Wemberly had a long list of worries, presented in increasingly larger letters.
By giving children opportunities to experience challenging situations within their parents' protection and love, they can improve their AQ and be given the capacity to bounce back from whatever life serves them.
For older children or even adults who are lacking in AQ, it's never too late to recognise the need to learn life tools that help to deal with disappointment, be positive in life and become problem solvers.
That is food for thought for any New Year's resolutions.
Annie Ho is board chairwoman of Bring Me a Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them bringmeabook.org.hk