Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! As a part of our ongoing interview series, Mom’s Choice had the privilege of sitting down with the Award-Winning author of Raising Resilient Kids, Dr. Rhonda Spencer-Hwang! In Raising Resilient Kids, Dr. Spencer-Hwang reveals the intriguing findings from her research and offers eight principles for raising happier, healthier children who are equipped to flourish despite life’s inevitable adversities. Raising Resilient Kids is a blueprint for raising healthy children in the world we currently live in. It is absolutely a must-read for anyone, even those without kids of their own, as it provides immense knowledge on how to live a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share more about her and her award-winning book with you!
MCA: Hello, Dr. Spencer-Hwang! We are so delighted to get the opportunity to get to know more about you and your incredibly knowledgeable and insightful book, Raising Resilient Kids. Can I start the interview by finding out a little background about you?
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: My name is Dr. Rhonda Spencer-Hwang and I am a professor and epidemiologist at Loma Linda University in the School of Public Health and a consultant with the San Bernardino County Health Department. I have a keen interest in children’s health promotion, have numerous peer-reviewed journal publications, have given presentations around the world, and am the recipient of funding from various government agencies (i.e. First 5 Riverside Commission). For the past eight years, I have been conducting research into the childhood experiences of a community of centenarians (folks who have lived 100 years or longer) living in the Loma Linda, California region. This community is known around the world as a longevity hotspot. Through my research, I discovered that the centenarians had not only lived a really long life but had done so overcoming a tremendous burden of adverse childhood experiences (known as ACEs). This is the first community to show signs of resilience against ACEs and stress—a Resiliency Capital.
In addition to my research and career life, I am also a wife and a mother to three children (7-year-old, 14, and 17). In my free time, I enjoy mountain biking, but really hate crashing.
MCA: Crashing is undoubtedly not the fun part of mountain biking! Your research in the childhood experiences of a community of centenarians has really given a lot of insight as to what it takes to raise resilient kids in this day and age. What lead you to want to turn that research into an award-winning book?
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: As part of my work as a professor, I typically research and publish my findings into journal articles. But I know, not many people outside the research world, really read scientific journals for fun. I was at a conference presenting my findings when a lady approached me, she was a mom and a physician, and asked if I could put my findings into a book for lay audiences. Right then and there, the idea was born that I could help more people if I didn’t just write journal articles, but wrote a book.
MCA: Raising Resilient Kids has definitely helped a lot of people by providing them the tools to live their lives to the fullest potential. Where did your inspiration for your study of the centenarians and eventually your writing of Raising Resilient Kids stem from?
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: My inspiration really came from my research at the university. Prior to studying the centenarians, I studied the health of children living in and growing up in an environmental justice community. The community is in close proximity to a major freight railyard in San Bernardino. The pollution that comes off of the railyard is tremendous and the children live nearby and attend school just a few blocks away. We gave surveys and conducted breathing tests to see how the children were potentially impacted. The results from this research I published in a scientific journal, which showed that children in this community by the freight railyard, had significantly worse lung health (significantly more asthma and breathing problems) than a comparison school 7 miles away. After publishing my findings and writing letters to make a change, I realized it would be a long time before the change would come if it would even come at all. I wanted to do more to help them. I knew my community had this designation as a Longevity Hotspot, because of all our centenarians (who had exhibited tremendous resiliency). So I decided to find out what advice and wisdom people who had lived for 100 years or longer would give to members living in the community, to empower them. I had no idea when I started studying the centenarians, how important their experiences would be for what we are facing today. They have lived through so much adversity and hardships, even the 1918 Spanish Flu (a terrible pandemic, similar to what we have today).
MCA: That is truly amazing and very relatable to the times we are currently in with the COVID-19 pandemic! How can Raising Resilient Kids help parents build stronger resilience for their families? Not just for facing the current COVID-19 pandemic, but for whatever else life might throw their way.
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: The centenarians, because of their experiences, have tremendous wisdom for what we face today. They lived through the 1918 Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, the loss of loved ones and family members, racism, violence, abuse and mental illness in the family, and so much more. What they had experienced and the fact that they went on to live not only significantly longer lives but very abundant and wonderful lives. They ended up becoming groundbreaking surgeons and other types of physicians, world record setters, receiving honor from Kings and Queens around the world. The childhood experiences and practices were sustained across their life and helped to equip the centenarians to withstand the storms that came their way. It gives us hope today for what we are facing and my desire is to share that hope and their knowledge with as many as I can.
MCA: That wisdom unquestionably gives great hope for what we are all going through presently. What are your tips for how parents can reduce stress in their lives and within their households while increasing the likelihood of their success and happiness?
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: Reducing stress has a great deal to do with the focus and the habits. The current parenting styles (like snowplowing, leaf-blowing, bubble wrapping) are very stressful approaches. These approaches require the parents to prevent and reduce obstacles and challenges as much as they possibly can and start as soon as they can in the life of their child. And the focus is on the child. But one of the lessons learned from studying the centenarians is that they did not have a life of ease. In fact, they were more prepared for when the storms hit. One centenarian recalled her mother dying (during the birth of a sibling) when she was just 10 years of age. She said her mother had trained her and all her siblings all along, how to care for and tend to the house and to one another. Their focus was on caring for the family unit. When her mother tragically passed away, Anita was prepared to step in and help her family. Some of the greatest qualities of the centenarian’s character developed while they faced hardships. And they had lots of hardships because most of them were terribly poor. Success and happiness are really by-products of a resilient lifestyle, where there is care for the mind, the body, and the spirit.
MCA: Wow, how extraordinarily humbling, eye-opening, and awe-inspiring that information is! I’ve read some of your reader’s feedback and they seem to echo the same sentiment across the board, Raising Resilient Kids is an absolute must-read! Can you share what all of the positive response Raising Resilient Kids has received has been like for you?
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: From readers, the response has been exciting to see. They enjoy reading the book and want more and more support to really embrace this resiliency lifestyle. Because of their response I have, myself and my colleagues at the university are working on putting together an 8-week online free and interactive course (coming this January), to help parents put the principles into practice.
Additionally, I have begun presentations for many health professionals (whether or not they have young families) to also put the principles into practice, to help reduce stress, anxiety, and burnout.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Dr. Spencer-Hwang: One of the main lessons is that resiliency is not just about your mind, it is about your body and your spirit (essentially your whole health) and it begins with waking up and asking the question are you happy with your life and your family’s life? Are you and your family living an abundant life or a life full of stress and anxiety? What is the vision that you have for your family’s life together? Readers of the book will walk away with a newfound realization of what whole resiliency is and how they can achieve their purpose in life as well as increase the likelihood of success and happiness.
MCA: That is quite the lesson to leave us off with! Thank you for such an insightful interview, Dr. Spencer-Hwang. We’re very excited to check out your free 8-week online and interactive course! We hope you have a wonderful holiday.
You can learn more about Rhonda Spencer-Hwang and her award-winning book, Raising Resilient Kids by visiting her MCA Shop pages.