Tips on building a strong and resilient child

  • Children
  • Friday, 03 May 2019

Part and parcel of growing up is experiencing the good and the bad, like skinning one's knee from a fall. — Positive Parenting

The world we live in is one of constant evolution and change. As parents, wanting to protect our children from the ups and downs of life is normal. However, in order to prepare them for life as an adult, we need to raise them to be resilient.

This is crucial as it allows them to bounce back from failures and face any uncertainties with equanimity. Resilience is not an innate trait and much of it comes from external factors, starting with parents and caregivers.

Give your child experiences

Every experience in life helps build resilience. Be supportive and encourage them to explore their environment on their own.

Some parents may have fond memories of catching fish in drains near their house, hunting for frogs or tadpoles, or even just splashing in a muddy field while playing football after it rains.

Don’t deny your child the chance to have such experiences and memories of their own! Children of all ages should spend at least one hour to play outdoors every day, like:

• Cycling around the taman (residential area).

• Walking, running or playing at a nearby playground.

• Flying a kite in the playground.

• Playing a quick round of badminton or football.

Weekends are also a great time to have fun together as a family, like:

• Going for family picnics at parks or other outdoor spaces.

• Enjoying a day at the beach or a waterfall.

• Taking a hike through nature trails.

• Going camping.

Outdoor play is important for all of us to get our daily dose of vitamin D from the sun. It also gives your child the chance to find their strengths, abilities and fears through considered risk.

Simple playground activities, such as the monkey bar, can actually challenge your child to be more daring and self-reliant, and to persevere to reach the end.

Playing hide-and-seek can challenge your child to be more resourceful and to learn to adapt to situations or conditions. Playing with other children also helps build stamina and healthy competition.

There are also other fun activities like indoor rock climbing, ice skating and trampoline parks. On days when you cannot go out (due to rain or haze), be creative and let your children play indoors with old-style games, e.g. teng-teng or hopscotch.

Ensuring a strong body

While building emotional resilience is important, parents should also remember to nurture their child’s physical health. A strong body means your child will be less prone to illness, so you will have less to worry about when they play outdoors.

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Part and parcel of growing up is experiencing the good and the bad, like skinning one's knee from a fall. — Positive Parenting

While playing outdoors does mean that your child will be exposed to more germs and such, keep in mind that such exposures will ultimately lead to a stronger body.

Some scientists subscribe to the hygiene hypothesis, which simply means that a highly-sheltered early childhood with little to no exposure to germs, bacteria and other microorganisms, prevents the immune system from reaching its full potential.

The end result is that the child may grow into an adult who is more prone to falling sick or having allergies. So, don’t be too worried about a little dirt, scratches, tumbles or falls.

It’s a part and parcel of growing up and experiencing the joy of playing, the pain from a skinned knee, and the courage and tenacity to pick oneself up to continue playing. Being exposed to the outdoors will not only build your child’s character, but also strengthen his or her body physically.

In addition to that, their nutritional needs should be met in order for them to grow and develop properly. Having a strong and healthy body means fewer missed opportunities or experiences.

In short, the basics for a strong and healthy body are:

• Ensuring your child is physically active every day.

• Providing good nutrition via a balanced and healthy diet.

• Ensuring enough rest or sleep every day.

• Staying well-hydrated by drinking enough water every day.

The goal to building your child’s resilience should be a strong and healthy body and mind. However, tailor the approach that you use to their developmental stage.

Also, remember that every child is different, so be prepared to use a different strategy or approach with each individual child to get the results that you want.

Dr Rajini Sarvananthan is a consultant developmental paediatrician. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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