Tuesday, 23rd April 2024

Tuesday, 23rd April 2024

Building the resilience muscle

07 Oct 2016

A resilient child is one who adapts positively and perseveres.
A resilient child is one who adapts positively and perseveres.

Retired Principal, Mrs Jenny Yeo shares on the importance of teaching children to be resilient and how parents can do so.

Riduan Zalani is a multiple award winner, but his success did not come easily. As a teenager, he faced hardships at home and had to work part time while studying to support the family.

But he succeeded. In 2015, he received the prestigious Young Artist Award (YAA) from the National Arts Council (NAC) for his significant influence in and contribution to the development of the drumming scene in Singapore. In 2013, he received the Singapore Youth Award (SYA) in recognition for his courage and resilience in putting Singapore on the global world music scene. 

It was a strong sense of purpose that enabled him to overcome the challenges and achieve such exceptional accomplishments.

As a child, he saw clearly how he could contribute positively to his family and steadfastly did so. Today, he has great clarity about how he can contribute to the development of arts and culture in our country and is ceaselessly doing so through performing, choreographing and teaching, and through Nadi Singapura, an initiative to develop the local Malay arts scene.

Riduan knows his strengths, his passion and how he can contribute. This robust sense of purpose motivates him to persevere to look beyond present circumstances and work towards his desired future.

In essence, a resilient child is one who adapts positively and perseveres. Adversity is part and parcel of life and there is no way we can prevent our children from facing them. Thankfully, we can help them to prepare. Here are a few tips:

  • set and work towards goals together
  • expose them to new experiences (e.g. places, hobbies, occupations) to let them discover their interests and passion
  • affirm their unique talents and qualities
  • provide opportunities to contribute to society (e.g. participate in community activities)

Another critical factor in nurturing our children’s psychological well-being and making them resilient is their supportive relationships with significant adults. Riduan credits his achievements to his grandmother, whom he acknowledges as a pivotal person in his life. She provided strong support and a listening ear. She was an excellent role model in problem solving and guided him in dealing with his problems. She helped him to focus on his strengths, cheered him on and showed him that effort was critical for success. Riduan also felt empowered to make his own choices, decisions and plans. “She told me to choose something I wanted to dedicate my life to,” said Riduan, and that is certainly what he did.  

As significant adults in our children’s lives, it is essential to establish a caring and supportive relationship. This helps our children to feel safe, loved and valued, which in turn helps them face the challenges of life.

Parents can do this by providing a listening ear and communicating care, trust and belief in their children. Stories about eight year-olds and their antics may sound trivial, but they are important to the child. Their world and concerns are as big and real to them as our own concerns. So, give them your undivided attention, validate their concerns and show them that you care. 

Try setting aside some “worry time” daily. Give your child ten minutes to share their anxieties. Even when there may be nothing bothering them, let the child lead the conversation and just spend time having a chat. 

Parents can also encourage conversation time through regular family meals, where everyone gets together, or participate in activities that your child is interested in and talk to them during this time. For example, one mother I know took up guitar lessons with her teenage daughter and used it as a way to bond.  

These seemingly insignificant conversations gives us a way into our child’s world and mind, strengthens the parental bond and also provides opportunities for us to show our trust and belief in them.

Here are a few tips.

Give our Children S.P.A.C.E to grow


  • Provide positive feedback
  • Be willing to listen


  • Reflect on setbacks together
  • Guide your child to develop alternate plans


  • Affirm strengths and efforts
  • Use of effective praise


  • Cheer your child on for every effort
  • Celebrate all successes, even small ones


  • Let your child make decisions
  • Encourage your child to voice his/her ideas, and carry out the plans made

So if we want to strengthen our children’s resilience muscle, help them develop a sense of purpose and create a home environment that gives them S.P.A.C.E. to grow.

For more information, download this guide to building resilience. The guide in Chinese, Malay and Tamil, can also be found here