4 kids found alive after 40 days in jungle: UAE experts urge parents to teach children survival skills

Such skills have often been credited with helping children become more confident and perform better at academics, too


Nasreen Abdulla

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File photo
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Published: Tue 13 Jun 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 13 Jun 2023, 3:29 PM

Survival skills are an absolute necessity for children and must be included in school curricula, according to a UAE-based expert.

“Parents especially living here think that their children don’t need these skills because Dubai is such a safe place, but no one can ever predict when these skills will come in handy,” said Candy Fanucci, the founder of Pirate Surf Rescue Club that teaches survival and life skills to youngsters.

Her comments come after four children were found alive on Friday in a jungle, 40 days after a plane they were travelling in crashed. The accident killed three people including the kids’ mother. According to their family, survival games regularly played by the children helped the eldest –a 13-year-old girl – keep the others safe.

Thirteen-year-old Lesly built makeshift camps using hair ribbons to keep her three siblings – the youngest of whom is now 1-year-old – safe while they were lost in the Amazon jungle for six weeks.

Life skills

Candy said that there are several reasons to teach children survival skills. “They learn to handle emergencies, make quick decisions, stay calm and be independent,” she said. “Whether it is out in the desert or in the waters, these skills could come in handy. It makes them very self-reliant.”

Child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sage Clinic Dr Teizeem Dhanji said that parents can consciously try to help build their child’s resilience. “As a first step consider sharing the astonishing story of the ‘children of the jungle, who are now also the children of Colombia’,” she said.

Survival skills have often been credited with helping children become more confident and perform better at academics. Candy gave a true-life example of how her students had helped save a life.

“Early in the morning, a neighbour came to their door screaming because her 6-year-old son was lifeless,” she said. “My students aged 16 and 12 sprang into action. One of them performed CPR while the other called an ambulance. By the time help arrived, the children had resuscitated the young boy. Their mother was impressed with how calm and composed they were in an emergency situation.”

Building resilience

Dr Teizeem said that while children in the UAE may not face similar circumstances, they must learn to face tough situations.

“Parents must support them in becoming resilient in the face of physical or emotional challenges,” she said. She shared six strategies to foster resilience in children:

1. Provide emotional safety: Creating a supportive and nurturing environment where children feel safe, valued, and heard lays a solid foundation for resilience. Parents should encourage children to express their emotions without fear of judgement by actively listening, validating their feelings, and showing empathy.

2. Help children understand and express emotions effectively: This enables children to manage stress, regulate their emotions, and develop emotional intelligence. Parents can promote healthy coping skills through activities such as writing, exercising, or engaging in creative tasks like art, which help children navigate emotional challenges.

3. Teach problem-solving skills: Encourage children to think critically and find their own solutions by presenting age-appropriate challenges. This approach builds confidence in their ability to overcome obstacles.

4. Engage children in physical activities: Participation in physical activities promotes strength, stamina, coordination, and essential skills such as teamwork, perseverance, discipline, and adaptability. Encouraging children to play team sports and commit to activities helps develop these skills.

5. Foster a growth mindset: Help children view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than failures. A growth mindset teaches children the power of overcoming adversity and boosts their confidence.

6. Be a role model: Setting the right example is crucial in teaching children how to manage their struggles. Demonstrate resilience in the face of unexpected challenges, use healthy coping strategies, and share stories of how you overcame adversity.


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