Ever wondered how parents give their children a sense of security during wartime? Humanitarian psychologist Aala El-Khani shares what she learnt after having travelled to refugee camps in Syria and in Turkey to listen to stories of affected families and their parenting challenges.
In this TED Talk, she says, “They told me how they watched their children withdraw; the sadness, depression, anger, bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, fear of loud noises, fear of nightmares — terrifying, terrifying nightmares. These families had been through what we had been watching on the TV. The mothers — almost half of them were now widows of war, or didn’t even know if their husbands were dead or alive — described how they felt they were coping so badly. They watched their children change and they had no idea how to help them. They didn’t know how to answer their children’s questions.”
For five years, El-Khani and her colleagues, Prof Calam and Dr Kim Cartwright, have worked on ways to support families in conflict zones. She shares, “What I found incredibly astonishing and so motivational was that these families were so motivated to support their children. Despite all these challenges they faced, they were trying to help their children. They were making attempts at seeking support from NGO workers, from refugee camp teachers, professional medics, other parents. One mother I met had only been in a camp for four days, and had already made two attempts at seeking support for her eight-year-old daughter who was having terrifying nightmares.”
Worldwide, she informs, “Over 1.5 billion people experience armed conflict. In response, people are forced to flee their country, leaving over 15 million refugees. Children, without a doubt, are the most innocent and vulnerable victims…but not just from the obvious physical dangers, but from the often unspoken effects that wars have on their families.”
Watch the video here: