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“Honestly told about what is happening on the example of the book “Cipollino”. How to help children survive emigration


“The most difficult thing was not to show the children everything that was going on in their hearts, not to panic about how much to do in one day before leaving, and the fear of the unknown future.

It had to be presented as an adventure and constantly dodge the question: “When will we return back?”, says Marina (name changed).

They left Russia with their husband and two children in the spring of 2022 and, like millions of families over the past year, found themselves in forced emigration. They fled from the war and decided to leave the regime with which they did not agree.

Leaving against your will is a huge stress in itself. And if, in addition, you have to pull children out of their usual lives, parents find themselves under even more pressure.

Anna Rosch talked to experts about how to help children survive forced emigration. And why should you first start helping yourself.

What happens to our psyche in forced emigration? How to survive moving and adaptation easier? Ima Zakharova, psychologist, early childhood specialist, expert at the Center for Curative Pedagogics in Moscow, existential consultant. Ima also consults with the @goodenoughparents project, who can be contacted for help with any questions related to parenthood.

- From a psychological point of view, how is forced emigration different from ordinary?

- Emigration is a crisis. There are traumatic crises and crises of change. The outbreak of war is a traumatic crisis. The parent is initially in shock. Then the person moves away from the shock and defensive reactions turn on: run to a safe place. Some people just run on this defensive reaction, they are driven by fear. And some come out of a state of shock and make a choice whether to stay or leave. It is already in their awareness.

Each family is a unique system and needs an individual approach. And the reaction of family members to stress says a lot about the state in which it is now.

If people make a conscious decision, this is a completely different matter - this is a family that relies more on itself. And there are parents who ran away and remained in a state of confusion. At the same time, children demand their own, they have their own security needs. These are difficult families who need help.

In any case, the most important thing is to recognize that this is a crisis for the whole family. And at the moment of crisis, development is impossible, because our psyche solves other problems.

- Is there a more "correct" way to tell the child about the upcoming move?

- One phrase:

“We are leaving, it will be difficult, but we will manage, because we will protect and support each other.”

It's honest. A parent needs courage to say this phrase. Because they think: “What if I can’t protect my child? What if I’m in a bad state and I can’t support my child?” You need faith that your child will have strength. The parent must promise themselves: if it is difficult for me, I will ask for help. And remember that they will still have their connections, and they can seek support from them.

- What difficulties with children can be expected after the move?

- It is most difficult for schoolchildren and teenagers, there are more behavioral problems, aggression. It is difficult for them to fit into society. It's easier with kids. They do not need to be sent to kindergarten right away. Although parents are looking for different moves here for how to help them with socialization.

Children of different ages need different support.

Preschoolers mostly rely on their parents. If the parents themselves have all the supports and values ​​collapse, the baby has many behavioral problems.

These are tantrums or withdrawal into oneself, with social interaction, strong tension is felt.

Younger schoolchildren have support, in addition to their parents, and also friends. They are no longer so attached to their parents, they also have supports in society. And here is an additional complication: what about the friends they have lost? Or their favorite teacher? And teenagers generally leave the family, for them the family is no longer the main support. They are looking for themselves, they need society. And they lose it.

For preschoolers and younger students, the well-being of parents is very important. When I counsel, we mostly talk about how parents can reclaim themselves. After all, with such a departure, there is a loss of oneself. And when a parent returns to normal, we begin to look around and look for support for children: a school, teachers, etc.

In general, you do not need to work especially with children. We need to help parents return to a stable state and discuss with them the way to integrate their child into society.

- That is, parents should start with themselves?

- Yes. People in forced emigration face two challenges.

Many people talk about the problem of adaptation. And there is another task that few people talk about: this is the process of parting with the values that remained in their native country.

These processes run in parallel. Many people help with adaptation. But it is difficult to mourn those values that are lost. But you need to say goodbye to these values in order to let new ones into your inner world.

Marina (name changed), left Russia with two children (4 and 11 years old), now temporarily in one of the CIS countries, going to Europe:

“For children, the most difficult thing was parting with familiar things. We took only the essentials with us. Children yearn for their toys, for their favorite household items: a cup, a plate... Everything here is not the same, everything is alien. My daughter just before leaving, they made repairs in the room. She turned out just as girly as she wanted. My daughter only spent a few nights there."

- What exactly do parents need to do after moving?

- The first step is the search for security. Ensure the safety of yourself and your children.

The second step is to work with feelings. How am I here? What values have I left, what are they here?

The third is the return to oneself and the search for new values. What am I? Can I be myself here or do I have to constantly adjust?

The first two steps take at least six months, often longer. We say that these six months we do not set big tasks, but take small steps - this reassures parents. Because in a crisis it is impossible to develop.

Security is not only about running away from a threat. The first thing our psyche thinks about is that I need a place where I feel protected, I have a job, finances are provided. The first month, our psyche perceives the move as a vacation. There goes the adrenaline.

It is similar to the situation when a child is brought to kindergarten. The first three days the child goes there with pleasure: everything is new there, there are a lot of toys, the child’s eyes run wide. And after three days the child does not want to go there. Because the support has not yet been formed - relations with the children or educators, and the effect of novelty has disappeared. The same thing happens with moving.

In a month, people realize that it turns out that they still have to live there for a long time and need to improve their lives, let go of all regrets and fears and accept the existing reality.

Often a person is not sad, but is clogging their feelings. They think: “I need to function a lot now in order to survive.” Then the children, like a litmus test, begin to hysteria a lot, become more aggressive. Feelings frozen in parents come out in our children.

You can say to schoolchildren and teenagers: “I have to work hard to ensure our life here. I understand that I cannot pay much attention to you, but this does not mean that I do not love you. And I trust you that you can handle it."

My parents and I usually look for where to find resource zones. I remember one mother from the States remembered: “Oh, we can go to a cafe for our favorite pies. And ride a bike."

When our consciousness is narrowed down to the struggle for survival, these islands of good are lost. So it's very important to remember them. Find islands where you can control your life.

I always say that a child needs not quantity of attention, but quality. 10-20 minutes a day of quality attention is enough for them to feel loved, seen and important. And a child who does not have this will cling all the time through aggression and anger: “Give me this attention!”.

Leah, moved from Russia to Israel with her husband and 1.5-year-old son a week after the start of the war:

“In St. Petersburg, I had a well-established life, a nanny, I worked, my husband worked. A child accustomed to homemade food... This is my only child, and I'm a slightly crazy mom, the kind that runs after organic fruits.

And here we are going in two days, we arrive in Israel - and endless moving from one apartment to another begins. It was impossible to immediately rent a house for a long time. Until the moment when we finally rented an apartment for a long time, we moved seven times in a month.

My husband told me: “Oh, well, children quickly get used to everything, the main thing is that we are nearby,” but this was not entirely true. My son has stopped eating. He didn't cry, he didn't get hysterical, but for weeks he ate nothing but avocados and strawberries. For me it was a shock. At the same time, we endlessly wandered back and forth for documents. It was all very hard."

- When the basic things are provided, what's next?

- The processes of parting and adaptation go in parallel. You need to adapt to the new reality and say goodbye to the old one, even if it was “bad”. When children are taken away from a family where their parents physically abuse them, they are still attached to those parents. This is their reality, and there was something good in it too. Therefore, to pick up and say that everything was bad there is inhumane.

It is very important for children to say goodbye to all the good things that happened in that life.

Also here, first you need to think about all the good things that are left in the old life, and talk about it with the children. Parents can look at photos with their child, remember friends, their kindergarten …

At first, do not even be sad, but just remember. The child may begin to be aggressive, it doesn't matter. Gradually, the child will begin to open up to these memories. There is a lot of emotion in these conversations. Children begin to realize that they left a lot of things - and it's sad.

If it turns out that it is not customary in a family to come to each other with their feelings, they are always closed. Then you need to first give the opportunity to parents to look at their experiences. It is important that parents give themselves the right to mourn. And then, together with the child, they looked at the common values that they left behind.

You can't devaluate the past.

Our psyche is very wise. If your daughter for example is given the opportunity to look into this past, she will be sad. And then what was clamped begins to bloom, and life energy appears there. A person says goodbye to old values and makes room for new ones. Then it is easier to accept the reality in which we now find ourselves.

If a child older than four years old cries, it is important for parents to talk about their emotions. “I am sad too. I understand you".

This does not mean acting out of emotion. Often, if we do not allow ourselves to be sad, we accumulate tension in our soul and body - and aggression arises: “Leave me alone, move away, I feel so bad already!” This is unacceptable. And it is very necessary to talk about feelings with children from four to five years old. “I am sad too. I allow myself to cry. We can hug and cry together."

It's normal to be sad and angry at the same time. These two feelings alternate. Only the parents are angry at the situation, and the child is angry at the parents.

Parents need to understand that in fact the child is also angry at the situation, but the child directs this anger at them. The main thing is to be able to withstand this anger. And for this you need to be able to withstand your anger and sadness.

When my parents and I are sad, we think about what was thrown, we cry, aggression disappears in children. This is such a wonderful story.

Elena, moved from Russia to Slovakia with her husband and 6-year-old daughter:

“We immediately honestly told her that, unfortunately, we do not know the exact dates when we can return. We repeated this many times. The book "Cipollino" (her favorite) helped a lot, on the example of which it was possible to explain what was happening approximately.

Honesty, openness to dialogue and trust helps. Without this, it will be difficult for everyone in the family to cope with difficulties.

We don't cheat, we don't cheat, and we honestly answer her questions in the way we can answer a six-year-old child.

It also helps to do something she is used to: decorating a live Christmas tree together, eating ice cream, books from home and favorite cups. It would seem banal, but such things give support even to adults. If possible, take something you love with you.

I'm not sure that it will be possible to completely avoid difficulties 100%. We prepared our daughter mentally for the move from 02/24/2022, and we were able to leave only in the first days of September. And still it was not possible to avoid her disappointments and sadness. But this is surmountable. Even if not immediately, but together and step by step it is possible to survive and adapt, to join the society.”

- How can you help yourself survive the grief over the abandoned?

- Understand that we are now in a crisis. It will end, but it takes time. Information gives support: it's good when some articles tell people that it's normal that you feel this way.

Aggravating factors should be reduced as much as possible. At the moment of stress, a person tends to load themselves with more than they can handle in order to escape from these unpleasant experiences.

And then the forces run out very quickly.

It may be worth reducing some household obligations. Cook something sooner. Do not try to immediately look for a lot of circles for your child. Measure your strength all the time.

There are idealistic parents: “But what about? It is important to develop, learn, get good grades…”.

You need to understand that this is temporary. It's just such a period. Now you need to let go of your perfectionism and not demand much, either from yourself or from children.

There are signs of stress that are important to track and not hoard. The first sign is usually - "I'm starting to annoy relatives." If you notice this, you need to think: “How can I restore my inner well-being?” Each person has their own set.

You can and should ask for help. This is not necessarily a psychotherapist. You can just talk to friends who can be around without judging or giving advice.

It is also useful to look for people who are in a similar situation. There is a lot of support here. There are many self-help groups online, and they are often free or for a nominal fee. The person sees that there are others in the same situation. And maybe they have already taken a step forward, already know how to deal with some situations, and can share their experience.

- What happens in the adaptation phase?

This is the phase of searching for new values. School, new friends, travel. Life begins to play with new colors.

There is an image of a flower: when it is transplanted, it begins to fade, the leaves fall off. At this moment, it is necessary that it is dark, no extra food, it is not even watered. It is as if it collects all its internal resources and ceases to pay attention to the external. And then - oh-pa! - and new shoots began. Then the sun can be given and watered. Our psyche is also arranged. Then we begin to get used to the new reality.

Then you can bring yourself back. What does it mean? “I have many abilities. I am a talented person. I am a good parent."

Self-worth begins to wake up: “I can not only take something from this world and feel small, but also bring something there, grow up.”

If the child still does not like the new values, then they have to not let go of the old ones. We need to help them get rid of them. When this process is over, suddenly new friends appear, suddenly you want to go to school. An active position arises and development begins.

Author: Anna Rosch

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