A Mother Restores Ties With her Children
Geneva, 10 December 2019 - Living through a violent conflict spanning almost a decade and the forced displacement involved do not come without cost. Many refugees endure psychological trauma and need support to take their lives back into their own hands.
Despite surviving the violence of the Syrian conflict, ongoing since 2011, millions of Syrians sustain deep psychological wounds. According to the Jordanian Health Minister Dr. Saad Fayez Jaber, “70% of refugees suffer from psychological disorders as a result of mass conflicts and wars.”
The impact of such psychological trauma is not limited to individuals but can also influence and destabilize the lives of those around them. Such is the case of Jana*, a Syrian mother of two who was forced to flee her country for Jordan in 2012.
Before becoming a refugee, Jana lived with her family in Damascus, the Syrian capital. But her relationship with her husband was not healthy: “I used to dread returning home after finishing my day’s errands, knowing my husband was there,” she says. Her husband did not respect her, mocked and sometimes beat her.
Until he disappeared in the turmoil of the conflict. Jana then went to stay with her mother in Dara’a, a city in southwestern Syria. More than a year later, her husband was reported dead in detention. Finally, in 2012, Jana had to flee Dara’a with her children, mother and siblings because of the shelling and clashes in their area.
In Jordan, Jana was exposed to the harsh life of a refugee. She began to sense herself changing. She became short-tempered and impatient. “The daily pressures of living as a refugee in Jordan had changed me,” she says.
These pressures intensified after her brother, her sole economic support was run over by a car and is now handicapped. Today, Jana has no source of income to support her family and mother other than the assistance she receives from humanitarian organizations.
As result of the accumulating difficulties, Jana’s relationship with her children became strained. “People can become angrier and more aggressive due to impoverishment,” she comments on the change in her personality.
In addition to her concern over the safety and welfare of her children, Jana was unable to deal with their transformation into pre-teens. She argued with them all the time. She also started to beat them sometimes to vent her frustration.
So she began to look for ways to preserve the remaining connection she had with her kids. “I was afraid that I was going to lose my children as they began relying instead on my sister and mother. I needed to do something.”
Her search for support led her to the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC). About two years ago, Jana had registered herself and family with ICMC for assistance. Now, upon learning about the availability of awareness-raising and parenting skills sessions, Jana took a one-week course to learn techniques to control her temper and improve her relationship with her children.
Available for both women and men, these sessions promote behavioral change and positive parenting, and allow participants to acquire life and communication skills. This preventative program also reduces the reliance on harmful coping mechanisms such as child marriage and violence against children. Between August 2018 and September 2019, 3677 individuals, both Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians, benefitted from the program.
Participation in the courses has helped Jana to overcome the effects of her late husband’s abuse, which began to impact negatively on her relationship with her son and men in general.
“The scars of my husband’s abuse and the pressures of my life made me bitter with my son,” Jana says. “I was also vocal about my hatred of men in front of my daughter, unaware of the impact it might have on her when growing up.”
According to Jana, the parenting skills sessions she received has made her much more understanding towards her children. She notices that they are gradually accepting her back into their lives as their mother.
“I was on the verge of losing my precious children due to my temper. But after learning the importance of listening patiently to them and being coached on how to deal with my temper and anger, I have saved my relationship with my children,” Jana says.
* The name has been modified to protect the person’s identity.