A new area of work that some of the NLP4Kids practitioners have embarked upon this year is supporting children in the British education system who have fled with their families from conflict zones.
Aside from the obvious challenges of conditions such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) which need more therapeutic attention, there are simple things that we as practitioner have realised can make a big difference to helping children who have experienced these harrowing circumstances.
Firstly, the key to helping a child who previously felt unsafe feel safe again is to get them feeling familiar with their circumstances as possible. This comes from providing routine and consistency. The sooner they can feel that they know their way around or that they know what is happening next, the more that they can experience a sense of control.
Control can also come from them having the ability to make their own choices or to make small changes or at least make requests. Help them to feel like they have a life once again. Despite being brought here for safety, they might not be feeling all that grateful for the experience and could be feeling as if they would rather be in a place they know where everyone speaks their language. Giving them a sense of familiarity and control could alleviate feelings of resentment about their situation.
When you go to a new country, there are not just the obvious barriers of language and culture but small things can be really different too. Mannerisms can be different. Non-verbal communication can carry a very different meaning. Our weather is depressing! There will be different sounds and even different smells.
Don’t just put the focus on “This is how we do things here” but make the experience as much about you learning from them as it is about you teaching them. Be ready to step into their world as much as you are asking them to step into ours. Take an interest in their culture and be prepared to help them celebrate it in their way to show them respect for their heritage.
That said there will be things that are the same – after all we are all human beings. To lessen the gap between the differences, also help them to draw their focus towards what is the same between where they have come from and where they are now. What values are similar? What interests would a young person form their country have that are the same as the interests that we have in this country?
Helping them to see how our worlds are closer than they might have previously thought can help them to get a sense of ‘home from home’ and enable them to settle more quickly.
We are very fortunate in this country to have such a rich tapestry of diversity, such that educating yourself about their culture should not be too difficult to do and finding others who share their culture could be something you provide to help them develop a sense of community where they are now.
By Gemma Bailey