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“We help children to cope with changes”

Children need space for development. / Copyright: Adobestock

“We help children to cope with changes”

It’s not just adults who come back to Kosovo after spending longer periods abroad. Families, and especially their children, often find this hugely challenging. The German Information Centre for Migration, Vocational Training and Career (DIMAK) in Pristina offers support to everyone. Ramadan Islami, a DIMAK coordinator, explained more in an interview.

Mr Islami, what stresses can migration cause for families and especially for children?

Migration is a difficult process for all family members. Many people who decide to migrate want to find a better life. But their hopes and expectations as to how migration should improve their lives are not always fulfilled. Going through the migration process, but not achieving a better quality of life and having to return to your country of origin – all of that can put a huge psychological strain on people. A sense of failure can then often spread within families. This consequently creates conflicts between family members, especially when savings were used to make the migration possible.

How do boys and girls experience this?

The word that plays a major part in migration is “change”. It is children who are mostly affected by difficult changes: changing schools, finding new friends, learning a new language, and finding themselves in a new environment, a new culture. Money problems and family dissatisfaction also place a significant burden on the youngest members of the family.

What support for the children is particularly important when families decide to come back to their home country?

Children’s needs vary, and they also depend on the length of time spent abroad. Readjusting to their homeland is more difficult if children have spent the majority of their lives in another country. It’s therefore important to help children cope with these changes, and to get used to their new environment after they come back. They have to adjust to the new school system, or learn Albanian. Finding new friends means they should meet both other children who have returned as well as the local population. Supporting children with reintegration into their country of origin also contributes to their emotional happiness.

What should advisors be aware of with regard to children?

With children, it’s important to identify any form of psychological distress, trauma, depression, anxiety, signs of abuse or any suspicious behaviour. The aim is for an affected child to receive appropriate support from specialists as soon as possible. It’s also important to check whether a child needs clothing, school materials or additional support at school. The overall focus is on helping the children’s development in their home country and ensuring their long-term reintegration.

Which family groupings have you encountered in your counselling?

In our experience, families mostly leave the country together. Sometimes it’s the father who emigrates, and the mother and children remain in their home country. In some cases it’s even the children, especially young men, who leave the country as soon as they reach working age. They then leave their parents and siblings behind. In the case of the group I first mentioned, the entire family usually returns together, but sometimes it’s only the mother and children. So after coming back here, it’s the mother who is the only caregiver, while the father provides for the family from a distance. Depending on how long the father stays away, it can be stressful for the children not to have a father figure they see regularly. In the meantime, the mothers experience the burden of having to look after their children alone.

How does DIMAK support families and empower children in Kosovo?

DIMAK empowers families and children – both returnees and those from the local population – by providing information and counselling in three areas. Firstly, it provides psychosocial support. Returnees in particular are supported by individual and family psychological counselling that is adapted to their needs. We establish contact between those affected and the appropriate specialists. Psychosocial support can be both preventive and curative. It is preventive if it reduces the risk of developing mental health problems. It is curative if it involves people who already have psychosocial problems and feel burdened.

And what are the other areas where you provide support?

Reintegration and employment. DIMAK provides advice to families and individuals who come back to Kosovo. We help them with their return journey and once they arrive back here. We arrange contacts for finding accommodation and for training courses, and we offer information on legal and health issues. We also help returnees and people from the local population to make realistic decisions about their training and employment, so that they can find opportunities for a suitable career. We help people to prepare their CVs, pass through the application procedures, and find training courses. These aspects are often very important for young people, to enable them to see a brighter future.

As of: 03/2022

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