Рутина позволяет детям-переселенцам справиться со стрессом, — психолог
Within the framework of the psychosocial support broadcast, «Fulcrums», we discuss problems faced by resettler children when a family moves to a new place. Our guest is Elina Vorozhbiyeva, a specialist from The Psychology Crisis Service.
Valentyna Troyan: As a psychologist from the Psychology Crisis Service you have also been to the East and worked with families in populated centers adjacent to the frontline? What have you encountered, what was the picture you saw?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: The issue is very topical. While in Donetsk Region, I listened to «Radio Vanya», «Respublika», and I did not hear dear Ukrainian voice. I felt cut off to some extent.
Radio and television broadcast «from that side», propaganda is there.
Valentyna Troyan: How does it manifest itswlf?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Direct propaganda is there due to the picture: military caps, soldiers, tanks, «join», etc.
Valentyna Troyan: Are children very actively invovlved in this propaganda?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Children are involved. They showed how they accept children in the Young Pioneer organization, how they march in boxes, how they follow Zakharchenko’s behests, as well as those of other active heroes of the «Donetsk Republic».
Dmytro Tuzov: So, such a leap back into the past?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: I had a feeling that I am in my childhood, taken there by a time machine. The quality of signal and picture is a bit different but it resembles what is happening in Russia.
Valentyna Troyan: Among resettlers, there are people who helped adapt not only their own children but also those of other people. Here’s our piece about one of such people, Serhiy Shevchenko from Donetsk.
[Package: «Why Are You Seeing Him? He’s a Tramp!»: Schooldays of Resettlers in Kiev]
Contrary to the resolution of the Ministry of Education which stipulates that children from the ATO zone are enrolled in schools without waiting lists and without documents. it may be said that Serhiy Shevchenko had to storm one of the capital’s general-education schools.
They did not want to enroll his child because there were no documents, and they also said that there were no places at thgis school.
«There were excuses that there are few places, that you don’t have documents. and only when we came with a printout from the Ministry and asked in an insistent way, only then they admitted our son to the school,» the Donetsk man says.
Serhiy’s son had quickly become part of the collective and various misunderstandings with his classmates had quickly vaned to zero. However, representatives of the school administration continued their pressure.
«He had not experienced any problems from the students with whom he studied. This is because he is a big and strong guy, and it is hard to impose on him. However, there were some ‘disruptions’ on the part of the administration of the school where he studied: the administration, in the person of Head of Education-and-Upbringing, acted in a covert way, not directly but there were various hints: ‘You are from Donbas, so-and-so.’ A little pressure was felt.»
Serhiy cites two examples of clear discrimination of a child along the territorial characteristics. It is noteworthy that this discrimination was not by his coevals but by adults with pedagogic education.
«The class hour comes, and a departmental head comes, and they surrender their phones so that they don’t talk on the phone. Te departmental head conducts the meeting and, in a mechanical way, touches everyone’s phones. He takes my son’s phone, in a cover with Ukrainian symbols and starts to scathingly talk about thois: ‘So why have you put on Ukrainian symbols? You want to demonstrate something to us? And then the topic is being developed: you are doing this on purpose, and in reality you are a secret separatist. Not in these words but children in Grade 11 are already grown-up and everybody understands this perfectly,» says Serhiy Shevchenko and right then remembers the second case:
«He was seeing a Kiev girl from a parallel class. They have a relationship, they communicate… So this girls says: the departmental head calls me and says, ‘What are you seeing him for? He is nobody. He is a tramp.»
Because of his work, Serhiy contacts resettler children every day. He heads the international organization, Vin Chun Kung Fu Ushu «Eternal Spring House», and there is a group for rehabilitation of resettler children. He communicates with them and with their parents. Leaning on his pedagogic experience he maintains that the cases that he told about are typical not only in relation to resettler children but for any school student as well.
«School itself, including the pre-war type, and I say this with knowledge as I taught at school for six years, is, let’s say, a complicated system of repressive nature. We do understand very well that the collectives are not ideal everywhere: I mean teachers and administrative workers. Not everywhere you can call these collectives pedagogic ones in the direct meaning of the word which we put in the notion of pedagogy.»
Serhiy Shevchenko stresses that the perception of resettler children in their class depends, to a great extent, on the mood of pedagogic collective. In his «Eternal Spring House», an assembled group of 15 children is studying now. It includes resettler children, Kievites, and children with deviations in development.
The group was created with the aim of helping children from the ATO zone adapt and make friends with their coevals from Kiev. The children who came from Donbas had not earlier seriously studied martial arts. They came here exclusively to undergo a rehabilitation course and regain inner tranquility.
Serthiy Shevchenko says that these children underwent a double stress: they are stressed because they lost their homes in addition to being stressed because of a new place:
«Any child who comes from a place they are used to to a new place is potentially vulnerable until they make themselves comfortable and join the collective. And here we have a double or triple situation: he had not come just in peaceful conditions, away from home, he had moved under stress. Some had even been under barrage and saw the horors of war, they fled their homes at the moment of ‘hot’ hours.»
The rehabilitation group for resettler children has been in existence for half a year. Recently, in a conbversation with parents, Serhiy summed up the results and talked about how the classes influenced the behavior of his pupils.
«There is a favorable result: the children have become more resistant to psychological moments, to emotions, stresses, etc. They begin to push out with positive emotions the negative with which children came, which put pressure on them. If we talk about socialization, in many aspects, when compared to what was there in the beginning, they managed to grow out of it, they managed to make statements about themselves within the collective and became parts of it,» he says.
Why does this happen? Because people feel that there’s an inner rod in a person. If it is broken, Serhiy says, coevals will impose on a person, on a child in this case, in order to break this rod completely, when speaking in images.
«The classes help to produce an inner rod lost in stressful situations. Why do conflicts happen, really? People, and children, like animals, are led by their senses. They sense an object for violence and pressure. They sense, as we say, the smell of fear.»
Everything turned out well for Serhiy Shevchenko’s son: he entered a university, and there the issue of his place of registration was no longer raised. The head of «Eternal Spring House» is sure that this happened because he helped his son not lose, not break the inner rod. Although he does not hide the cases when they were close to defeat.
Dmytro Tuzov: To what extent has the view of the problem changed over the time of combat in the East of the country? To what extent it can be said that progress is evident? It is understandable that people should be explained the gist of the problem, and the problem should be solved.
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Yes, you were right in saying that there’s a need to explain and to talk. here are not only parents and children who suffered but the other party as well: school, teachers, pedagogic collective. In their lives, children absorb not only their and their parents’ experience but the experience of the country. You cannot separate one from the other.
Dmytro Tuzov: Pedagogic collectives not always behave in a right way?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: We all sometimes do not behave in a very right way.
Dmytro Tuzov: When I hear a phrase «oh, those from Donetsk» in relation to resettlers, I ask whether they know how many patriots among «those from Donetsk» fought for Ukraine with weapons in their arms? And then all the questions are removed.
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Many people allow themselves such utterings not in the void: a majority now are under stress, including hidden stress. Ukraine today is in such a state in which it never was before. And it is necessary to remember that Ukraine is a very young state, just 25 years of age. However, can 1991 be a starting point? Maybe it is being formed only now.
Valentyna Troyan: Serhiy Shevhcneko’s talks with his son were aimed at his son not reacting to attacks from his coevals and teachers. But there are children who are depressed with stress, and there are those whose aggression splashes out. They could be quiet and calm before the war but then they began to fight.
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: This is a counter-phobic reaction to stress, when a child identifies with an aggressor and tries to be on the strong side. The only thing to which attention should be paid is how long a child sleeps, what the sleep is like, what the appetite is like, so that we don’t talk of trauma.
Dmytro Tuzov: Does this mean that the aggression in response is a means of defense?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Yes, this is a means of showing one’s territory. Stress and the trauma of moving are superimposed on a certain age. Previously, people for generations underwent initiation at such age. This is a system of measures helping to make milder the transition from a boy to a man, from a girls to a woman. So that as a result there is a kinsperson in a new status.
A phone call to the studio: Hallo, I am Mykola from Kiev. We all know about the usefulness of chess and draughts. And as for backgammon, to what extent this is going to help children and ATO fighters oin rehabilitation? To what extent this is a game of chance?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: I would say that removing stress is a comprehensive process which you should approach from various sides. Intellectual games is very good, be it backgammon, chess or something else. This is an issue of sticking to measure. If you don’t gamble then this is wonderful.
Dmytro Tuzov: How does a pedagogic collective react to the problems which we discuss now? When there are resettler children in a class and they are not always treated adequatly? What the pedagogues should be told now? What they must know?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: First of all, parents, when they bring a kid to a school, understand that they bear responsibility for the child. The best way is to talk to a teacher, to the headmaster. To explain in a simple human language: «I don’t feel confident, I am worried, I am scared.» This will help establish contact, this will help another person understand what the child and the parents had to live through.
Valentyna Troyan: There are children who lock themselves in, and there are others. Being «grey mice» in their schools, after moving they become class monitors, they begin to study better, they find new hobbies. How is it possible to make such examples more numerous?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: They should be spoken about. Everyone of us has some reserves, sources of power. War opens them. We should support each other because there are very many channels of delivering these powers. Family, however, is in the first place, of course.
Valentyna Troyan: And what parents should do so that these reserves open up?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: During meetings, I first of all ask parents whether they accord at least an hour a day for themselves; this especially applies to women; whether they at least once a week spend time with a person from whom they do not require anything and who does not require anything from them. I also ask whether they allow themselves to be little boys and girls.
Valentyna Troyan: What does this mean: allowing themselves to be a little boy or girl?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Every day requires a lot of strength from us, it should be taken from somewhere. Very often this strength is in our childhood, these powers live in us, they don’t die. Who but parents can give such strength? While our parents are alive we can afford phoning them and talking to them.
Valentyna Troyan: Why so few people among us know about this and do not allow themselves to be little kids?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Some people just do not leave such state. This is called infantilization, when a person does not want to assume responsibility for themselves and their actions. This is another extreme.
Dmytro Tuzov: Have you encountered cases when people overcame their infantilism?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: I am such a case. I had a personal experience when I was left alone with a child and I understood that nobody will take care about us except myself.
Dmytro Tuzov: Do you recommend children to become a bit of adults? To realize that they, too, have certain responsibility?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: They should be put within limits, no doubt. Usually, a father performs this role. Limits provde safety for a child. But I do encounter cases when, regrettably, parentification happens. When a child assumes a function not corresponding to a child’s capacity: bringing up a little brother, for instance. Taking him for a walk, changing napkins.
Dmytro Tuzov: Can’t you go over the top here?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Yes. where there is trauma, spontainety disappears; the spontainety of our actions, of our deeds, and people become very serious.
Dmytro Tuzov: I saw a package recently where a headmaster told a pupil with Cossack haircut, «Go and get your hair cut like everyone’s». This phrase, «like everyone», does it kill every creative beginning? Where’s the limit of those limits?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: The lomits’ borders are marked with cultural norms. A lot is defined by the space where you live. In the PDRK, for instance, there are ten options for boys’ haircuts: choose any one but any one of those ten. As for that headmaster, he may be under stress himself, and he transfers it on to the pupil. The only advice for him would be to take a vacation.
Valentyna Troyan: What are the kids that you talked to in the territories adjacent to the frontline?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: They had to grow up. It is not artillery barrages that are scary but their parents’ reactions to those barrages. Children reflect their parents. To the extent that an adult is preserved psychologically, a child would perceive the situation. This can be not a trauma for this child, while parting with parents may become a trauma.
Dmytro Tuzov: Psychologically, should you work not only with children who lived through this but also with those who saw war on TV? Is it very important to bring to them the message, «how easy it is to lose everything»?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Yes, those children who saw war on TV had also received trauma. I would recommend very much to switch off TV sets in time. Television possesses an enormous power, and alarm is spread for many kilometers. These days, many schools in Kiev run classes where children get to know what is happening. Such things should be arranged in every school of the country.
Dmytro Tuzov: Who should engage in this? Volunteer psychologists?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: It would be wonderful if the state assumed the initiative. However, this may hardly be counted on, and everything has to be done on your own. This includes also my colleagues from the Association of specialists in overcoming aftereffects of psychologically traumatizing events.
Dmytro Tuzov: There are psychologists at schools who analyze children’s condition, for instance, on the basis of drawings. What are other techniques used to determine psychological=and-emotional condition of a child and perhaps help this child?
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: The drawing methodology is not on the list of those which allow to talk about a child’s condition with accuracy. This is just an auxillary element. You can understand from a drawing and from conversation with parents what is the state of a child here and now.
It is very important to bring a child back to the «here and now» state: «Yes, you were under barrage then but everything is safe now.»
The following exercise can be recommended to people who stay to live in territories adjacent to the frontline. You jave to attempt to be «down to earth», to feel your contact with the ground. You should tell yourself, «I see such five things», «I feel this». In order not to fall into imobility and be capable of acting, be adequate in relation to a given situation.
Valentyna Troyan: We have another piece from our colleague, Natalya Pokolenko. A child from Avdiyivka had switched schools four times, and this child’s mum shares the situations they faced.
[Package: How schoolchildren can adapt in a new place? Advice from resettlers]
The Reutov family from Avdiyivka had to change their place of residence, albeit a temporary one, three times within one year. Madame Tetyana says that when in the winter of 2015 the situation in Avdiyivka aggravated, they moved to Bakhmut but in two months, because of shelling in Debaltseve, military started arriving there. She and her son became frightened again and moved to Dniprodzerzhinsk but there was no worl there, and in several months they found themselves in Kostyantynivka. Te child has switched schools four times. Tetyana was worried for her son who went to Grade 3.
«In Artemivsk, the class was not numerous, the teacher was young, everything was well. In Dniprodzerzhinsk, when we first came, it seemed everything was OK in the beginning, he made friends, some kids asked to copy his work, some treated him to some candy,» Tetyana says.
There was once a case in Dniprodzerzhinsk when a boy in his class called him a separatist.
«Ihor was surprized, he even had not understood the word. I approached the Head of upbringing work, and this conflict was settled. We arrived from Donetsk Region, we had not remained there, we came to the Ukrainian territory, we came to your school, we live here and want to be together. That boy thn became Ihor’s best friend,» the woman recalls.
Although war is a terrible thing, it did mobilize. People became closer and dearer. The Syomushkin family from Avdiyivka were provided with shelter by a stranger woman from Kostyantynivka who later became as if their relative. The mother could have psychological breakdown while the daughter, Nastya, was afraid of coming out of a cellar. They had to find a way out.
«We had been prompted by our friends’ friends, and a girl sheltered us. She owns a house, and we stayed with her, we made friends, we are family already. In the middle of the academica year, we came to the school, and they treated us wonderfully, though we had no documents having left them at home because of the shellings,» Valentyna says.
Her daughter, Anastasiya, says they met her at her class in a welcoming manner.
«All the children wanted to make acquaintance with me and make friends with me. The teacher, Zoya Volodymyrivna had met me in a good manner, she helped me constantly if I had not understood something, she stayed with me after classes and explained things to me,» the schoolgirl says.
Today, Nastya, along with other resettlers, takes an active part in a volunteer project, «Embroidered Dreams». They sell their works at exhibitions, every participant gets money for sold items. Nastya already has almost 500 hryvnyas and collects money for a tablet.
And resettler Svitlana will prepare her son for school this coming autumn. Here her Bohdan went to a kindergarten and made friends with everybody. Now he is preparing to vecome a first-grader. The six-year old boy is very active, he goes to all patriotic events and attends several hobby groups.
«When we had eaten they said let’s make acquaintance everubody. I fot this medal at School No.15, there was a contest from all cities, they gave medals to all winners, we danced, and our city had also won,» Bohdan says.
It was this active behavior of the boy that helped him. They left Horlivka under shellings. Bohdan had speaking difficulties even before that. After his house was destroyed before his eyes, it became worse. So they went to see a logopaedist, Svitlana says.
«I was very worried when we came, we were told to leave the child for an hour or two, until he adapts. I was phoning the teacher asking about his behavior. From day one, he stayed there until lunch, I was coming later and taking him. Later he began to stay for the entire day. He adapted to the kindergarten rather quickly,» says Svitlana.
Now, resettlers stick together, they know for sure that it is easier to overcomre stress this way. And the main thing is to communicate, not to lock themselves in their grievances and problems. They also call upon locals to leave an active life aimed at changing life around, including doing this with joint efforts.
Dmytro Tuzov: When the approach is correct, very many problems are solved. An interesting situation, when the boy who called another boy «a separatist» became one of his best friends after talking to him.
Elina Vorozhbiyeva: Yes, there are many fears in the society. Where there is no dialog there are fears. These fears crumble when people begin just to talk. Stereotypes, tags: children are just reflecting adults.
There are three more points: rituals and family traditions which existed before moving are very important. For instance, they went to movies on Saturdays or gathered together by the TV set on Sundays. Routine is the best way to retain psychological health.
It is also important for a child to always keep contact with parents. When they go away, telephone contact. A child should know where and what family members are doing.
I would also add that a child often loses control, their entire picture of the world collapses. They should be able to find their fulcrums with their parents.
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This material has been produced with the generous support of the International Medical Corps and JSI Research & Training Institute, INC. through a grant by United States Agency for International Development. The views and opinions expressed herein shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the views or opinions of all the mentioned organizations.