Sarah Williams is a child psychologist at Refugees As Survivors (RASNZ). She is currently working with the Syrian children and families arriving in New Zealand who seek the support of RASNZ during their 6-week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
World Vision spoke to Sarah about how to speak to Kiwi children about the crisis in Syria and about refugees, and about the new Kiwis arriving here from the Middle East.
1. Speak honestly, but use language they understand
Firstly, ask your child what they know about the situation. Listen to how they are making sense of what they know or what they have seen in the media.
Any discussion with children needs to be adjusted for age and level of understanding but it also needs to be honest. Children trust their parents to help them understand what happens in the world around them.
With younger children use situations they might understand – leaving one’s home, leaving possessions behind, fleeing without saying goodbye, feeling scared, trying to find a safe place. Talk to them about people in Syria needing to quickly leave their home and travel to another country to be safe due to the war.
With older children we can talk about what it means to be a refugee, the complexity of the Syrian situation, persecution, and the difficult journey to seek refuge in another country.