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Imagine for a moment what it would feel like going to bed with a sense of security, home and belonging – only to be awakened by absolute chaos and the realisation that you and your family’s lives are at risk. 

Imagine having to flee all that you know, face unimaginable danger as you flee to safety only to have to face a different type of hostility and danger. Imagine thinking your family is finally safe only to have to learn to protect them from corrupt officials taking advantage of your vulnerability and inflicting violence of a different kind. Imagine having to endure this whilst learning a new language, navigating a foriegn system while simultaneously mourning the loss of loved ones, your home and your country. To think that this is a reality lived in isolation by far too many melanated mothers. 

In 2001 the United Nations officially declared June 21st International World Refugee Day as a way of honouring and celebrating and amplifying the lived realities of refugees all over the world. While refugees may only be a bullet point in many a politicians policy agendas it is a human rights crisis that is rapidly impacting culture and society as more and more kids are raised in a state of trauma by traumatised parents who are struggling to reconcile the reality of their displacement, transition into a completely new country, culture and language.

Global reports show that international migrants make up 3.5% of the world’s population. 88.9% of international migrants have been displaced and reside within Sub-Saharan Africa. Several studies investigating the migrants’ experiences in their host countries have identified housing, employment, legal status, and language barriers as some of the main challenges refugee parents face in raising children in the host country – however, no one talks about the psychological impact on both refugee parents and their children.

According to Bahja Ali Mohamud’s 2020 dissertation, the economic and political instability faced by many African countries has directly influenced the rate at which migrants from other Sub-Saharan African countries have flooded into South Africa. The decades-long civil wars in countries like Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have exponentially increased the intra-regional migration rate, making South Africa, home to approximately four million international migrants, 47.5% of whom reside in Gauteng. 

There is no denying the fact that we are all dealing with our own traumas and doing our best to raise children that don’t need to heal from their childhood as our CEO Olwethu Leshabane often challenges. I’d suggest that this also includes how we treat and interact with migrant parents and their children. In observance of World Refugee Day, AoS’ #Parenting blog will share tips on how we can actively help our children become more inclusive. 

While it’s normal for children and teens to form cliques with like-minded peers; often, these groups exclude children who are neurodivergent, gender non-conforming, have physical disabilities and are of foreign descent. Sadly this trend of exclusion continues well into adulthood. According to Dr. Silvia Pereira-Smith – assistant professor in developmental-behavioural paediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina; forming cliques is an important developmental milestone. However,  doing so in homogeneous social circles can stunt their development. 

“We have to teach our children what’s acceptable and help them grow beyond their natural inclination” says Dr. Pereira-Smith. If we continue to allow them to sit in their homogenous cliques,  we are doing them a huge disservice and inhibiting their emotional, social, and psychological development. 

Here are 3 Tips on How to Encourage Your Child to be More Inclusivity & Accepting

Books: Books are a great way to teach children how to be inclusive and practice different scenarios in which they can practice and apply inclusive behaviour. Child psychologist and diversity, immigration, social-emotional health, and trauma expert, Dr Jessica Gomez, says that it is important that caregivers and parents ask local Liberians and booksellers for recommendations that highlight the experience of children who are part of a minority demographic.

Extracurricular Activities: Child development experts say that enrolling your child in extracurricular activities such as sports, dance, science camps, and other after-school programs that intentionally cater to diverse groups of kids is far more nourishing and rewarding for your child’s development. 

Expanding Your Child’s Social Circle: Enquire about the children who are struggling socially in your child’s class from their teacher and brainstorm ways in which they can be incorporated into existing social structures such as playdates and children’s parties. However, helping children create a diverse social circle starts at home. What does your social circle look like? How often do you go out of your way to include people from minority groups in your social circle? Remember, children learn more from what they observe than what you say, so live what you teach.