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Background information
We want to give you as parents and helpers the opportunity to inform yourself about the most common symptoms and, if necessary, to fill out a screening questionnaire with your child.
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7 - 17 years
3 - 6 years
7 - 17 years
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Dear Parents and Caregivers,

We have written the story “We are strong” for you and your child, and you may be wondering: Why?

Which is precisely what we intend to explain in the following:
The story’s objective is to articulate your feelings and experiences as well as those of your child. It is particularly important for us to convey to you – and especially to your child – that you are not alone in the experiences you encountered during your escape and the feelings associated with them which have undoubtedly been difficult. Your feelings and memories should not be silenced. The incomprehensible should be transformed into the tangible.
Parents often greatly suffer from their own refugee experiences and sometimes feel overwhelmed by them; many are even incapable of processing them. In addition, many parents notice that their children are likewise affected. They are worried about them, and some parents may even blame themselves. It is important to remember that by virtue of your escape you have already established a safe environment for your family and have created opportunities for a better future.


The story of Mykola and his sister is intended to help you discover your own way and facilitate this safe future despite the accompanying stressful memories and feelings. The story’s objective is to incite new strategies and can be regarded as a source of encouragement. Above all, it should properly impart that you are not alone in your experiences!
Perhaps you have occasionally drawn parallels of your experiences with those in the story of Mykola and his family. You may also have had to flee from a war in your country, and have perhaps also survived a long and arduous journey. Maybe you – like Mykola and his family – are trying to settle down in a new country and simply live a quiet, peaceful, ordinary life there.


As in Mykola’s case, war and escape often result in painful memories which can trigger recurring worries, fears, and inner pain even long after surviving these bad experiences, although you and your children are already safe. Every child and adult reacts differently to frightening experiences. You may recognise some of your children’s behaviours in Mykola. Or your child might even behave completely different from Mykola. Either way, you can help your children overcome their traumatic experiences and feelings.


If your children so wish, it is important to give them the opportunity to discuss these experiences and fears and communicate their feelings. Observe your children! Haver their behaviour changed? Have your children become increasingly anxious? Or do you notice that they are often angry and aggressive? Or maybe they are now more clingy and are loath to be separated from you? Are they reluctant or simply incapable of discussing their experiences? Do they seem absent-minded when encountering situations reminiscent of the escape and are temporarily unresponsive? All of these examples can be reactions to the stress your children may have experienced as a result of the escape. All these reactions are normal for children who have experienced stress.


In his story, Mykola explained helpful methods for combating the stress of escape for him and his sister. There are also other strategies and “tools” that can help children deal with their feelings after traumatic experiences. We have included some of these strategies and ideas to facilitate helpful behaviour. Give them a try! Perhaps one or more of the following strategies will also turn out to be beneficial for you and your children. Your attentiveness to their feelings and sympathetic ear will considerably help your children cope with the traumatic memories and feelings.

Heart-to-heart talks and reassurance

  • Maintain open communication! Talk to your children and constantly explain the reasons for your difficult escape without delving into detail. Your children will understand if you tell them that a war is going on in your country and that it would be far too dangerous for you and your whole family to stay there.

  • It is helpful to repeatedly point out to your children that they are now safe and that there is no war going on in the new country.

  • In addition, tell your children that you are always there for them and that they can always approach you or other caregivers. Give your children the opportunity to ask questions and to express their fears.



  • A daily evening ritual can prevent your children from becoming fixated on worries and stressful memories before going to bed. Sit with your children and let them describe their day. You may also read a story or sing a familiar song. Giving your children undivided attention every evening will make them feel even more loved and safe.

  • If your children wake up at night from nightmares, give them a hug and reassure them that they are safe and that nothing bad will happen to them. Tell them that it was just a bad dream which is now over. Promise your children that you will be watching them throughout the night.

  • Ensure that the children are not confronted with any distressing pictures or conversations that could trigger their fear and anxiety before going to bed. Otherwise these images may accompany the children throughout the nigh


Distractions and enjoyable activities

  • Our strengths and interest help us deal with difficult situations and feelings. Champion these characteristics in your children! What do they like to do? Paint? Sing? Play football? Dance? Ride a bicycle? Visit friends? Do your children have a favourite game? Some children find it difficult to express themselves verbally. Perhaps your children prefer to paint or partake in a physical activity. Playful moments can also help your children adapt to their experiences and learn to ultimately accept them.

  • Playtime can also distract your children from succumbing to anxiety attacks and negative memories and allow them to forget them for a while. This can also help children to return to their previously more carefree way of life.

  • Do not shy away from activities or playing games that remind your children of their homeland. Maintaining ties with one’s roots can also have a healing effect on the soul.



  • If your children are beset with feelings such as fear or pain, show them how to “get rid of them”, e.g. you can instruct them to “take my hand and squeeze it until it doesn’t hurt any more”, “paint your feelings and show me the picture”, or even “hit a pillow really hard!” Hug your children frequently; physical contact is very calming and reassuring for a sad or anxious child.

  • All of your child’s feelings – as well as your feelings – are acceptable. Describe what you are feeling to your children. Briefly explain what is going on with you and assure your children that your emotional state has nothing to do with them, e.g. “I am sad that Daddy isn’t here but I am glad that we are safe.”

  • Your children may repeatedly show fear, anger, resentment, defiance, or sadness, all of which are normal in children. If such feelings become very strong and frequently manifest themselves, this may be an indicator of your child’s level of stress. It is important for you to acknowledge your child’s feelings and take them seriously. Show your children that you are aware of their feelings and that they are justified. Try to help your children endure difficult and strong feelings.

    If the proposed strategies and ideas do not help or if you feel uncertain of your child’s well-being, you can always seek professional support. We have included a few contacts and addresses that you can refer to if any questions arise. Psychosocial support services are often provided in various languages and are usually free of charge.

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