Talk to the family beforehand, give them space and time… Advice on how to prepare well to welcome refugees

Faced with the unthinkable, people mobilize. After climate disasters like Storm Alex, the population naturally tries to help the victims. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, everyone has tried to help, who offers food or hygiene items, who donates. Others offered shelter to those who had no choice but to flee and leave everything behind. When the process is anything but commendable, it’s important to prepare for it so things go as well as possible.

Benjamin Darragon, hypnotherapist and psychotherapist from Nice, knows this very well. As of last Sunday (March 20), he welcomed a family, a couple and their 13-year-old son, into his home. It finds: “There is little information and resources available to ‘hosts’ to know how to behave and manage relationships with hosts and their own family. However, it seems to me that this topic is fundamental for things to go as well as possible. Because the reality is more complex than just putting someone in your home. »

This emotion management specialist is clear: “The most important thing is to prepare beforehand. This includes talking to the family – i.e. the children – about correctly assessing the commitment, weighing up the pros and cons.” At its core, it is also about welcoming these people in good material conditions, enabling them to shut themselves off in a room in order to preserve a little privacy. Depending on requirements, a fixed-term commitment is also possible.

The hypnotherapist continues: “It is necessary to question the meaning of his approach: why are we doing this? Spontaneously everyone answers: “to help”. Yes, but what is behind it? Try to imagine what we’re expecting: do we think we’re going to find out.” a Ukrainian family that we share our meals while we chat? different.” The point here is not to discourage good intentions, just to anticipate.

Give them space and time

When the decision is made and the foreign guests arrive, you need to be welcoming without being too enveloping. “Let’s put ourselves in their shoes: how would we feel if we had to leave everything overnight to go to a country we don’t know, whose language we don’t speak and whose people we don’t know? have you ever seen These Ukrainians have just had a long and tiring journey, physically and emotionally. First of all, they must be allowed to rest and isolate themselves a little. Of course we can start a conversation, but you have to give them time, maybe they don’t. I don’t want to talk right now.” Benjamin Darragon has traveled extensively in this part of Europe in particular and therefore relies on his experience: “Culturally they are more reserved than us with our Latin American side, they can come across as cold and unexpressive, that’s modesty.”

Our lifestyles can be different

Another difference to consider is lifestyle. “We don’t necessarily have the same habits, whether it’s about schedules, food, etc. It seems like a detail, but it’s not that much. it’s difficult being around people you don’t know: even if we tell you that you need to make yourself at home, you feel like you’re in the way. Again, we don’t always eat the same thing, we have to share our fridge. We adapt to each other. It’s also an excuse to open the discussion, if possible, by explaining what our habits are.”

Communication is sometimes difficult

Finally, and this is fundamental, it is imperative to take into account that the communication may not be fluent due to the language barrier. Benjamin’s example is typical: “My hosts speak very little English and no French at all. As I have some knowledge of Russian, I asked them if I could use it with them. They agreed, but exchanges remain somewhat limited.” After a few days everyone will leave their mark, in the meantime we will find solutions such as putting post-its on everyday objects with the word in French and Ukrainian.

And if we understand each other, all the better. However, one should not be too pushy. “They are going through a dramatic ordeal. They don’t necessarily want to or can’t tell what they went through. It is better to be available for exchanges without questioning them. Likewise, we may propose activities from time to time without insisting. These families need to come together, think about what they’re going to do to find their rhythm. They’re not on vacation, it’s not a parenthesis in their lives, it’s an intense upheaval.

On the other hand, refugees have a great need to communicate with their relatives at home and to keep up to date with what is happening at home. You must therefore have access to WiFi and possibly a computer, especially for the procedures. This is also expected.

If we have to think about it before taking in refugees, it makes it all the more important for them. Because after fleeing their country in war, they’re probably longing for a little rest, especially since they’re just on the waiting list for probably something else that they’re having trouble erasing the outlines of themselves. If they had to move again because the atmosphere at the host family was tense, it would be a new blow. However, if living together has unfortunately been difficult, it would be advisable to talk about it with a shrink who would be able to give some keys, reassure and bring some solutions to restore a better understanding for the good of all.

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