Behind each street-connected children there are stories that should be told and heard, unfortunately most of these stories are rather painful than sweet. Precisely, the outreach team from JUCONI have been thinking about the way these stories may affect children, also how children explain to themselves the challenging experiences they had to go through and the people children trust to share their stories. At JUCONI we have realised that the parents of street-connected children had painful stories as well, and those stories may explain the current situation of their children.
Understanding the parents of street-connected children
In order to learn more about the emotional needs of street-connected children, we decided to know more about the past experiences of their parents. However, we weren’t as confident as we wanted to be, mainly because, we needed to think about the right approach to listen to their parents’ stories. We decided then to listen to their parents very carefully, and also, we tried to walk in their shoes. By doing so, we were able to understand more about their past decisions and the motivations behind each of them.
The mothers attending this session told us about their childhood memories and the type of relationship they had with their own parents. We discovered that the parents of street-connected children faced adversity multiple times and had gone through challenging realities. These realities were very similar to the ones that their own children were experiencing or had experienced in the past. It was like the same stories were repeating over and over from one generation to another. The most memorable outcome from this exercise, was the moment when the mothers realised the negative impact that these past experiences were having on their own children. Also, that it was not too late for them to start working on a more loving and caring parent-child relationship.
Learning to listen
During the first sessions we had with the parents we didn’t understand the reasons why they couldn’t effectively meet their children’s emotional and physical needs. However, after listening to their past experiences we figured out that the parents of street-connected children had, as well, deep emotional needs that weren’t meet during their childhood. The main learning curve for us was, precisely, to discover that these emotional issues explained the inability of the parents to provide their children with a loving and caring family environment.
Often the mothers themselves are not aware about their own emotional trauma. They just survive these painful experiences thinking that they had to, just because it is their ‘destiny’, something designated by God. Mothers are not aware that some of these experiences are not their fault. For instance, they didn’t have role parents guiding them or providing them with a safe family environment. As a result they became mothers at a young age, and in some cases, they don’t understand that they got pregnant as a result of sexual abuse.
The outcome of this experience helped me to understand that in order to effectively support street-connected children, it is necessary to support their parents too. Moreover, it is require for parents that had experienced emotional and psychological trauma to learn how to love so that they can love their children back.