Forty-four days were enough. Distress and worry abated. Comfort and relief dominated. For years, Sahar*, a Lebanese mother from Tripoli, could not find the right answer to her daughter’s over-attachment to her, and her persistent anxiety and fear of any change.
‘’Mona* had been over-attached to me,’’ recalled Sahar, as she watched her daughter build a LEGO house at Rene Moawad Foundation’s child-friendly space in Tripoli, where the organisation implements psychosocial support activities in partnership with Save the Children. ‘’She would always cling to me whenever I wanted to go somewhere. When we visited relatives at their house, for example, she would refuse to go in. She was consistently anxious of new surroundings.’’
Doctors could not provide a lasting remedy to what was diagnosed as separation anxiety disorder, a condition in which a child becomes nervous when away from home or parents. Teachers at kindergartens could not help provide either. Mona*, who has now reached the age of 6, could not stay away from her mother, not even in a classroom. Moreover, Mona’s condition was complicated further due to her home environment, where she had little space to play freely, particularly as her ill grandmother shared the house with them.
Sahar was offered an advice to send her daughter to the foundation’s centre, where children take part in recreational activities that help them overcome their difficulties and spend time in a child-friendly environment. It was a suggestion that sounded implausible. However, on second thoughts, the mother decided to heed the advice. Along with her two siblings, Mona joined around 180 children of all categories and backgrounds to participate in educational activities that engaged them in child-friendly exercises and games. Maya Al Ghoul, Save the Children’s Child Protection Senior Programme Manager said ‘’The psychosocial support activities are part of a UNICEF-funded project to enhance the community’s capacity to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children affected by different types of traumas in urban and rural settings in North Lebanon. Children and adolescents of all ages and backgrounds are supported to overcome psychological problems suffered in years of turmoil here [in Tripoli] and in Syria.’’
Khouloud El-Ali, Director of Rene Moawad Foundation’s Tripoli centre said: ‘’Our activities focus on important topics such as social cohesion and respect of law. Protection from harm is another fundamental issue we tackle with all ages. This has helped create a change in children’s behaviour and communication amongst one another.’’
Mona has become one of the most active kids in her group. Her favourite exercise is the framing of a photo of her mother using colourful cardboards, which she proudly showcases as soon as she returns home; what is more, she asks to stay at the centre for longer hours until she finishes all her games. The substantial improvement in Mona’s condition delighted her parents. Only one and a half months ago, those changes sounded like a distant wish.
‘’Mona has felt more secure,’’ enthused Sahar. ‘’Her confidence has taken a huge boost. It is a huge relief for me to see my daughter develops naturally. I am happy that this centre has provided things that we [the parents] could not. They now want me to have the same activities at home!’’
*Names changed for protection purposes