- Date and Time: Friday, 25.05.2021
- Place: Nicosia, Cyprus
- Participants: 5 participants are involved
The focus group was conducted between five participants active in the field of 1) adult education, 2) migrant integration and empowerment, 3) consulting services for families, parents and children. The participants demonstrate meaningful experience relevant to the topics of the project.
The focus group started by familiarizing participants with the project, its main objectives, activities and expected results. Following that all participants introduced others with themselves and their experience in working with migrants, migrant families, as well as refugees and asylum seekers. Participants shared their motivation to participate and their expectations, such as sharing expertise with other professionals, gaining new perspectives on the situation with migrants and migrant families in Cyprus, as well as discuss the topic of left behind children, as it is not well coverd topic in Cyprus.
Following that, the focus group continued with the discussion based on the suggested questions.
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A PARENTAL EDUCATOR/TO WORK WITH MIGRANTS?
The participants shared their experience working with migrants/ migrant parents/ families. Most of the respondents agreed that working with migrants help to be aware and understand the topic of migration in more depth. It is also an opportunity to understand other cultures and find out, directly from the people, what are the difficulties and challenges migrants face. Some of them even mentioned that it is also a great way to see the real situation and the one represented in the media.
- WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MIGRANT PARENTS (IMMIGRANTS, EMIGRANTS OR TRANSMIGRANTS*)?
Some of the participants organise individual sessions for migrant parents, some of them work voluntary at the migrant camps. Some of the participants shared initiatives and projects they have implemented for migrants, as well as adult educators.
In working with parents and whenever is needed the cognitive therapy approach, participants follow a person centred approach. In this way, the relationship is professional and at the same time human-centred and the educator is more of a facilitator assisting the parents/migrants in discovering their strengths, values, wishes, organise their thoughts, actions and set goals.
All participants highlighted that the relationship with migrants in general, not only parents, take time and effort to build their trust, create a safe space, especially, if any sensitive topics should be addressed.
- WHAT ARE THE MAIN TOPICS THAT PARENTS FEEL THE NEED TO TALK ABOUT? WHAT ARE THE MAIN TOPICS OF CONCERN?
The participants mentioned the following topics:
• Setting rules and boundaries for their children,
• School relationships and pedagogical issues,
• Children’s behavioural issues (anger, aggressiveness),
• Learning difficulties
• Best ways to communicate and support their children,
• Emotional support
These topics are important for both separated families, as well as parents living together with their children. However, all participants agreed that these topics are even more difficult to deal with when the families are separated. The parents get frustrated, sad and disappointed as they feel helpless as that they can’t provide what their children need.
- WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE PARENTAL EDUCATOR IN SUPPORTING/FACILITATING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MIGRANT PARENTS AND THE LEFT BEHIND CHILDREN?
Participants engaged in a fruitful discussion while answering this question. All participants agreed that in Cyprus the issue of migrant parents and left behind children is not addressed properly, especially because there is a great number of migrant parents, particularly among domestic workers from Philippines, who have left their children back home while working in Cyprus.
Participants shared many aspects on their current or potential role on this topic. The following aspects were shared:
• Educators in this case are especially important particularly to help the parent overcome his/her guilt for not being with their child as it is the first step to support them in developing a healthy relationship even from a distance.
• Educators also take the role of working on the stereotypes of what a family is and how it should function.
• Encourage parents to keep in touch with their school and teachers via email and online meeting platforms. Engage them in helping their children with homework.
• Educator’s role is also crucial to remind the parent that being away does not mean they are absent. Especially with technology they can maintain a close relationship.
• Suggest them tips for distance parenting such as a family group on social media or any other platform where they can meet and share things from their lives.
- WHICH ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHANGES THAT OCCUR AFTER PARENTS WORK WITH PARENTAL EDUCATORS? WHICH ARE THE CHALLENGES THE PARENTAL EDUCATORS FACE IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH MIGRANT PARENTS?</strong
All participants once more highlighted the challenge related to the trust between migrants/ migrant parents and the parental/ adult educator or social worker. It takes time and effort to create the safe space for individuals to share their issues. Someone also mentioned that usually migrants are more worried about other emerging issues, such as job search, financial issues and most of the times they might not find it important to attend sessions with a parental/ adult educator.
Participants share few positive cases and the observed improvements, such as:
• They start to adapt with the given situations and gradually become more competent and confident,
• Gradually the remote relationship between parents and children improves,
• Parents’ mental well-being and stress management improve as they adapt to the new situation, they gain skills to cope with the stereotypes, depression, anxiety and the feeling of guilt.
- ARE THERE FOLLOW-UP SESSIONS OF EDUCATORS WITH PARENTS, TO CHECK WHAT NEW METHODS OF RELATIONSHIP DISCOVERED IN THE PROGRAM HAVE KEPT IN THE LONG RUN?
All participants acknowledge the importance of follow up sessions, however when working with parents with migrant or refugee background, sometimes it is difficult to maintain a long-term connection mainly due to other issues these parents prioritize in specific situations.
- IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT TYPE OF ACTIVITIES SHOULD MIGRANT PARENTS AND LEFT BEHIND CHILDREN ENGAGE IN DURING SEPARATION?
Also, this question created a space for a fruitful discussion and exchange of ideas among participants. They shared the following activities:
• A family group on social media or any other platform where they can meet, organise video calls while having meals or in any other occasion, share things from their lives.
• Play games online together (could be something educational or just for fun)
• Have a phone/ video sessions for the children to help with their homework or extracurricular activities,
• Positive empowerment, for example, daily, the parent and the child can share a photo/story that brighten their day.
• It would be suggested for parents to keep in touch with the schools to keep the track on the children their performance, activities, behaviours etc.
- HOW CAN TECHNOLOGY BE USED AT THE BENEFIT OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MIGRANT PARENT AND THE LEFT BEHIND CHILD? DO YOU HAVE SUGGESTIONS?
If we look at the responses to the previous question, then it is obvious that technology, mobile and digital tools have a crucial role in the remote relationship between parents and children, also other members of the family.
Participants once more confirmed the importance of family groups on social media, mobile app, such as Whatsapp, Messenger, Viber. These also would enable the communication between parents and school educators. Educational online games can be used as another way to interact with children online.
Other participants suggested online forums as an option to interact with other parents who are in similar situations.
- WHAT KIND OF TRAINING DO YOU THINK WOULD HELP PARENTAL EDUCATORS TO PERFORM BETTER IN THEIR ACTIVITIES?
Perhaps the most essential part includes training on child development and its stages; also to familiarize with diverse parenting techniques; becoming knowledgeable in how to use community resources to support parents and children in need; take up courses or training on counselling; establish foremost a standard of intercultural competence and awareness to interact with the target group; and build the kind of capacity required to create a level of rapport and confidentiality with parents.
- WHICH AUTHORITIES ARE ACTIVE IN REGULATING AND SUPPORTING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MIGRANT PARENTS AND LEFT BEHIND CHILDREN? ARE THEY EFFICIENT? CAN THEIR ENGAGEMENT BE ENHANCED/IMPROVED?
There are no authorities officially tasked with regulating and supporting the relationship between migrant parents and their children. The participants have agreed that even the existing national migrant integration policies are still in progress of properly addressing the needs of migrants and refugees, as well as unaccompanied minors.
The Civil Registry and Migration Department is handling applications for family reunification and issuing of entry and residence permits, but there is no additional support dealing specifically with migrants in Cyprus and their families back home. There are some offices, like the welfare office, that oversee the situation and the welfare of children and families in general.
- WHICH NGOS/PRIVATE ENTITIES ARE ACTIVE IN SUPPORTING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MIGRANT PARENTS AND LEFT BEHIND CHILDREN? ARE THEIR INTERVENTIONS EFFICIENT? CAN THEIR ENGAGEMENT BE ENHANCED/IMPROVED?
Repeating what has been said previously, participants agreed that there are no organisations in Cyprus dealing particularly with the issue of migrant parents and left behind children. There are several NGOs dealing with migrant integration and empowerment and can offer some support for families and children. Some of the organisations mentioned are:
• Project Phoenix
• Kofinou We Care – Volunteers’ Support
• CODECA: Center of Social Cohesion, Development and Care
• Caritas Cyprus,
• THE CYPRUS REFUGEE COUNCIL
• miHUB: Migrant Integration HUB
• INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATION FOR MIGRATION
The main conclusion by all participants was that projects as “No Left Behind Children” are very important in the Cyprus context. We are lacking the awareness of the situation with parents who were forced to leave their countries and children to support them financially. Due to the lack of awareness, there are also no support availaible for parents trying to maintain the relationship with their children in their homelands. Even NGOs and adult educators do not have enough tools and skills to address this topic.
Participants were interested to receive more information about the further development of this project to share it with the relevant networks and contacts they have, and to use the materials developed in their work.