Kids: About Sierra Leone and How to introduce emotional Language at Home

It’s official, I landed in Sierra Leone to start another project: The research to create an Emotion Kit for parents with the help of children (from 4 corners of the world). The idea is to go around the childrens world (geograficly and emotionaly) in order to ask them and compile what they feel about adults’ concerns and what they would recommend them as solutions to regulate emotions. Adding to their tips, i will also compile my tips on what we can do to make the emotional language progressively introduced into the education of future generations. If we worry about teaching children to brush their teeth, not talking to strangers or saying “thank you” why we shouldnt teach them early on how to deal with frustration, make socially responsible choices, ask for help when they are afraid, to apologize when they hurt someone?

For this reason i have choosen countries, like Sierra Leone, Japan, sueden, Portugal, Russia, São Tomé and Principe…and this is this what i found in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is a very resilient country it has had to reinvent itself over several decades. First with the civil war (between 1991 and 2002), which resulted in the deaths of over 50,000 people and many thousands of refugees in a country with 7 million people. And then, between 2013 and 2015, with the Ebola.

In 1462, Pedro da Sintra, a Portuguese navigator, arrived in the country and gave it the name of Sierra Leone. Some rumors say that the name “Sierra Leone” is due to the fact that this territory, when sighted from the sea have many saws and, moreover, the thundering in the rainy season resembles the roaring of a lioness. Here are known about 16 ethnic groups, each one speaks its dialect. And although the official language is English (the language in which the entire school curriculum is also taught), Krio is what is most heard on the streets of the center and south of the country. Krio´s base is the English, but it gives me great pleasure to hear the expressions “Pikin” (small) or “No Sabi” (I do not know) because it brings me closer to the home.

One of my priorities when landing is to ensure that I have the conditions to start the project: a translator and children from 5 to 10 years old. At the moment I already have children of gangsters in Freetown (in the capital), surfers (in Bureh Beach, and children from the golden mine areas (in Kabala – one of the most remote areas of the country). So im really to proceed.

Here, regardless of the region, age, or marital status, the first question asked is “How Di Bodi?” (How is the body ? in Krio) as a way of greeting who arrives. I loved this question, not only because in fact, if we do not feel good physically, everything else is affected or the other way around, but also by the answers that it originates: “under my clothes” , “bodi fine”,  “Bodi sick … bodi fine..this is Africa” ​​(sick body … good body … this is Africa).

The Interviews always follow the same script and the first question I ask is if the child knows what emotions are. It was with this question that Maray, 10 years old (resident in Kabala) surprised me. Maray began by responding that she knew “more or less” what emotions were. But after the game I do initially, he quickly told me that she had understood. She said it must be what she is feeling in her chest right now. She told me that she was struggling to let her worries pass, because she was preparing for the adult ritual of initiation.

It’s about two weeks with various dances, practices and many other women, that end up with a meeting with a traditional circumciser, a more experienced woman, who will do one-by-one female genital mutilation – FGM. FGM is the removal of part or all of the female external sexual organs – the vaginal lips, the clitoris. It is usually made with a cutting blade, with or without anesthesia. Records of deaths from this practice remain very high, of course. In the EU, records show that 500,000 women are victims or are at risk of this practice. And we are no exception here, there are about 8,000 women in these conditions in Portugal. Eight thousand is also the daily number of girls at risk, which means, read well, at least 300,000 girls per year.

Even though i force my self to withdraw my Western glasses when I changed country, it was impossible not to think about the definition of the World Health Organization: “It is a violation of the human rights of girls and women, it is an extreme violence of discrimination and violence based on sexual gender “.

So I asked her if she was aware about the consequences of this practice, infertility, the impossibility of having any sexual pleasure for the rest of her life and even the life risk. I asked her if she wasnt afraid. And it was at this moment that she replied “Bodi fine. This is my culture … this is Africa … stay quiet because this will pass “(Body is good, this is my culture … this is Africa) Simultaneously she explained to me that this ritual will fulfill the myths in which this practice is based, like the increase of the fertility or the fidelity of the woman.

Concerned that we are still witnessing these realities today, Maray also reinforced me the urgency of fulfilling our responsibility to future generations: to teach them how to identify risky situations, to take responsable decisions (personally and socially),   to provide them the tools to get help and regulate their emotions in order to encrease their well-being. And this, for me, focuses on emotional education.

I recalled from this conversation that emotions are mutable (the same I can not say about FGM, which will leave marks and consequences at various levels for the rest of a woman’s life.)

I checked it in both places, Portugal and Sierra Leone, adults mistakenly assume that children are less able to understand the complexity of the world, even if they have to adapt, react, and develop ideas as quickly as their brain develops and all based on their daily emotional experience.

I have also seen that both Maray’s parents and Portuguese parents rarely spend time introducing emotional education into their family dynamics. What most caregivers do not know is that introducing emotions into children’s education brings another dimension to parenting. The caregiver ceases to be the “super hero” and becomes a Human Being, someone who makes mistakes and recognizes them (apologizing for example, insted of ignoring) someone who values ​​Being and not Doing, that Helps their children to be rational and emotional beings with opinion, able to say “I can not accept this”, “I must fight for that”, “I choose this and not that” and because we are not born taught or came with instruction manual, here are some tips that can help introduce the emotions in education at home:

1. “Give a name”: The greatest frustration of children is to feel that the adult does not understand them, “they should always do everything, without their opinion being taken” for this reason, it is beneficial to transmit the sensation to the child of That we understand their frustrations, their reactions, their sensations. And one way to do it, without much room for error, is to verbalize what is going on, simply repeat what the child is doing, adding a logical reason for what to do. For example, he barks because he does not want to put on his coat: “I know you do not like to put on your coat, but it’s cold and you can get sick”, “I guess it’s frustrating when you do not want to do something that you’re asked for, but it’s important because …. “Another example: the tantrum because it does not want to dinner” I know you do not like to be forced to eat this, but you have to eat to grow … ”

2. Recognize instead of ignoring. Often in the office I have patients in the most fragile phases of their lives, worried that their children will see them crying, tending to hide what is happening. Children are very sensitive and it is important to reinforce this expression, so in this case, it is advisable for the adult to explain what goes on “that is sad…

Please check Visão Magazine Blog for oficial version

If you want to support this Project and the next coutry – Japan in July 2017 – ask how through the email maria.palha@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sierra Leone Here i Go

Accepting the challenge of 2017, I will begin the reaserch for my new book.

I travel to Sierra Leone to interview children of former child soldiers, children of Ebola victims and even children surfers at Bureh Beach. Yes, there are surfers in sierra leone.

If there is someone who can teach us strategies for resilience, it is these children. We will have more news soon.

If you want to support this project, which will result in a documentary “Kids” or the construction of the book that includes a “SOS Kit of emotions for parents, with support of children” just send an email maria.palha@gmail.com