Violence robs children of their well-being

Children are resourceful when negotiating the demands of day to day life. They are equipped with numerous abilities and skills which range from intellectual and emotional intelligence, creativity, social relationships, resilience and other internal factors to find appropriate ways of meeting their needs. Children also have the ability to determine instances when they have to rely on others, particularly their families and other adults around them, for support in difficult situations. Conflict and violent situations present challenges so great that many children find their own resources overstretched. During such situations, additional care and support may be necessary to help them to cope with the situation and regain a sense of control of their life and the ability to function as before.

Children’s development and wellbeing is determined by the stability of their relationships and a predictable environment. Violence divides communities, destabilises families and creates an atmosphere of mistrust which in the process undermines the foundation of children’s lives. Violence has negative impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of children and the functioning of their families and communities. For children, violence present varied threats which include but not limited to their protection (physical and sexual exploitation, other forms of violence), emotional, mental and physical health, and overall development. Weighed down by the challenges and inability to perform their daily tasks, the child may start to feel helpless and hopeless. They may become disoriented, demoralised, depressed or perhaps angry. They may begin to question their capacities, skills, faith and hopes for the future. These emotions may drain them of the energy to thrive.

During conflict or violent situation, children may also experience multiple loses for example, death of parents, caregiver, siblings; loss of home and school. Children may be left with feelings of anxiety, sadness, fear, anger or guilt. Loss of structure, routine and predictability in the day-to-day lives of children can further undermine a child’s sense of stability and security.

Children rely on the structures in their families and communities for their emotional and social development. Children need to feel socially connected to a family and community to feel that they are part of a larger social world. Children desire to be active citizens whose values and aspirations are connected to their family and community. By actively participating in family and community activities, children can develop a sense of belonging, empowerment and self-worth. Active participation provides them with a platform to learn social and cultural values and develop life skills. Unfortunately, a chaotic environment precipitated by violence or conflict robs children of their right to be children and to enjoy their environment. It is also important to realise that emotional, psychological and social effects experienced by a generation in many ways affect the next generation.

Stakeholders need to come together and foster an environment which addressed the emotional and social wellbeing of affected children. This goal is accomplished by strengthening the environments that protect children, re-establishing routines based on learning and play activities, fostering a sense of normalcy and giving safe opportunities for children to participate in their communities.

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