Parenting skills support for Syrian refugee families

Background to the research

Our work on parenting interventions globally is focusing on parenting through conflict and displacement due to the Syrian crisis. We have assessed the parenting challenges displaced families face and their specific parenting needs. We identified demand from caregivers for parenting support to manage their own stress and children’s trauma-related behavioural and emotional changes and maintain helpful parenting strategies. We have also looked at measures for child mental health in this context.

Teaching Recovery Techniques

We are working with the Norwegian-UK collaborative Children and War Foundation who developed the evidence-based Teaching Recovery Techniques (TRT) programme for children aged 8 and over. The TRT programme is implemented in humanitarian settings internationally to reduce child trauma-related distress and promote emotional wellbeing. With seed funding from Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC), we have enhanced TRT's five child sessions and parent sessions with additional parenting skills. The new parenting sessions complement TRT’s existing parenting sessions and address parenting needs identified in studies we conducted with families on the Syrian-Turkish border (e.g. communicating effectively and positive disciplinary approaches) and humanitarian organisation surveys and focus groups. Together, this forms a brief, 5 week combined programme for children and their caregivers, TRT Plus Parenting (TRT+).

Aims of our research

TRT has already demonstrated significantly improvements in mental health in children affected by conflict and displacement, and also in natural disasters. It has not yet been evaluated with Syrian refugees. Our latest work has tailored the parent and caregiver component to the Syrian context. A recent pilot study of TRT+ has tested the feasibility and acceptability of delivering the programme to families displaced by the Syrian conflict. and our qualitative data shows very positive results. We now want to test the potential of this programme to enhance mental health in families displaced by the Syrian conflict, comparing TRT+ with the original TRT to see if the adapted TRT+ is more beneficial to families.

Pilot Study in Turkey

We have conducted in-country training in TRT+ and intervention evaluation for staff of NGO WATAN on the ground in Turkey. The programme was successfully carried out over 5 weeks and all indications are positive. The data collected from the research has been used to guide the development of a full randomised controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of TRT+ in improving child and adult mental health and parenting in families displaced by the Syrian conflict.

TRT+ Parenting Randomised Controlled Trial in Lebanon

We have secured funding from ESRC, Children and War and UNODC and are currently conducting a Randomised Controlled Trial to explore whether enhancing a child mental health recovery programme for families displaced by the Syrian conflict with parenting sessions is more beneficial for families than the original non enhanced programme. The study is being conducted in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon with Syrian refugees that have fled their homes in Syria. We are working with a Lebanese NGO called Social Support Services. Dr Aala El-Khani will be providing training to 16 facilitators and two research assistants via Skype from Manchester to support this trial.

How will we use the information we gathered in this study?

If TRT+ interventions are demonstrated to be effective in the Syrian context, they have potential to help large numbers of families in urgent need. If effective, the 5-session parent programme also has the potential to be run as a stand-alone programme, paving the way for provision of information for parents of younger children who are not old enough to engage in TRT’s child sessions.

Publications

A paper ("Testing the feasibility and acceptability of delivering a child mental health recovery programme enhanced with parenting sessions for families displaced by the Syrian conflict") has been submitted for publication.