In Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a young father is struggling to come to terms with a childhood marred by domestic violence – and the effect it has had on his relationships with his own children.
Terrified that he would repeat the mistakes of his alcoholic father, Nurija shied away from assuming his role as a parent to his six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.
He was cautious around the children – scared to raise his voice or talk sternly. He reigned in his emotions around them in case they saw him break down.
“I was very nervous. I felt pressured,” Nurija tells us.
“I didn’t feel confident about myself. I make quick decisions that are not good, so I left my wife to deal with the children.”
Things have improved for the family since they began receiving SOS family strengthening support in 2017. Nurija has struggled to find permanent employment, so the SOS team is helping the family to grow their income and find stable living arrangements. They are also supporting the children at school, providing learning supplies and speech therapy for six-year-old Alen, so he can communicate better in class. But for Nurija, the most helpful thing of all was simply having someone to talk to.
He tells us that his SOS family advisor Meliha has become like an older sister to him, and he seeks her advice whenever he has problems.
“I come for a conversation and a burden leaves my body,” he says. “I can share the good and the bad with Meliha.”
“I take the advice I get very seriously. It really has an effect on me and my family.”
Nurija still finds it difficult to open up about his childhood in counselling sessions.
“I understand that it’s necessary, but I can’t go back to those stories. I feel worse after talking about them,” he explains.
But his SOS counsellor tells us this is a natural part of the healing process.
“This trauma is something Nurija has not yet dealt with. It’s normal to feel the consequences and to not know how to deal with them. We will continue working on it.”
Despite still having a long way to go before he can come to terms with his past, Nurija can already see the massive impact his counselling sessions are having on his family relationships.
“When it comes to my family, a lot has changed since joining the family strengthening programme,” he tells us.
“Everything we try, we achieve. When there are problems, we resolve them. Now I am so involved the kids get bored of me,” he jokes.
Nurija becomes more serious when the conversation turns to his childhood.
“The pain inside is still there,” he admits. “I cannot make the impossible happen, but I try to be a good father.”
“What happened in my family when I grew up was not my fault. But this family I can change.”
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