In its programmes War Child chooses a positive approach to children putting the children’s strengths and not their weaknesses at the centre. Young people have the ability and skills to shape their lives themselves, to cope with adversity, even when they have experienced armed conflicts or life-threatening incidents. Some children are better able to function normally than others. However, many children develop symptoms like nightmares, depressions, outbursts of anger or powerlessness, difficulty concentrating or lack of confidence, which is a normal reaction to stressful situations.
When children grow up in a secure, stable environment where their rights are not violated, the chances that they grow into well-balanced adults are greater. However, the environment of young people in conflict areas offers insufficient protection. Due to the consequences of violence more threatening factors are present for children than protective ones. War Child aims to reinforce the protective factors. When these factors are strengthened children will be better equipped to cope with difficult situations. They become more resilient, so that they can cope with stressful situations better. This is of vital importance for the sound psychosocial development of children.
Psychology distinguishes a large number of protective factors. War Child has chosen five factors to focus on in its programmes. These are:
- Positive ‘coping skills’;*
- Adult support;
- Peer group interaction;
- Perspective and a sense of normalcy;
- Security and peace.
* ‘Coping skills’ are the skills people employ to cope with various situations or events. These may be both positive skills (like sharing your thoughts and feelings with others, practising sports or making music) and negative skills (like structurally aggressive behaviour or drug abuse).
War Child measures the effects of its programmes on the basis of the protective factors. In the selection of areas for the start of new programmes and in evaluating programmes, the protective factors are also used as indicators for psychosocial wellbeing.