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You are here: Home Research Resources Expert Guides Palestinian refugee children Coping Strategies of Youth

Coping Strategies of Youth

Coping strategies can be individual, collective and social, psychological and political. These are interrelated categories. Some of these coping strategies are shared by all youth in the region and some are country specific.

Family Support and Solidarity

Cherishing and depending on the support of the family is one coping strategy that is shared by all. This is a group who live amongst their extended families and relatives, since the forced migration which for most occurred 50 years ago. Supportive family relationships enable these families to buffer and protect each other from some of the effects of poverty, unemployment, illness and political instability. In Lebanon, the youth reported feeling protected by their families whom they can depend on.

I get all the help I need from my mother. I tell her everything that I face, bad or good. She stands by my side (Lebanon, 3rd generation, female).

If I face problems, I find those who support me, my older brother, my cousin and my uncle (Lebanon, 3rd generation, male).

Children, women and other members of the family provide sources of labour, service and income in times of distress

I was three years old when my father remarried. When I was young I used to have a peddler's cart which I used to sell ice cream. I made anywhere between one to one and a half dinars a day. My mother used to work in the fields so that she also could bring in some money to spend on the house…I struggled until I graduated and was the first on my class (Jordan, 3rd generation, male).

I take care of my grandmother and my mentally disabled father (Jordan, 3rd generation, female).

If I face a problem, I talk to my wife or stay alone in the mountains (West Bank, 2nd generation, male).

Early Marriage

NGO workers noted many cases of forced early marriage and instances where girls eloped to escape pressures faced at home. Some mothers think about marrying off their daughters early in order to reduce household expenses but fear to do so.

I didn't say yes or no. I agreed to anything. I used to think, maybe if I got married, I would experience a different kind of life than the one at home. Maybe I will be happy with my husband. But things turned out that everything is the same (Jordan, 3rd generation, female).

I accepted to marry him, although I did not know him, due to the difficult conditions we had in our house… I used to do all the housework, clean the floor, wash the clothes, dishes and everything… and even used to go and wake her (her brother's wife) up so that she could get up to eat (Jordan, 3rd generation, female).

The issue of early marriage was raised in Jordan in group interviews with girls.

I am 12 years old, …a suitor came for my sister, my mother is the one who forced her to marry, not my father…she was the first in school, but my mother insisted she get married. The first suitor who came she forced her to marry him. She said, if she does not marry him, she will not marry at all, she will not find someone better… My sister was fifteen when she married (Jordan, 3rd generation, female).

The other thing is early marriage. Many girls would like to finish school but their parents do not allow them to finish. Even parents who are educated. Maybe because they have many girls 8 or 10, or the girl passed through some 'honour' thing (gossip/reputation), so they want to get rid of her and force her to marry early so that she does not face the same problem. (Jordan, 3rd generation, female).

There is variation in the practice of early marriage in the region. It is influenced by education, socio-economic status and political conditions. In times of political instability such as the Intifada in Gaza and the West Bank, there was an increase in early marriage.

Sense of belonging through living in a camp

For many youth, the camp was their home even though they recognised their village of origin.

I feel I belong to Yarmouk camp, even if I am asked in the future to choose between staying here in Yarmouk camp or returning to Loubieh I would prefer to stay here. I went to primary and preparatory UNRWA schools here and met all my friends here (Syria, 3rd generation, female).

I like living in the camp because all my friends and neighbours live here. If one is sick here, everybody would visit him. If there is a dispute between two persons or families, the community intervenes to solve it (Lebanon, 3rd generation, male).

Avoidance when social relations are tense

Conditions of overcrowding create social conflicts among neighbours. In addition, it is easy to spread rumours and gossip as a form of social control, especially over girls and women. Thus severing relations with neighbours or avoiding socialising or moving too freely in the camp is a form of coping with overcrowding and social and cultural norms as well as problems.

I do not like to interfere (in the sense of having close relations) with the neighbours... (Jordan, 2nd generation, female).

Support of peers

I have five friends, we play together and we visit each other, if we fight we make up very quickly (West Bank, 3rd generation, male).

My friends are like my sisters, nothing better than friendship, I tell my friends every thing, I turn to them when I face a problem (West Bank, 2nd generation, female).

If I face a problem I cannot solve, I turn to my mother or my girlfriend. If I have a problem in school I tell my mother, she then goes to the school and solves it (Jordan, 3rd generation, male).

I began talking to my girlfriend, who has a similar problem and whose father is also going to get re-married, and sharing my problems with her. My girlfriend ran away from her home and went to her grandparent's house, she said she did not want her family anymore (Jordan, 3rd generation, female).

Religion as a coping strategy

I pray to God, I only complain to him (West Bank, 1st generation, male).

I advise my children to remember and fear God, to be honest and trust worthy (West Bank, 1st generation, male).

I go to the Islamic Centre for the Orphans, I go there every Wednesday and Sunday they teach us Quran and Hadith, from nine to eleven. Sometimes they take us on trips to Jerash and Aqaba (Jordan, 3rd generation, male).

Every father and mother have to tell their children about Palestine, it is an Islamic duty...(Jordan, 1st generation, male).

Whatever comes from God is welcome and acceptable (Lebanon, 3rd generation, female).

Palestinian Identity as a Coping Strategy

As a collective, popular memory was inscribed onto the places in exile - such as through narratives and life-histories - they passed belonging to Palestine on to younger generations, named their streets and areas after Palestinian villages and historical events, decorated their homes with maps and Palestinian embroidery and reproduced their identities as different from the 'others.'

Inshallah, all people in the camp dream of returning to Palestine…relatives who went there filmed a video…There, the vegetables, the fruits...are different from the camp (Jordan, 1st generation, male).

I used to draw maps on the ground to show them where their original village and the surrounding villages are. We were willing to die for Palestine…especially during the Intifada (Jordan, 3rd generation, male).

We hear that we might be allowed to return soon. I do not want to remain a refugee…I will go to Palestine (Lebanon, 3rd generation, female).

It is best to wait here until we go back to our country and live in dignity (Lebanon, 3rd generation, male).

Political Activism

In Jordan, almost all refugees interviewed preferred not to be quoted regarding their political activities or ideological leanings. Refugees cope collectively by maintaining a sense of dignity. They emphasise that they do 'not sell their land' and they have 'authentic origins', roots and a Right of Return. The appropriation of Islamic values to revive belonging and the 'dream of return' to Palestine' is noticeable. The scenes from the West Bank and Gaza today show that children and adolescents do not only have biological or physical needs, but are also political and social actors who are capable of fighting and resisting oppression and transforming society in radical ways. In Jordan, there were demonstrations in refugee camps, including Hitteen and children participated in great numbers in support of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and calling for their Right of Return.

In the West Bank and Gaza, people talked more openly about political activism.

We are interested in political organisations, all our family members are affiliated to the Fatah Movement (West Bank, 2nd generation, male).

My brothers affiliated to the Resurrection Party. They used to meet up in my house. I used to carry weapon from the valley to the caves. I helped some one to run away dressing in women cloth, this was in 1956. ..My brother joined the PLO (West Bank, 1st generation, female).


Education was seen through out as an important mechanism for survival and a way to resist.

Our enemy is highly educated and we should be using his weapon while fighting him… (Syria, 2nd generation, male).

My priorities in life are the school, my family, reading, work, friends and the neighbourhood (Syria, 3rd generation).

Formal and Informal Youth Groups

In Syria, formal youth groups are particularly important in developing a social and political identity. In one of the camps in Jordan, it was observed that youth networks organise themselves around areas of interest, such as sports, religion, study, girls, etc. and they seem to occupy particular streets and areas within the Hayy.

Sometimes I go to my friend, we bring books for the tawjihi class and discuss them (some cannot afford to buy the books so they meet and help each other) (Jordan, 3rd generation, male).

We put together a football team in our neighbourhood and we play with another team at the end of the camp … if they win we bring them a medal, and if we win they give us one…(Jordan, 3rd generation, male).


Last updated Sep 25, 2011