The Joy of Movement, Delight in Play, and the Energy of Love Between Children at Risk and Their Parents: When family sports support vitally important attachment processes in refugee families

In Danish

Louise Gottlob Baumgarten, Maise Johansen & Helle Winther
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

In many refugee families, both children and adults are characterized by the exposed and vulnerable life situation in which they find themselves because of traumatic escape and migration experiences, as well as changing places of residence in different refugee centers. Such a situation creates emotional, social and existential challenges for both children and adults, as their daily life is characterized by uncertainty and worry about the family’s future. This can entail that the parents do not have enough surplus energy to be present and play with their children. This can be challenging to the vitally important and nourishing emotional relationship between children and parents, which has serious consequences for the children’s well-being and development. This project was developed in cooperation between Red Cross Asylum and the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport at the University of Copenhagen. The article elucidates whether, and how, wholeness-oriented family sports can create vitally important, touching and joyful moments between children and parents. It also shows that this movement-pedagogic work must be approached with great sensitivity and awareness, as the families’ emotional relationships can be challenging. Finally, the project indicates that family sports, play and movement have the potential to be able to support attachment processes in other exposed and vulnerable families.

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LOUISE GOTTLOB BAUMGARTEN holds a Master of Science (MSc) in Humanities and Social Sport Sciences with a side subject in psychology, at the University of Copenhagen. Louise is a Research Assistant at the University of Copenhagen. She has taught in family-sports at both Departure Center Sjælsmark, which her thesis deals with, and at Transit Center Avnstrup. Louise has worked for skoleglæ, for five years, where she has taught and developed movement products for primary school, in order to create a good environment in the classroom and for individual development. Louise’s areas of interest include relationships, the dynamic interaction between the physical and mental well-being of humans, and forms of movement that can create meaningful contact.

MAISE JOHANSEN holds a master’s degree in sports and social studies from the University of Copenhagen. Furthermore, she has a supplementary education in journalism and dissemination from the School of Journalism in Denmark. She specializes in the psycho-social development of vulnerable children and adolescents in Denmark as well as internationally. Her master thesis on the development of refugee children in collaboration with the Danish Red Cross was award winning and published as a book. Today, Maise is the coordinator and main teacher of a holistic oriented project,  that facilitates playful activities for refugee children and their parents. The project is located at the Red Cross Asylum Centers in Denmark and developed in close cooperation with the Red Cross.

HELLE WINTHER is an Associate Professor and Ph.D. at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, and head of the research group Embodiment, Learning and Social Change. She is also a trained dance and body psychotherapist and educated in Heartfulness. Helle is a teacher and researcher of dance, movement psychology and body language in professional practice. She has developed methods to use dance, movement, touch, contact and body awareness as a part of professional training of nurses, educators, leaders, midwives and educators, including the project Dancing Nurses. She has held a large number of both national and international lecture workshops for health professionals and has many years of collaboration with both nursing education and hospitals. Her practical research on body language in professional practice is utilized in many professional programs. Helle is author and editor of eight books and anthologies and has published a large number of Danish and international scientific articles. She received the Gerlev Prize in 2019. In addition, she has previously received three teaching awards, including a “Harald”, the award as the teacher of the year at the University of Copenhagen.

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