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Safe Spaces: Youth with Refugee Experience and Their
Parents Harnessing Resilience

Researchers: Susan Brigham1, Bayan Khatib2, Marwa Khobeih2, and Omar Reda3
Affiliations: Mount Saint Vincent University1, The Syrian Canadian Foundation (SCF)2, and Untangled3
Research Partner: Syrian Canadian Foundation
Keywords: refugee youth, refugee parents, families, family-based supports, Syrian refugees, Arabic-speaking families, mothers, trauma, resilience, mental health, qualitative research, workshops
Jump to: Full Infographic, Methodology, Findings, Video


Overview: In this study, ten workshops were organized for Arabic-speaking refugee youth and their parents. Facilitated by the Syrian Canadian Foundation and psychiatrist Dr. Omar Reda, the workshops aimed to provide a safe space for refugee families to build better inter-family understanding and integrate trauma stories to build resilience. The workshops were open to both parents; however only mothers chose to attend. The workshops were preceded and followed by focus groups with the participants.

Objective: To explore tensions that may arise between refugee youth and their parents regarding social integration; examine family dynamics in a new culture; help participants develop coping skills; and build resilience among refugee youth and their parents.

Research Justification: Refugee families face considerable stressors when they arrive in Canada, including racism, alienation, poverty, language barriers, acculturation, difficulty accessing employment and housing, culture shock, and other urgent survival and social integration concerns. This study sought to examine concepts and issues related to culture, inter-family communication, rights, and youth empowerment while bolstering family cohesion and improving the coping skills and resilience of participants and their families.

Infographic Excerpt

Full Infographic (2021)

Executive Summary

Full Infographic (2019)


This study used a qualitative research approach. Focus group interviews were held with the participants – 10 refugee youth aged 12 to 20 years old and their mothers living in the Greater Toronto Area. Before the workshops began, focus groups were held to identify participants’ needs related to social integration and inter-family relationships. At the end of the series of workshops, another round of focus groups was held to understand the impact of the workshops.


Youth voices:

Mothers’ voices:



Safe Spaces: Building Inter-family Understanding and Harnessing Resilience for Arabic Speaking Refugee Families in the Greater Toronto Area

This video provides an overview of this project. It shares quotes from the focus groups participants as they reflect on the challenges of social integration and what they learned from the workshops. The video is captioned in Arabic.

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