Bosnia and Herzegovina
– July 1 2019
Rebuilding a father-son relationship
Mirza*, 60, is a single father. He and his wife were divorced when his son Haris* was still a baby. Mirza got custody of his son when the boy was two years old and has raised him alone.
“The first thing I had to learn was to hold him,” Mirza recalls. “Then I had to learn everything about how to take care of a child.”
Father and son have been through difficult times. The worst moment came in 2016, when Mirza had a violent outburst and beat his son, who at the time was 11. He lost control after learning that Haris and a friend had stolen a plastic gun in the market.
As a result, Mirza spent a night in jail and the child welfare authorities placed Haris in a children’s home for six months. Mirza feels guilty about having hurt his son. He hopes Haris’ life will be different from his own.
“I try to teach him not to repeat what I did and be a good person,” he says.
Recovering from a family breakdown
Today, 14-year-old Haris and Mirza live together again, with support from the SOS family strengthening team. Mirza and Haris attend individual counselling and also participate in group activities in the parents’ and children’s clubs.
“We constantly talk to the two of them,” says Ileana Snur-Muratagic, an SOS social worker. “We see that the relationship between them has improved.”
Psychological and emotional support are particularly important for this small family, Ileana says. Mirza was a soldier in the Bosnian war in the 1990s, and shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. And Haris’ behaviour has changed after the violent incident with his father.
“If I had only known SOS Children’s Villages earlier, if I had known a different approach,” Mirza says. “Maybe we wouldn’t have had these problems.”
For Mirza, the SOS team is the first support he has had in raising his son.
“I wasn’t ever expecting help and didn’t ask for it because my family did not help me,” Mirza says. “When Haris was little, I would beg the neighbours so I could leave him with them. I was a taxi driver and worked at night,” he recalls.
Raising a teenage son
Lately, Mirza has asked Ileana for guidance on how to raise a teenager. Mirza is glad that the topic of raising an adolescent is discussed in the SOS group for parents.
“I used to hear people say ‘small child, small worries – big child, big worries’. It’s true,” he says.
Mirza is relieved that he does not have to worry about Haris’ school performance. The boy learns quickly and does well in school. His favourite subject in school is IT and he plays basketball and takes taekwondo. SOS Children’s Villages has supported him with tutoring and provided school supplies.
Mirza currently works as a night guard, but the income is low and he is employed on a month-to-month basis. He does not know how much longer he will have this job. Money is tight for father and son.
“I don’t care if I don’t have anything to eat,” Mirza says. “But I don’t want my son to miss anything.”
Finding solutions together
Ileana has an open ear for all of Mirza’s concerns and supports Haris and Mirza in every way she can. Recently, she had to call Haris’ taekwondo club, with which SOS Children’s Villages has a partnership, because they were asking the members to buy expensive sports kits that Mirza could not afford. Ileana wants to find a solution that will allow Haris to continue with his hobby.
“If only SOS had been involved in our lives from the beginning,” Mirza says. “They helped me a lot with everything. But the most important part is the help I got for my son.”
*Names changed for privacy protection
Photo: Katerina Ilievska.