Ingrid Höjer and Charlotte Melander, Department of Social Work, and Oksana Shmulyar Gréen, Department of Sociology and Work Science at University of Gothenburg present findings from the ongoing project "Transnational childhoods".
This paper draws on emerging findings from the ongoing project Transnational childhoods (FORTE 2018-21). In the project, we actively engage with CEE-born children's own voices and perspectives on reunification with their families in Sweden and creation of affective bonds locally and transnationally. These voices are embedded in young people's own experiences of separation from parents and other kin, their own migration and negotiations of belonging postmigration.
In this paper we look more specifically at how children and young people we have interviewed talk about their care worlds attached to social arenas in Sweden, organised either by the state or the civil society. These arenas are including primary and high schools in Gothenburg and its vicinity, classes for native language teaching as well as places of worship and religious education.
The starting theoretical point of the study stems from the new social studies of childhood (e.g., James & Jenks & Prout 1998; Knörr 2005). Drawing on these theories, children and young people are perceived as capable to actively co-create caring relationships rather than just being the recipients of care provided by adults (e.g. Pantea 2012). Among the central concepts helping us to acknowledge children¿s own agency in the processes of adaptation and integration in Sweden is the notion of 'care worlds of children' developed by Lynch et al (2009). The care relationships, as McGovern and Devine (2016) argue, play a central role in mediating children's attachments to people and places and shaping their transnational engagement post-migration. Another concept we are going to apply to our analysis is "transnational transitions" developed in Pustulka and Trabka (2019).
The empirical material in this project is collected mainly in the city of Gothenburg and its closer vicinity, where the presence of children and families of the European labour migrants is significant (SCB 2019). Our preliminary results and analyses presented in this paper are built on the two-steps interviews with 11 children and young people, (altogether 23 interviews), who came to join their parents in Sweden in the early school age (10-13) and as teenagers (14-17). In the sample, we include children and young people born in Poland and in Romania, two of the largest new EU member states being represented in Sweden.
Along with other researchers (e.g. Slany & Strzemecka 2016) we observe that in schools, where young migrants spend most of their time, they are building new friendships and support networks as well as facing isolation, peer pressure, and bullying. To handle these complex experiences and develop resilient responses to them young migrants seek and receive support from significant adults as teachers, school nurses and priests. They also meet acceptance and belonging in those social arenas where their native languages and a sense of familiarity help them to become vocal about their needs, rights and feelings.