Life Style

“I blame myself for imposing that on them”: in the daily life of a family in a situation of poverty



They are called Hinata, Max and Abdelmalek. They are respectively 11 years old – “Soon 12! “ – 9 and 7 years old and are siblings. They have friends, play soccer, love manga, like children their age. However, their life is special. For a year and a half, they have been hosted by number 115 and share a room with their parents in a social hotel in Lyon. A table, five bunk beds, bundles of clothes, are pretty much all they have.

Their story is far from unique. While, according to INSEE, 2.8 million children today live in poverty and many others could fall into it with the health crisis, their situation raises questions. How do these modern day newsboys grow up? Can they dream of a big future?

→ ANALYSIS. In 2020, women raising their children alone remain poorer

Yes, answer Hinata, Max and Abdelmalek. Their life is good, they say, because they can count on each other and their parents “Take care of” of them. It must be said that the siblings are brooded by Souad, 39 years old. While in other families, precariousness is accompanied by serious educational difficulties, this generous woman is not the type to give up either. At home, homework is done, the children play sports and go to the municipal library. She makes a point of keeping them away from material worries. “I try not to show the children my anxieties, she advances. I always tell them that solving problems is up to me, not them. “

Do like everyone else

However, the mother of a family also knows the limits of her goodwill. “I blame myself for forcing them to live like that”, she confides, pointing to the room without the kitchen. You have to be content with a microwave in the common areas to reheat prepared meals. “Yet Mum is a really good cook. As soon as she can, she prepares good soups, with friends ”, Hinata slips.

→ READ. In France, a third of the poor are children

In this united family, the lack of means can be read more in the eyes of others. Abdelmaleck, for example, has given up on having a free breakfast at school. This measure was put in place as part of Emmanuel Macron’s 2018 poverty reduction strategy, in order to ensure that all children have enough to eat in the morning. But that was without counting on the mocking gaze of certain comrades. “The distribution took place during the lessons, says the young boy. The lady from the canteen came to pick me up in front of the whole class, often during the dictation that I had to miss. “ The pressure from the group was the strongest, he stopped.

Hinata, she only dared to give her address to one person, her best friend. By making her promise to keep for herself what she sees as a somewhat shameful secret, in the age of comparisons, where you want to do everything like your friends. “ I’m too afraid that others will bother me if they know where I live ”, she admits. To help her do like everyone else, Souad, her mother, slips, when she can, into her daughter’s pocket a few pennies gathered here and there. “So that she can do a little shopping like the others in a Japanese store that she loves, with her friends after class. “

Look of others

The judgment of friends is, in fact, crucial for the youngest. They do not experience precariousness quite like adults, confirms Céline Truong, in the “Early Childhood Family” service of ATD Fourth World. They would be, even more, victims of the very harsh view that society places on precariousness and of stubborn prejudices that stick to their skin. “They do not benefit from any indulgence”, assures the manager. “It starts from birth. These toddlers are scrutinized by the social services and are much more often than the others placed in the Child welfare ”, she argues.

Then, at the end of college, they are often quickly oriented towards a vocational course. “During class councils, when the results are a little fair, the teachers gauge the family. If they spot vulnerabilities, they will tell themselves that the child will not be supported enough and will go towards a failure announced in the general sector. “ Result: a large majority of students in vocational courses come from the most disadvantaged socio-professional categories, Céline Truong counts. Then, in adolescence, wrongdoing is less easily forgiven, because “The incompetence trial of the parents is never long”, she says.

Data on the future sweeps away certainties

If this point of view is not shared by all associations, the future of children who grow up in precarious families is a highly sensitive subject. “At the beginning of the XXe century, very deterministic analyzes were carried out on what we called the disadvantaged classes and the relationship with juvenile delinquency ”, recalls Doctor Romain Dugravier, head of child psychiatry at Sainte-Anne hospital, in Paris, and member of the “1,000 days” committee.

Since then, data on the future has swept aside the certainties. Admittedly, in terms of health, a greater prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyle is observed, but nothing of the sort, for example, in mental health, continues Romain Dugravier, who invites us to beware of all generalities. “It’s not all about a lack of money”, he insists. “Poor parents can be competent and raise their children very well. Insecurity does not in itself cause psychological problems, but it can be an aggravating factor of vulnerability. For a parent, it is obviously less easy to be available for your children when you lead a very hard life. From the child’s point of view, being able to eat enough is fundamental not only for food, but also from a psychological point of view. Insecurity of basic needs can cause some form of trauma, but nothing says it will the case if parents are well supported on a social level. “

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Increased difficulties in single-parent families

According to INSEE, one in four families is now a single parent, that is to say that one of the parents brings up their children alone. In 83% of cases, it is the mother.

More than a third of these families live below the poverty line. In total, all types of families combined, more than 2.8 million children were in a situation of poverty in France in 2020.

Nearly 1 million parents receive child support. In 30 to 40% of cases, it is not paid or is paid irregularly.

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