In order to address this question, the Association of Portuguese Psychologists (OPP) has given the following advices to all those who are hosting or considering hosting a refugee family.


According OPP, on the day of their arrival "you should greet them with a smile, show them the house and say where they can keep their personal belongings".

It can take time for them to get used to their new space. "Offering them something to eat can be a good idea, but if they don't want to, you have to understand. After that long journey, it is natural that some people want to sleep and relax. They may feel very stressed and exhausted and need to sleep longer," said the OPP.

Do you have kids?

If you have children, they will have to get used to sharing their space with strangers. They may feel fear or enthusiasm. Whatever they feel, you should try to talk to your child before and involve them in the process. For example, you can set new rules with your child about the use of toys.

"Children can be happy to help, but also feel some fear of losing the attention from their parents. On the other side, refugee children may arrive with fears, insecurities and shyness and miss their families and friends very much. Spending time with other children helps to relieve tension and anxiety and to express emotions”, they highlighted.

Rules are important

It is important to set rules to promote a good living environment. According to the psychological association: "setting rules can be more effective in managing a refugee's anxiety than simply telling them to feel at home"!

"For example, which areas are accessible, when they can use each area, how and when they can help clean up the house and whether they are allowed to smoke or drink alcohol inside. It may be a good idea to split up the fridge and set rules for cleaning up after using the kitchen."

Privacy is important, "one should keep moments alone". Also, if you work from home, you can let them know the hours you work to avoid interruptions.

Opportunity to express

Even if they don't speak English, there are other ways to connect and share our experiences, such as drawing, doing some sport together or even cooking, the OPP said.

Invite, don’t ask

Instead of pressuring them to do things they may not want to do or may not yet be prepared for, it is better to make invitations. For example, "would you like to have dinner with us?" (instead of "We'll all have dinner together tonight") or "we're going to play football, would you like to come with us?" (instead of "let's play football"), the OPP explained.

Let them be connected

"Most refugees don't have a date to return home - and that can be very difficult to manage. We can improve their sense of belonging by learning about their culture and traditions, being available and interested in hearing their stories and experiences."

In addition, "we can help refugees by facilitating contacts with family and friends - through social media platforms or by phone."

Promote their mental health

There are certain signs to look out for as they may mean you need to seek professional help. For example, when they cannot sleep or meet their basic needs, as well as aggressive behaviour, mood swings, constant anxiety or problematic alcohol use. In these cases, call the psychological service on the SNS24 line.


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins