NADEL – A Friendly Chat*
“Conversation is the most important tool for solving problems”
Belgrade, Serbia, October 2021 - Jelena is doing a BA in Environmental Science. She volunteers on several projects and earns pocket money by babysitting. She is open and friendly, and it’s clear that she’s a mature and self-aware young person.
However, Jelena’s childhood was not without challenges. She grew up in a group home for children without parental care. She didn’t always have someone with whom she could share her thoughts, feelings, fears, and joys.
This is where the story of the National Children’s Line (NADEL) begins. NADEL has been supporting children and their parents since 2005, helping them find answers to questions, but most of all, it has helped them find someone who can listen and help them find solutions to their problems.
“Conversation is the most important tool for solving problems,” says Jelena. “It’s especially important for those of us who didn’t grow up in biological families, although even children growing up in biological families don’t have the right perception and don’t get good advice from those people who are so close to them.”
On the other end of the telephone line in NADEL are experts: psychologists, sociologists, and social workers. They all share a readiness to listen and find the best way to approach every person seeking help because not all questions are the same, and every caller is unique.
Nikola Mironija is a psychologist, himself a young man. He talks about a typical conversation with teenagers who call.
“The first thing we do is to create harmony with the caller by offering an accepting environment. They need to know that they can tell us anything and talk about anything that bothers them. At one point in the conversation, we say - OK, let’s see what we can do. Then we try to focus on their strengths, community, his or her abilities, talents. Anything that can be helpful.”
Nikola says that teenagers usually call because they have problems at school or misunderstandings with their parents and peers. Sometimes they have relationship problems. Occasionally boys seek advice on how to approach a girl. These challenges sometimes have deep roots that can escalate into peer or family violence and even depression if not detected in time.
“Every problem is worth talking about,” Jelena agrees. “And something that used to be a big problem and that was very difficult to solve, is easier now [after talking to NADEL councillors], some things are even funny.”
NADEL is an integral part of the Centre for the Protection of Infants, Children and Youth of Belgrade and was established as one of the mechanisms to prevent violence against children. The phone number 116-111 is free and available 24 hours, seven days a week. In the past decade, NADEL advisors have talked to more than a million callers, offering help, advice, or practical guidance.
The pandemic has brought new challenges and crises. Research shows that young people feel both afraid and worried. Some are retreating and isolating, while many miss socialising with friends at school. Despite these challenges, the number of calls to NADEL has been declining. To encourage children and young people to use this service, UNICEF launched an innovative online chat support in June 2020. This initiative was possible thanks to the financial support of the European Union through the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), and in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs and the Centre for Protection of Infants, Children and Youth Belgrade.
“Today’s generation has grown up with the Internet, which brings new opportunities for communication. Online chat is one of them. It is accessible, and children can chat from any place where they feel safe."
"Chat support allows for anonymity, and for young people, this is often a precondition to talk about something that would otherwise be difficult to discuss, even on the phone,” says Nikola Mironija, who is also the chat advisor at NADEL.
“A good thing with chat is that it can be saved and can serve as a kind of reminder when solving problems and challenges.”
The chat counselling centre is active every day from 6 pm to 10 pm. Messages can be sent at any time, and counsellors respond to them in the evening. The chat can be accessed via Viber or directly from NADEL’s website, at www.116111.rs.
* This story and video are part of the programme ‘Mitigation of the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of children and parents in the Western Balkans and Turkey’, which has received funding from the European Union.