‘Lost Children’: EO docuseries about troubled families

A problem family: we know the concept, but what exactly is it? How are things in such a household? And what causes the problems? Documentarian Sahar Meradji goes in search of answers in the four-part EO docuseries ‘Lost Children’.

For three months, Sahar immersed herself in the lives of three ‘problem families’. She spent time with them daily, sometimes for 24 hours at a time. “I hope that I give the viewer, as well as care institutions and the public a good picture of what happens in a problem family.

I have previously done series about abuse, addiction and crime, such as Tygo in GHB and Vernaedd. In the research phase, many people said they came from a troubled family. It made me curious about how upbringing in such a household works. With Lost Children I show it.”

And how is it going?
“In such a family there are one or more problems every day. Sometimes something lurks in the background, sometimes something actually happens. Fun family moments and difficulties alternate constantly. For the series I followed Astrid’s family. I entered their house while she and her husband were arguing; she had argued with her ex that morning; the children were covered with impetigo; and the house was crowded.

I almost felt like a part of these families

From my other documentaries, I know that people often think: a difficult childhood equals a loveless childhood. I was wondering if this was correct. How much warmth and affection is there? The three families I followed were very loving. This series also shows how it is possible to become or remain a problem family.”

Can you lift a corner of the veil?
“If you have a problem and you’re in a stable environment, it’s easier to get the attention you need. But if every family member has a problem, everyone needs the same attention, and you need to give it too. That way you end up in a dead end, and the problems get worse.

We see that with mother Merel. She is overexcited and has a daughter, Nohemy, with an autism spectrum disorder and an emotion regulation disorder. Nohemy has to learn to deal with this and needs rest. Merel has to provide for her daughter while she also longs for peace. That busyness aggravates Merel’s overstimulation.”

These families share their stories

IN Lost children Sahar follows three families, each with different problems.

Marjolijn and Ronald live in Vriezenveen and have three children: Florijn, Gondar and Linde. Everyone in this family is gifted, but the family members also have mental problems. Three years ago, the parents received help from the Youth Services, but they have since become involved in a battle with child protection. They receive a report that one of their children may be placed under supervision. To get better care and education for their children, the family decided to move to Belgium.

Astrid and Peter live in Amsterdam Nord and have four children: Rodin, Rowan, Rowena and Wendy. The family struggles with serious money problems, a house that is too small and unresolved trauma. Almost every day the bucket overflows and it creates an explosive atmosphere in the house.

Merel and Gerson live in Rotterdam and have two children: Isai and Nohemy. Nohemy has autism and an emotion regulation disorder, Merel is overwhelmed by the pressure to care for Nohemy. Gerson has ADD and little Isai is very busy. The parents do everything they can to create a structured and peaceful home

Strong feelings

It was “quite hard” for Sahar to live so intensively with the families. “It is one of the hardest documentary series I have made. Usually I follow one person, now I stayed with three families. The parents experienced intense emotions – such as sadness, frustration and panic – because it revolves around their children. Experiencing these parents’ pain so closely made it heavy. I almost felt like a part of these families, so I really had to change after a day of shooting. Sometimes this was accompanied by tears. But I thought it was worth it because I wanted these people to tell their story.”

Gray area

Sahar wants to show that the world is not black and white. “When it comes to relationships, we can’t just assess situations as right or wrong. When you are willing to accept that there is a gray area – for example in parenting – you gain more understanding for each other. Also, choices come from your history and intentions. This shows the families in this series. Hopefully it will help us understand each other better.”

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