Emotional Health

Children and the Trauma of Being Trapped

If the children’s relationship with their caregivers is disrupted, then they lose access to the most important person who can help them recover from the trauma. And the effects of trauma on children are very significant and serious. The report continues:

“Early trauma affects the child’s nervous system. The nervous system is shaped by the child’s experiences. Stress over a period of time can lead to changes in the parts of the brain that control and manage feelings. That is to say, stress and trauma early in life can change the brain. This can have long-term effects on physical, mental, and emotional growth. What’s more, the impact of early abuse often extends into later childhood, teen, and even adult years.”

The United States is now saying that they will provide counseling and support to reunited families. It’s hard to understand how they are planning to do this on any significant level when they have already deported many of the parents. Are they planning on sending therapists to their country of origin?

Meanwhile, estimates vary about how soon all the children will be back together with their families. Despite court orders, the hasty separations and poor planning are making it difficult. Research also shows that usually, the longer a traumatic situation continues, the worse the damage.

Potentially, the soccer team might be less traumatized in the long run than the migrant children. Once they are medically cleared, they will be reunited with their families. Even now, as they recover in the hospital, they can see their parents through a glass partition.

Despite the horror of their ordeal, discrete traumas that are resolved can be less damaging than an ongoing traumatic situation. The soccer players will suffer, no doubt, but they will quickly be returned to their home environment.

In contrast, the migrant children will return to circumstances as bad as, or possibly worse, than they escaped. Their parents have been traumatized too, remember, and that could compromise their ability to function as adequate parents. And who knows where these families will end up?

For now, we don’t even have enough information to reunite them and start the healing. It’s ironic that it is proving more difficult to rescue the migrant children than it was to help these soccer team escape from a dangerous, remote, and treacherous cave. Meanwhile, the American government, including POTUS, commented on the “brave and talented” people that helped the rescued Thai children.

Some are calling it a miracle. But, it wasn’t a miracle as much as it was the efforts made by others to save them. And it will take something close to that to do right by the traumatized children of migrants.  What international rescue team will step up to do that?





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