Most child refugees from Syria have experienced what we have only seen on television: chaos and sadness.
The war-torn region, according to UNICEF, “is now one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child.” Nearly half of the refugees leaving Syria for a safer home are children and some have spent most of their lives surrounded by fighting, fear, and the hopelessness that stem from violence, lack of food, water, and shelter, lack of medical care, and a disruption of education.
Those who have been fortunate enough to find refuge, are learning what it is like to feel safe and secure in their communities with no fear that their roof will collapse above them. This new environment is freeing. It allows them to live without daily stress, something that, if prolonged, can alter a person’s biological makeup. However, the lasting trauma of the past still haunts many refugee children.
Childhelp’s Vice President of Communications & Prevention Education Daphne Young weighed in on how Syrian children can begin the healing journey on FOX10 Phoenix.
“There is specific kind of trauma that comes almost exclusively in refugee situations or war-torn situations,” Young said. Ensuring “that child is having day after day of new safe experiences” is key to reducing the effects of trauma. Those effects can materialize many ways but the most prevalent will be: Fear, anxiety, shock, crying, stomach aches, headaches, replaying the traumatic events over and over, acting out, withdrawal, body pains without any physical causes, nightmares, and hopelessness.
In order to help a child heal, a safe place that lets them relax and feel at peace is important. Additionally, mental health providers should approach children who have suffered trauma with cultural sensitivity and understand norms and customs they may have practiced back home. Breaking the silence through art or animal therapy is another great way to help the child feel comfortable and allow them to open up.
And lastly, engaging the family throughout treatment is imperative so they understand the stressors and fears their children have faced, work through their own pain and know how to respond at home. Giving refugee children trauma-informed care is crucial to helping them transition from the toughest times to brighter futures.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD translates in over 170 languages and we can find someone to help a frightened family or child.