Traumatizing the Children

Each week, in our Sunday worship service, we have a time for a Children’s Chat. Yesterday, we didn’t have any children. For our small congregation this occurs about once a month (last week we had 10 children, which is also a monthly occurrence). Anyway, I often will just skip this time with the children. But yesterday I opted to talk about the children. Other children. Children who are being traumatized. I didn’t write down my comments, so I don’t know exactly what I said, and how, but here is what I was thinking.

We have a crisis at our border today. Our government has decided to take children away from their parents, as a “deterrent” to other migrants (many seeking asylum) who might try to make their way to our country. We’ve been praying about this for a few weeks. But now we must act. I urge each of you to speak up. Write to our representatives. Voice your concerns at all levels. We cannot be silent on this.

This morning, as I drove to join a group run, I listened to the news and heard a pediatrician speaking about the trauma that is being visited upon these children (and their parents). This trauma has the very real potential to cause life-long problems for these children. Trauma actually affects developing brains. To make matters worse, we are hearing stories of little children taken from their parents and being placed in strange surroundings, sometimes in cages. These children may be provided food and shelter, but they are not receiving nurture. Apparently there is a policy that “shelter” (more like prison) employees are not allowed to touch the children. Being deprived of comforting touch is heaping additional abuse onto these traumatized children.

As I listened to this, I visualized the scene at our preschool on those first days of school each year. This is when little ones are oftentimes separated from their parents for the first time in their lives. It’s an important developmental step, but it is hard. So, the sound that often comes from the school those first few days is of children crying. Not all children cry, but once in awhile one child crying will cause them all to cry. Sometimes the parents cry too…and the teachers often have to encourage the parent to leave.

Not much formalmteaching happens those first few days. But there is a lot of comforting. (I think the teaching here is to learn that mom or dad will indeed return and that all will be well.)

At this point in my talk, a retired preschool teacher interrupted me with the question:

“And do you know what we tell those children?”

“What?” I respond.

“We tell them that mommy or daddy will return very soon.”

She was emotional as she shared this.

The children who are being taken from their parents have no idea when or if they will be reunited with the parents. Can you imagine this?

This policy of separating children from their parents is evil. Yesterday, I was at a loss of words beyond this recognition of the evil of these actions.

As people of faith, we are called to love our neighbor. We are called to welcome the stranger. We are called to care for the children (in fact Jesus gives dire warning against those who would harm children). We are called to all of this by a God who loves us immensely. It is this love that should, and indeed can give us the power to use our collective voice in opposition to what is happening.

Please speak up.

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