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How Traumatized Children See the World, According to Their Drawings

How Traumatized Children See the World, According to Their Drawings.

Toxic stress during childhood can last a lifetime — but it doesn’t have to.

In May, now-ousted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the start of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy to separate migrant families at the Mexican border. “If you are smuggling a child” into the country, he said, “then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law.” In just six weeks, more than 2,600 children were taken from their parents or other adults. Although a federal judge ordered the government to reunite all children with their families by July 26, hundreds likely still remain in U.S. custody. And the psychological trauma inflicted is likely to cause lifelong damage to these children, experts say.

Figuring out how children themselves are responding to trauma tends to be particularly difficult, because they may not be able to communicate how they feel. For decades, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has worked with tens of thousands of children in struggling, often war-torn nations around the world who are suffering from what’s called toxic stress — a relentless cycle of trauma, violence and instability, coupled with a lack of adequate care at home. In some cases, the IRC has used drawing to help children open up or as a way to process their trauma. The drawings here, from IRC projects in Cambodia during the genocide, in Sierra Leone and Uganda in the early-2000s and in Jordan just last year, show what it’s like to endure displacement, violence and separation, through the eyes of the children themselves.

“Across decades, children are expressing the trauma of violence in very similar ways,” says Sarah Smith, senior director of education at IRC. She says drawings like these show just how urgent it is to intervene and provide psychological and social support.

Continue to the entire article here http://time.com/longform/toxic-stress-children-migrant-trauma/

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