In light of recent events, I feel obligated to speak about situations that are happening on the border. I created Pathways 2 Healing with the intention for it to become a safe space for people to come and allow the process for healing to take place and so I do not mean to alienate anyone, however as a family therapist I cannot in good conscious keep quiet about the separation of children and their parents. Helping children who have been affected by trauma was my main reason for entering into this field. I quickly learned that the best way to help them is to also help the parents, as they are the main vehicles for which change can take place in the family system. Let me make it clear that I am not writing this to discuss immigration policy, but rather to focus on how trauma is now a lifelong issue these children will face.
In order for children to feel secure and have the best chance at healthy, normal development they need to know that they are safe and taken care of. This happens when they can look over to their parents or caretakers and be reassured that there is nothing to fear. When they are separated, children no longer have this assurance and now have the added worry of what is happening to my protector? This stress and anxiety will ultimately have an effect on development. Without being able to provide both parents and children adequate information about when they can be reunited this torment will continue indefinitely. As a mental health professional I believe that it is our job to extend compassion and empathy to those in need. However, I am concerned about the future of these families as they are going to require additional mental health services as the challenges they face continue to grow.
It is important to understand that healing is something that takes time, it is a slow process that requires patience. There will be a definite need for therapy for years to come because anyone in this situation will come out of it with wounds that need to be healed, no matter what their age is. In graduate school I had a professor that described the healing process like a scab, it’s there, you can see it and when you first enter therapy you have to pick at it. It gets worse at first with puss oozing out but that is part of the healing process. Eventually it heals but it leaves a scar however when you pick at it, it doesn’t bleed anymore. Anyone who has been through trauma has these scars and now over 2,000 children have even bigger wounds because they were separated from their parents. Although we might not be able to help them all, we can extend more compassion to them as they go on their journeys.
I do want to recognize that since this post has been written and published, an executive order was signed that will hopefully stop the separation of parents and children at the border. However I decided to go ahead and publish it because 1: thousands of kids still need to be reunited with their parents and 2: we need to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. I always want healing for anyone who needs it, but children who have experienced trauma are in need of it the most and is why I entered this field in the first place. These children need their parents just like every child in America needs theirs. I do not know what is to come for these families, but I wish them the best and I hope they are reunited soon.