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Childhood trauma knows no geographical boundaries

Feb 11, 2014

Credit Freedom House / Flickr

Monday's Morning Edition broadcast featured an interview with 23-year-old Amina Salwan, a survivor of chemical attacks in Syria. In her conversation with Steve Inskeep she described the gassing incident that impacted her area and neighbors. But what was also striking was her description of working with traumatized children of the civil war. 

Her description of physical and psychic injuries made me wonder: what would a conversation between Syrian children and American children traumatized by gun violence in Chicago would be like? Or between Syrian children and the kids who narrowly escaped harm last autumn during the shoot-out in their Muskegon neighborhood? How do they understand this violence and are they able to move past it? We've talked about resilience before, but how much is too much for a child? 

The National Association of School Psychologists lists the many ways that gun violence permeates the lives of children. Research also describes the symptoms kids experience from this trauma, including PTSD and sleep distortion or withdrawal. But missing from these studies and lists are how educators and mental health professionals actually go about helping kids who are traumatized by violence. 

As part of talk-therapy, bringing together Syrian children and American children from the U.S. might have an impact. Beyond commiseration, kids have a way of communicating about difficult subjects in ways that adults with political agendas seem to be unable to manage.

This is not, of course, meant to replace significant psychological help and material assistance. Though they are separated by geopolitics and adults with other ideas, international communication between kids who are victims of violence might help.