Where are the children?
I wonder if from time to time you reflect about how deeply connected and at times distant you feel from those close to your heart. Do you wonder, Am I loved?Is my heart safe? I would think that perhaps, angels from the past come to visit you: your mom, your dad; perhaps, there are more ghosts than angels, and it is safer to stay in the present…. Your beginning on the planet is the product of those immense forces you cannot control or understand. If you were fortunate, there were angels, protectors in your life, working hard to let you know that nothing would come in the way of their love for you. If you were fortunate, you were born in a place in which it was relatively safe or at least there were ways in which your protectors gathered with other benevolent forces in the community, using their voice to change things and create more safety and possibility… Perhaps they began chasing a dream and you are now the one who makes that dream come true… Perhaps now you are thinking about how these protectors and these ghosts shaped your understanding and expectations of the world of people and the world of things when you were a child. Perhaps you are now bringing your mind to those who supported your impetus to explore, first around your childhood home, now out in the world. Did anyone make you feel that you were loved deeply; that you were worth any sacrifice? I wonder what kind of feelings are coming to your heart right now…. I wonder what you are thinking about your own children, the children in the family, the children in the world.
Perhaps for the last few weeks your mind and heart are like mine, thinking about the immigrant children who were brutally separated from their parents as their parents requested asylum in the south border of the United States and Mexico. These parents, just like those protectors in your childhood, also chased a dream. I would think that if I asked these parents, what are their hopes for their children; their answer would be found in your heart too. These parents want what all parents want: they want their children to grow up in safety and with possibilities. I do not have the figures in terms of children and parents, but imagine if you can that for 68.5 million displaced people of all ages, their hope is simply feeling safe. Everything else is possible if one is alive the next day. These parents were seeking asylum fleeing life threatening circumstances in Central America. Advocacy groups and people from all walks of America are using their voices to create a protective shield around their children, separated from them without warning. These parents were searching for an answer to their hopes for their children. The already traumatized families’ hopes were shattered by a determination to forward an immigration agenda built on a racist, hateful and populist rhetoric. Do you wonder where are these children?
Now I wonder how do we become human? You are an expert in this, because you are a human. We become human in relationships. Relationships are profoundly influenced by the culture, by the past, by the uniqueness of the moment to moment interaction of the two in the relationships, by environmental forces. Our early relationships build the architecture of the brain, as if, to really simplify highly complex developmental and neurobiological processes, an internal and unique GPS is built to understand and navigate relationships with yourself and with the world of people and the world of things. Not only these processes establish the pathways of health, they organize gene expression and your potential for the rest of your life. We have the science. Dr. Nadine Harris and Dr. Bruce Perry will explain to you the science behind the power of relationships; please consider learning from them. I included the links to their talks below.
Now, I would like to ask you to find someone next to you. Invite this person to engage in three minutes of a relational experiment. Ask this person to tell you an engaging story, and after only two minutes, and with no warning become totally disengaged. Yes! As if you have a stone face. Notice what happens in your body and in your mind. Notice what happens to your companion in this experiment. Share the experience in your body and in your mind. What did you tell yourself? Where did you notice the disengagement in your body? Then I will invite you to please watch Dr. Ed Tronick’s “Still Face Paradigm”(link bellow). I wonder what you are thinking and if for a second you remember these children. Separation and loss of the parent in early childhood and childhood have devastating effects, unless there is a caring and trusted adult who can help the child make some sense of what happened. For these already traumatized children making sense of this terrifying separation will be a lifetime journey. These children do not understand English, some of them do not even understand Spanish, many were babies, and they do not have means or the support to make sense of such loss. For a child, a separation of a minute from their parent can be experienced as a forever separation. The body will keep the score, as trauma expert Bessel Van Der Kolk taught us; these children’s bodies will remember.
Where are the children?
A trusted caregiver is critical to organize your feelings and help in making sense of the moment-to-moment interaction since the day you are born. If the child is an infant and a toddler, the trusted caregiver is lifesaving. The science I am sharing is well known; legislation and entire intervention programs are built on it. We are hardwired to stay deeply connected to each other. A political migratory procedure that separates babies, toddlers, and children from their parents to further a political agenda violates basic human rights, transforming anyone who executes it regardless of the hierarchy, into a cruel child abuser. A retraction from such procedures that does not account for how and when these families will be reunited and how these ruptures in the children’s attachment to their parents will be repaired, perpetuates the harm to the child. Almost three weeks ago, we learned that the government lost the mandated dateline to reunify 95 of these migrant children under the age of 5 with their parents. Not only that, we also learned that toddlers have been brought to court. And we also learned that young children reunited with their parents behaved as if they did not recognize them.
Where are these children?
Are these children wondering if their parents still love them? Are these children wondering if their hearts will ever be safe again?
Selective memory about American history of interference in Central America prevails.
Displacement does not discriminate; war, famine, prosecution, climate change and the poverty created by institutionalized immoral greed are the forces behind losses that will travel generations.
It is arrogance and ignorance that makes people forget that any given time you could become the outsider asking for refuge and asylum from strangers.
We need a different answer. We need innovative ways to do away with the industries of war and poverty that have caused so much sorrow over generations and generations. The answer needs to be global too. A planet divided into the half north rich and the half south poor is inhuman and unsustainable.
There is hope. I experienced it weeks ago when I walked with millions all over the country, chanting, “Where are our children?” The children were held in our hearts, and hope becomes action.
Where are our children?
My hope became this action, I wrote and illustrated another book that I will distribute in the next coming weeks for free. I volunteer my clinical time and I volunteer as a translator to help these traumatized children and their families.
I wonder if your hope for these children and the children of the world has become action too? Small acts of understanding and solidarity toward children and families in need are the most powerful because they create a chain reaction of love and empathy that cannot be stopped. Think about the revolutionary love Pope Francisco discusses in his 2017 TEDTalk, the one we know exists but we do not nurture enough in the business of modern life, the love of equality, solidarity and tenderness (link bellow)? Let us all walk toward our children in this love.
Learning about the science se behind what makes us fully human and what destroys that possibility:
- Nadine Burke Harris’ How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime TED Talk
- 60 Minutes with OPRAH and Bruce Perry
- Edward Tronick, Still Face Paradigm; yes, do the Still Face experiment first!
- His Holiness Pope Francis ‘ Why the only future worth building includes everyone. TED Talk
Opening sensitivity to those who must become asylum seekers an immigrants.
- The Human Flow a movie by Ai Weiwei, 2017 (Available in Amazon Prime)
- Guten Tag Ramón, 2013 film by Jorge Ramirez-Suárez
- Under the Same Moon (2007) directed by Patricia Riggen
- How many millions of people are displaced in 2018?