Saturday, January 30, 2010

Childhood Trauma/ Orphans from Haiti

On my other blog, I shared information about someone who is helping families who adopt orphans from Haiti. Like soldiers returning from a war, children who have lived through disasters may have emotional problems that last for a long time. Fortunately, children, especially young ones, are more resilient than adults, but the traumas they’ve experienced may have effects that last a long time.

Here are some things the adoptive parents of earthquake orphans might want to know:

Sometimes kids whose parents die are very sad, but they seem to deal with it okay. Then, many months later when they've experienced the permanence of death, they'll suddenly fall apart. That happened to me when my father died. I was six years old when it happened and eight months later I read a book where an animal died and sobbed for hours. Nobody, including myself, knew why I was so upset, but I was actually grieving for my father.

Another time something triggered one of my preschool students, whose father had died about seven months earlier, to do the same thing. This time her mother (whom I'd called) realized why the child was crying and helped her talk about her feelings. If something like that happens with adopted orphans I hope their new parents will recognize that they're grieving for what happened because of the earthquake and encourage them to talk about it.

It isn’t easy for children who have been through traumatic experiences to learn a new culture and language. When I was young I knew a boy who had come to America from a Nazi concentration camp. Soon after he arrived when he was only beginning to learn English he completely forgot his native language. It’s not impossible that some orphans from Haiti might have the same thing happen to them.

1 comment:

  1. Jan, what a moving and touching article. Thanks for writing it!