Marais Pletsch, MA, CCLS
Refugee Trauma Initiative, Thessaloniki, Greece
It is of utmost importance to understand the cultural norms of the child and family you are working with, and it is equally significant to recognize that the attachment between parent and child may be disrupted due to the trauma they have likely experienced. Among refugee children, hospitals or sick people may trigger memories of conflict and suffering. Similarly, being separated from parents may trigger immense anxiety. It would be helpful to have an in-depth understanding of PTSD to be able to support the children and families who suffer from it. Some of the children I work with are developmentally delayed and have behavioral difficulties and lower socio-emotional intelligence. Many of the children I work with have difficulty expressing emotions appropriately and can be particularly aggressive. Because they have been in a refugee camp environment for so long they are often not able to sit still for extended periods and need extra encouragement to complete basic tasks. But most importantly, these children are resilient. They have been treated ‘differently’ for so long. They desire to be understood as humans, not as refugees. They crave normalcy, structure, and play. As these children and families adjust into their new societies, it will be particularly important to give them opportunities to process and express their emotions. Doing so will help alleviate barriers to successful coping with experiences such as hospitalization.