• June 2016
  • Vol. 17, No. 4

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Children and Traumatic Separation

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network published a factsheet for professionals working with children who have experienced a separation from their caregiver, whether through death or due to other circumstances for varying amounts of time. The factsheet explains that children can often experience traumatic stress as a result of separations depending on the circumstances surrounding the experience. Besides the trauma of a separation due to death, children may become separated from caregivers because of parental incarceration, immigration, parental deportation, parental military deployment, and termination of parental rights.

The factsheet describes challenges children may face when experiencing a traumatic separation. For example, children whose caregivers are still alive may experience complicated feelings surrounding hopes for a future reunion that may or may not be possible, which may affect their ability to cope with and adjust to life in their current situation. Other children may have experienced frightening events, such as a parent being arrested. Information is also provided on possible posttraumatic responses that children may exhibit such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, changes in mood, self-destructive thoughts or actions, as well as other mental and emotional challenges a child may face after a traumatic separation. Finally, tips for working with traumatized children are presented, including suggestions for how to do the following:

  • Guide caregivers on how to talk to children
  • Address related traumatic experiences
  • Help child gain mastery over trauma-related symptoms
  • Suggest ways for the child to maintain connections
  • Coordinate outside resources and referrals

To read the factsheet Children With Traumatic Separation: Information for Professionals, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website at http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/children_with_traumatic_separation_professionals.pdf (517 KB).
 

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