Mind Matters — Yes, We Should Care!

My granddaughter looked over her mother’s shoulder and smiled at me as she went off to day care today. She is beginning to understand what is called “object constancy” in the field of psychology. In other words, she is beginning to understand that she will see her Mimo (me) again tonight and that she will see her mother again after she is done work for the day. She is two, and, at two years old, a child is not totally trusting that their loved ones come back. When I am caring for her every Wednesday, she begins to get worried around 5 in the afternoon. One day while we snuggled, waiting for mama, she kept repeating to herself that mama will come back. I assured her that, yes, mama loves her and she will come back from work soon. The PBS program, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, an offshoot of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, even has an episode where Daniel sings about grownups coming back. This concern continues through early childhood!

What do you tell the children taken hostage at the border—forcibly separated from their parents? Neuro-science now confirms how detrimental and traumatic such brutal separation is on children’s development.

How ironic that we let this happen yet celebrate Mother’s Day and celebrate Father’s Day. We buy cards, and flowers, and have cookouts and dinners. We celebrate our children. We give baby showers and continue celebrating after the baby is born to glory in each accomplishment. We carry this into grade school and on and on.

So then, if we are so family-oriented, how can we not be appalled at what is happening to children being literally pulled from their mother’s breasts? There is nothing illegal about children needing their families, their mothers and also their fathers. There is nothing illegal about people seeking asylum from gang violence and death.

As a psychologist, mother, and grandmother, I am appalled—distressed to tears—at the callousness and cruelty foisted upon these innocent children.

Knowledge of the effect of separation from prime caregivers and the need for the attachment bonds to be made and not broken for the healthy development of the child is well known.

Whether you’ve read the academic literature and all the research on child development or not, most of us know how important mothers are to their children. Most of us know children rely on their parents for support, safety, affection, and security.

So if most of us, not only the psychiatric and psychological community, the pediatricians, the child development specialists and educators, know this, why is it not being stopped now?

This is not a political issue, this is a human decency issue. A moral issue! These children must be re-united with their families as soon as possible. This traumatization of little lives for proving a political point is beyond the pale.

Imagine your child or children being dragged away from you after a long hot journey fleeing your country because you fear for your life. Imagine your child screaming for you. Imagine your breasts aching. Imagine your child on a cot in some tent not understanding why or how he or she got there, having nightmares, or crying, or worse, going numb to any feeling? Imagine it now because whatever happens to anyone should and does affect us all. And what is happening is child abuse—and that is a crime!