How can refugee trauma affect children?

Making it to the U.S. can be a dream come true for a lot of refugee families. This is particularly true if you experienced persecution or other traumas in your home country. If you have children, you may need to pay extra attention to their emotional needs while adapting. While many adults have trauma from war or persecution, so do children.

According to the National Traumatic Child Stress Network, not all children react to trauma the same way. To find help for your child, it helps to notice the signs.

Physical signs

As you settle into your new home, you may notice physical signs. For example, your child may present with stomach aches and headaches. Often, children have nightmares that lead to sleepless nights. They may look visibly tired or be physically weak. On the other hand, some children sleep too much.

If your children present with pain but cannot find a reason for it, this may signify traumatic exposure.

Behavioral signs

Children affected by trauma may have difficulty managing their emotions. Teenagers and older children may have difficulty holding onto relationships, may act out and cause problems at school or in public. At the same time, elementary children may display aggression and anger, along with withdrawal or sadness. Younger children may start regressing or acting younger than their age. They may throw more temper tantrums and refuse to play with other kids. Preschool-age children tend to be more prone to bite, kick or throw things. Often, they may play out events related to the trauma.

Children who undergo trauma tend to have a lot of fear surrounding separation and past events, to help, you need to consider their developmental stage.