Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday Feature: Attachment, Resilience and Immigration

As a parent, former school counselor and instructor of developmental psychology, I am horrified and heartbroken by the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. As the battle rages over who started it, who prolonged it and who thinks everyone involved is a criminal, I'm sure of only one thing.

It needs to stop.

Not only is the penalty that these children are paying for a crime they didn't commit much too steep, but they -- and we -- will pay the price for this in the future as well. The connections children form with their parents lay the groundwork for future relationships -- how they interact with everyone around them from childhood onwards. A child who learns to trust and who grows up learning that when things go wrong, they can seek out a parent for comfort has a better chance of becoming a healthy, compassionate person -- and parent -- than one whose life has not provided him with these opportunities.

Think I'm a bleeding heart liberal? On this subject, I may be guilty as charged, but I have decades of psychological research to back me up. Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation, referenced in this great New York Times piece by Kate Murphy, provided clear evidence that handing a child over to a stranger for safekeeping is, from the child's perspective, nowhere near the same thing as being comforted and cared for by a parent.

Research on resilience begs to differ with this cruel policy as well. The #1 thing that helps kids bounce back after hardship? The same touchstone attachment researchers cite -- a nurturing relationship with a significant adult, usually a parent.

Please understand, I'm not saying that foster parents and adoptive parents cannot adequately care for children and develop deep, nurturing relationships with the children they have chosen to love and raise; these situations are entirely different from the disaster that is taking place daily in this country as children are ripped from their parents' arms. It takes a special kind of heartlessness to rip a sobbing, screaming child from the arms of his or her parents and, as if that's not enough cruelty for one day, to enter them into a "system" that has inadequate methods for checking in on the welfare of these innocent victims in the war on immigration.

Next Friday, I will return to a "regular" Friday Feature. But today...I just couldn't let this go.

Read Kate Murphy's piece. Please. And call your representative.

If we aren't willing to protect children, what have we come to?

No comments:

Post a Comment