Part 2: The Children Who Lose Parents by Nicole Simonson, LICSW
On a day to day basis, the trauma of parental separation with and without additional adversity, takes many forms.
In the urban elementary school in which I work, it is the kindergarten boy who becomes unable to physically manage his body when his teacher mentions that the class will be making Mother’s Day cards. When the rest of his classmates begin to work on their cards, this boy throws himself on the rug and begins to roll around and growl. His age and trauma make it nearly impossible for his brain to process the emotions he has regarding the loss of his mother in his life. Unable to find words to express himself, he resorts to regressive behavior and disrupts his class.
The face of parental loss is the young girl who has bounced in and out of foster care, different towns, and different schools, four times by her seventh birthday. She has some good days, but she also has days where she hoards food, throws things at classmates, and has tantrums when she is told her visit with the nurse is over. She prompts an evacuation of her classroom because she won’t stop jumping on her desk and screaming. Some days she simply puts her head down on her desk and cries. The emotions that her young mind can’t process make it nearly impossible for her to engage in learning during the school day. She is found eligible for special education.
Parental loss through death from an overdose is the latency aged boy who has not had an opportunity to grieve his father and has outbursts often when someone calls him his name—he is named after his father. His emotions become so labile he can’t remain in a general education classroom. He is recommended for emergency psychiatric screenings multiple times. He receives detention often because he assaults classmates, threatens his teacher, and often disrupts his entire class. He is also a talented artist who can’t see his gifts because he is so depressed.
A plethora of available research proves time and again that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), including separation from trauma, lead to pervasive negative outcomes. Work is being conducted across the nation, as well as internationally, to find ways to prevent these outcomes. Please contact your congressional representatives and ask them to support efforts to minimize ACEs.