Every second that passes, a child becomes a refugee in Ukraine. This is a UNICEF spokesperson’s terrible assessment. In the last 20 days, about 1.4 million children have been forced to flee the country, or about 55 every minute, James Elder told a news conference in Geneva. What do they understand about the conflict they are playing? How do they experience this forced deportation? Psychologist Philip Geoff, a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and a member of the Swiss Skills Center for Human Rights (CSDH), offers his expertise on the psychological effects of war on children.
FranceInfo: What is the situation of Ukrainian children?
Philip Jaff: Unfortunately, conflicts are repetitive and similar to each other. Although the geopolitical conditions are different, the war in Ukraine is no different from the war in Syria. To the Child Rights Committee (United Nations, Editor’s note), We are trying to remind the Russian government that it has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that it has obligations that it does not respect. In addition to the bombings, Russia is responsible for the lack of medical facilities and closed schools in Ukraine.
During wartime, children are separated from their daily activities, their routines, and their hobbies. Suddenly, their whole lives turned upside down.
“The first effect of war on a child is that the smile disappears. Games stop, their childhood is snatched away from them, they sometimes experience sleep disorders because they fall asleep in new situations, dreams occur, and faces frown.”Philip Jaff, Psychologist
For young people, it is wrong to think that they are protected by their intellectual abilities, which is considered inferior to that of adults. Even a child has epidermal contact with his anxious mother. We know that at every stage of a child’s development, the basics need to be realized, but for children, the sense of well-being is lost and it cannot be changed. Interestingly, a certain number of children are still resistant.
What physical symptoms may occur in these children?
In all conflicts, even before a war breaks out, children react to the anxiety of adults. They are already marked by a harmful atmosphere. It makes them weaker and more vulnerable. We often hear about post-traumatic stress disorder. But before that, there are mild and moderate symptoms. Those who need to be warned vary according to age. Children who are retarded and speechless, who are uncontrollable in behavior, agile or destructive, need special attention. We need to pay attention to the food that is no longer digested, the child that is no longer eating … there are plenty of symptoms.
This is the art of good mental management: you can evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. For children who have been able to leave Ukraine in less emergency situations, the prognosis is better to be welcomed abroad by volunteers who are not on their knees, and when they are not direct witnesses to the bombings.
What should we think to welcome these children in the best possible circumstances?
For example, children who come to France or Switzerland need to find regular meals, regular meals, and a place for themselves.
“Loss of privacy should be limited, even if they do not find their place of residence or home in Ukraine.Philip Jaff, Psychologist
They need social interactions, physical activity again, play, laugh even while at home, the situation is worrisome. It is important to focus on the mental health of these children, perhaps when psychological intervention justifies it. Finally, we must succeed in maintaining the same level of mobilization over time. Families need long-term support to return to Ukraine.
Can you record their trauma over time?
Apparently, for some children, the effects of the war in Ukraine will be felt for a very long time. There will be children who will become adults forever confused. This may be for children who were victims before the war began.
“But if we support families well and assure them of the future of the people living in Ukraine, some in the medium and long term will not find any trace of trauma.”Philip Jaff, Psychologist
At the end of World War II, we told ourselves that civilians would be traumatized forever. In fact, most people are able to manage painful memories and reunite with the joys of life.
“Web specialist. Infuriatingly humble coffee ninja. Wannabe zombie advocate. Subtly charming tv fanatic. Avid social media scholar.”