However, certain considerations may be required in order to help children and caretakers come to terms with life-changing events, such as the loss of a parent. Separation can be highly stressful for children, particularly if it is unexpected, or repeated. Some children may experience anxiety, attachment problems, sleep disturbances, dependency issues, regression, and a range of other behavioural issues which threaten their mental health and development.
Specific types of support may be required for children suffering from loss, severe or chronic ill health, abuse or exploitation. The child’s experience, age, resilience, and the level of support received from the family and community will determine if a child needs external services. A child is far less likely to experience psychosocial stress if they have good natural support mechanisms and therefore protection efforts should focus on supporting families and communities to help each other.
When psychosocial support is needed, an assessment is important in determining the scope and type of issues, the existing family and community resources, and analysis of how these can be strengthened. Clinical mental health interventions such as therapy, psychiatry or psychological counseling, should only be provided by trained professionals after a clinical assessment and, in all cases, should be culturally relevant.
Psychosocial activities must promote the children’s development and their relationships with others, re-establish routines, increase self confidence and sense of control over their lives. Children’s activities, such as the provision of safe places, group work or referrals to specialists, should be designed around the child’s individual needs, age, gender, and cultural identity. Interventions should be empowering, inclusive, and fully integrated with wider community efforts. Children’s participation is essential in psychosocial work; children should be encouraged to express their opinions, and to have these taken into account.
The literature found here describes the psychosocial effects of separation, and other threats to children such as HIV/AIDS, conflict, abuse and exploitation, and provides guidance and examples of psychosocial interventions.