Separating children and parents at the border causes lifelong damage

Paper chain family held up to sunset

There is an important scientific fact that we need to be aware of as the political drama at the border unfolds: when children are separated from their parents, they can be damaged for the rest of their lives.

Research shows that when children face strong, frequent, or prolonged adversity without adequate support from adults, it causes a stress response that can have terrible consequences. This “toxic stress” affects both the mind and the body.

It disrupts normal brain development, leading to not just emotional problems, but problems with thinking and learning. Children who are exposed to toxic stress have a higher risk of depression and substance abuse. They are more likely to drop out of school, engage in risky behaviors, and commit suicide.

The health risks are serious as well. When the physical stress response of the body — the “flight or fight” response — is turned on for prolonged periods of time, it causes damage to body organs. Children who are exposed to toxic stress have a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and lung disease, among other problems — and are more likely to die early.

The earlier in life the stress starts, the worse it is for children. Not only are young children more fragile, their brains are still developing. In order for young brains to develop normally, they need ongoing nurturing interactions with adults, something called “serve and return.” When these interactions don’t happen, it can literally and permanently change the architecture of the brain. The damage can be devastating, and it can’t be undone.

Remember, these are children who have already endured toxic stress — not just the stress of the journey to our border, but the poverty or violence or both that caused their parents to make the journey. They need us to help when they arrive, not make things worse.

Taking children away from their parents at the border and putting them into detention centers or foster care isn’t just sad. It can cause harm that lasts forever, even if they are ultimately reunited with their parents. It can change their future — and shorten their lives. That goes beyond sad: it is cruel.

It is clearly wrong to use children as pawns in any battle, especially a political one. But what is happening at the border goes beyond using children as pawns. The science is clear. We are literally ruining their lives. And the only reason we seem to be doing it is to make a point.

This is more than wrong. It’s unconscionable.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

1 Corinthians 3:1-2 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able

,1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

Psalm 65:9 You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,

Acts 12:24 But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

Proverbs 11:24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.

Ezekiel 8:6 And He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary? But yet you will see still greater abominations.”

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

2 Chronicles 7:16 “For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.

2 Corinthians 9:10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;

Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

1 Peter 2:2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

Luke 8:14-15 “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

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