All people should be empowered to access tools for healing themselves. The recent news of children being ripped away from mothers and families is traumatic to watch, but unfortunately not new in the human experience. As a mother of four, healer and craftsman of healing spaces, I have been deeply saddened by terrorist acts being used against families for an unsustainable power agenda.
During the transatlantic African slave trade, families were separated as a strategy to isolate and “break” in enslaved people.
During the Holocaust, families were often separated and sent to their death alone and away from family.
Today, instead of investing in holistic programs that support people of color and their families and prevent crisis, we send children into foster systems that are complicated and often dangerous. We compartmentalize the child and parent and label the child or family “at-risk” or “opportunity youth” in order to quickly and succinctly identify subsidies they may be eligible for.
What we do know is that being separated from a caregiver is traumatic, whether forcefully taken away, shot to death, or through daily life experiences such as a divorce or breakup. It sends a young person into fight-or-flight mode, struggling to find ways to deal with abandonment and loss.
I believe in speaking out about injustice when it is soulful, carries purpose, and checks the ego. Each day I hold myself accountable to these two questions:
Am I living my purpose?
Did I use my resources, power, and influence to create powerful impact in the world?
This line of thinking is what informed this post.
Intergenerational Trauma: A Universal Experience
No one is exempt from the impact of generational trauma. Thankfully, we all can develop strategies for coping and healing, and share what we know with the young people in our lives. Here is some of my background that led me to discover the healing tools I share with you today.
My story is that I lived with my two married parents until the age of 8. When my mother left my father and they divorced, it wasn’t until years later that I discovered that I had abandonment issues; not in the traditional sense, but that I yearned for the cohesive family structure and that twice a month was not enough for a self-proclaimed daddy's girl, nor did it work for my father. I work diligently on establishing true red flags and healthy boundaries and expressing my needs because of this experience.
When I became a mother, I already had very clear ideas about my role and style, some of it based on the acknowledgement of my primal instincts and the very first instinct was to protect my babies at all costs and at every expense.
My style of parenting is based on an adaptive and emergent process of mastering self, and supporting my young people to master and know themselves. It calls for apologies when I make a mistake; it calls for accountability all around; it calls for me standing in my knowing when I need to make a next step and developing a deeply intuitive inner world.
As a person of African descent, I learned about cellular memory from culture bearers, and later on in life I read scientists' claims that trauma can and is passed down from one generation to the next on a cellular level. I recognize past pain and trauma triggers, how to release and generate new healthy cells, as well as how to create generative and healing environments that fosters forward progression and growth.
Knowing that things and people hold energy and charges, I work tirelessly to surround myself with people who share values of mutual respect, creativity, honesty and a strong work ethic with purpose and create environments of healing for many different people to find respite- It is not only an act of resistance, but an act of emotional leadership.
As a survivor of domestic abuse, I recall locking myself and my children in the bathroom to wait out my partner’s tirade, or escaping in the middle of the night to a friend’s house for respite.
All of these experiences had residual outcomes, ones that I have had to acknowledge and work towards resolving and healing.
When thinking about current immigration policy and its impact and children, it is helpful to reflect on the role of intergenerational trauma in your own family.
How might intergenerational trauma be affecting "at-risk" youth today?
Additionally, is is helpful to research and consider how systems of oppression add additional layers of trauma and abuse into the lives of undocumented and immigrant children around the world.
Healing Tools For Young People Dealing With Trauma
Here are a few tried and true tools that I have used with my four Black sons to mitigate trauma, bring toxic energy to the surface, and redirect it.
As with all things, take what works and makes sense for your life, and leave the rest.
While I recognize that some of the tools I mention are widely known, I am humbly reminding us to engage in these practices with young people, and to suggest or gently nudge those who work in service of young people of all backgrounds to try these tools:
Auricular (ear) acupuncture uses five points in the ear to relieve stress, shock to the body, and calm the body. On children, small mustard seeds have been used with tape on those points. The adult or parent can gently massage the point in order to activate the channel on the body.
To find out more about this process NADA- check out https://www.acudetox.com.
Is there a community acupuncture offering in your city? Many offer services on a sliding scale, and many practitioners such as myself will work for free during situations of crisis to support community. When one of my sons was assaulted last year, I had our entire family treated in order to reset our home, his body, and our energy as a tribe.
Healing Through Art
Art and creativity allows all of us to express things that we cannot do in words, which is why it is so important for young people to have access to art-making experiences to share their feelings, fears, and desires.
Creating something new and unique that is pleasing to look at, or dislodging pain by deconstructing something and making a new thing, gives that energy a place to go that is constructive. Here is one resource that I have found helpful during my teaching days; it is for easy activities that do not require many resources.
Safely expressing rage through yelling, cursing, screaming, crying, and then following that with a soothing activity can be a healing experience. We all need to discharge tension and stress from the body, and sometimes we have to do it physically.
Just because young people are smaller doesn’t mean they don’t get angry or feel rage. Sharing with a young person that there are appropriate times to dislodge that energy and then creating space for it are essential.
After a milestone birthday, one of my sons felt a great deal of rage around his father’s abandonment. He screamed and cried forcefully, until he fell asleep with me massaging him with essential oils to send him into a deep sleep (here is what stress can do to your body).
It is imperative for each young person to feel empowered to develop their own energetic release plan based on what they feel, and to be supported by caring adults in this process.
Make A Plan
Write out a digestible plan that focuses on the problem, the root cause, and action steps to deal with the issue. This process is informed by whether or not a child or young person is too small or hurt to write it themselves (WRAP offers some free templates for creating self-designed prevention and wellness processes).
Breaking problems into smaller chunks of information can sometimes help the mind to process a next step. It also allows for reflection because it is in writing and can provide a pathway for next steps. I would also suggest drawing and mind mapping if the young person is more visual.
Take Care Of Your Body
Take care of the body’s needs. We all need water (clean and pure) to hydrate; it keeps the brain alert, and flushes the body of unwanted materials. Provide a small, colorful, and tasty meal to a young person and activate that food with love vibrations; actually think loving thoughts while preparing it, and say loving things to this food before serving it.
Season it well and arrange it beautifully on a plate. If a young person is ok with touch (always have consent), a firm touch on the shoulder, cupping his or her hands in your own, and holding them is an act of symbolic and energetic protecting.
A hug or stroke of the hair is soothing for most people (if they enjoy touch). Sometimes when a person has experienced touch based trauma, being held or rubbed is not soothing but triggering, and should always be respected. Energy healing such as Reiki allows you to send the same love vibrations without touch and should be used to support a young person.
Warm salt baths release toxins and soothe tense muscles, while giving healing time in a contained space to rest. And finally, sleep: deep, healthy, and restorative sleep where your body gets multiple REM cycles, and you wake up naturally on your own is what many of us need rather than further pushing the body.
This is yet another reason why keeping undocumented children in cages where there is little chance of deep, restful sleep is both traumatic and abusive.
There are many other ways to support a young person’s healing, but these are just some easy and accessible strategies for providing support with few resources. They are methods I have used with my own children and young people I have worked with.
For more information on how to provide support to undocumented and immigration children, here is a compendium of resources.
I commit to sending Reiki to families and children who are experiencing the excruciating feeling of separation, isolation, fear of the unknown, danger and unnecessary trauma.
I commit to speaking out politically and taking action to speak truth to power, and to continuing to support individuals as whole people with many needs and ways to give back through my work.
And finally, as a mentor once shared: Healer, Heal Thyself
I commit to a lifelong process of loving caring and supporting myself, as radical care is self-care every day.
GIA is where aesthetics for a new era manifests as abundance, healing, powerful transformation, and progression. In The Modern Matriarch, Gia Hamilton shares practical ways to deconstruct and repurpose traditional uses of matriarchy for contemporary needs.