A while ago, I came across a message from Highlights for Children.
A kids’ magazine featuring mild rebukes of doing things such as sticking your dirty fingers in an olive jar (that would be you, Goofus) instead of using a fork (yay Gallant–you always do the right thing), had a serious statement on Twitter about what I am going to call state sponsored child abuse.
Give this magazine credit for knowing the science of hardship, neglect, and stress on kids. Kids and baby mammals in general are not resilent as some claim. They are sensitive to stress. When raised in situations where resources are lacking females suffer from lack of brain development, leading to attention problems. In other words, things like poverty and war can harm the brain of a young female, making her less able to make good decisions and be less resilent in the future. Being raised by a stressed mom can create many problems for the offspring: depression, anxiety, attention problems and PTSD later in life. Good nutrition and dependable dads can help nuture brain development and ensure proper social skills. Allowing children to experience malnutrition and trauma, such as the trauma of war and poverty or even physical punishment, can affect genes, making future generations more likely to be unable to cope with stress. What helps? Anti-poverty programs including food assistance work! They protect children and familes. But due to the deep, genetic trauma of poverty and stress, we can’t expect insantaneous results. Lack of nurture becomes nature.
Even for well-nourished children, being removed from a loving home and sent to boarding school, as happened with the children of Dora Jordan and King William when they parted, can cause trauma. As I researched and wrote Wolves and Deer, I was struck as to how much the ten children suffered at the parting, even as their father became King and lavished them with titles and riches.
Because of this research, I was sad to read that recently, babies and young children have been taken from parents and sent to Michigan via Bethany Christian Services, a group with local ties. Even worse, some have been put into camps that have appauling conditions.
Scientific groups have sounded the alarm on the devistating blow back the world will suffer because of family separation and failure to nuture children. Of course, one way to desensitize your population is to make them suspicious of science. But will anyone ever be suspicious of Highlights for Children? I hope not.