Every day we turn on the news and we are bombarded with horrific casualties of war that are affecting children and their families in various countries throughout the world. When a child experiences family loss and disruptions in their lives, they may have to take drastic measures to survive. During war, these children may have to steal, lie, or commit crimes in order to survive. These devastating experiences will impact the child’s moral compass and spiritual beliefs which may compromise their mental health.
“Eighteen million children are being raised in the chaos of war. In the past ten years, as a result of armed conflict, over 2 million children have been killed, 6 million have been disabled, 20 million are homeless, and more than 1 million have become separated from their caregivers,” -Robert T. Muller, Ph.D. on Psychology Today.
The psychological impact of war on children are as intense as the effects on adults, yet children don’t necessarily have the devices to deal with such horror and change in their lives. That being said, the damage done to children throughout wartime can be mentally scarring.
Families are impacted during war and they may lose their community, schools, homes, and normal life stability. Children who are exposed to this terror and hardship during war, may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
We also hear that the phenomena of sex slaves, rape, and prostitution are more prevalent during times of war. During refugee life we observe that sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, become much more rampant. These combined threats can lead a child to become a victim of anxiety and depression as well.
As far as the physical damages go, Psychology Today points out that millions of children are disabled by war. Many of whom have grossly inadequate access to rehabilitative services. It can take up to ten years before a child receives proper medical treatment and this can lead to infection and illness.
Often times these kids may not have healthy water to drink, proper nutrition, appropriate sanitation, housing or not have health services provided. Refugee children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and infectious diseases. They rarely receive proper immunization from deadly diseases during these times of stress.
In many countries around the world children are forced to fight their parents’ wars. Being a child soldier is often a large part of psychological damage to children. Rather than simply trying to survive, they suddenly are ripped from their homes and sent into battle without ever being trained to fight. War Children’s website mentions that child soldiers and street children tend to turn to drugs and alcohol because of the confusion of war and their own inability to create and foster healthy relationships with their peers.
The media often focuses on the bigger picture of war in places that are experiencing turmoil, however it is important to step back and think about the people rather than the problem.