The saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. We expect to rely on each other to help both the child and the caregiver through the process of learning to navigate the world around them. Even as adults we talk about the importance of having a tribe to provide support when needed. The idea that we are supposed to work together, to be connected to each other is something so ingrained that we use isolation as a punishment (from time-outs and grounding to solitary confinement). But what happens when isolation is incurred unintentionally?
Children who have been displaced often experience isolation, particularly social isolation, repeatedly in their lifetimes. That isolation can come as a result of being removed from their biological family, moving to a home that has minimal contact with others, being placed in environments in which they completely unfamiliar.
Some children who have experienced frequent moves may develop a sense of disillusionment with creating friendships and connections with others. They may adopt the attitude that there is no point in connecting with others because they won’t be around long enough for it to matter. Other children who experienced this type of social isolation may feel awkward in social situations and may lack the social skills required to form those connections they are missing. The danger in both of these scenarios is that it can become a cycle of isolation—the person feels isolated, is unable or unwilling to form connections, and then feels even more isolated—which can contribute to more significant mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
So, while we recognize that making connections and forming relationships with others is a need that all people have, we seem to forget that these displaced children are at a disadvantage when it comes to fulfilling that need. They require assistance in navigating their social surroundings, especially when those surroundings are subject to frequent change. They require the patience of caregivers, teachers, and friends to help support them without shaming or rejecting them for missteps. These children who struggle with feelings of isolation require individuals who are willing to make an extra effort to reach out and make a connection and help them learn how navigate the world around them and to build their own village.