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Impact of refugee trauma
on children and young
Understanding refugee
students’ reaction to the
refugee experience
As well as the experiences common to us all,
refugees also react to their pre-arrival experience.
All these conditions can affect their behaviour as
These are normal reactions to abnormal
Working with refugee students
who have experienced trauma
•Don’t underestimate their strength
•They are resilient, but in need of support
•Recognise the importance of school
in providing support
Some of the indicators of
refugee trauma are:
 Thinking a lot about experiences of violence
 Feeling ill and having unexplained pain
 Difficulty sleeping
 Lack of concentration and interest
Shattered assumptions about human existence
Helplessness and loss of control
Irritability and aggression
Some of the indicators of
refugee trauma are:
 Lack of confidence and trust, especially with authority
 Problems with attachment and bonding
 Anxiety – feeling afraid
 Depression – feeling sad
 Survivor guilt
 Heightened sense of responsibility
 Difficulty having ‘fun’
Post Traumatic Stress
Symptoms in preschool-age children
 Anxious attachment
 Regression
 Thematic play
 Traumatic dreams and nightmares
 Obsessive telling of story
 Withdrawn
 Mutism
 Illness or tiredness
Post Traumatic Stress
Symptoms in school-aged children
 Elaborate re-enactments of trauma
 Moodiness
Aggressive and bossy behaviour
 Decline in school or work tasks
 Perfectionism in tasks and performance
 Continual and/or obsessive talking
Psychosomatic complaints
Post Traumatic Stress
Symptoms in adolescents
 withdrawn
 compliance
 anger and rebellion
 acting out behaviours
 disobeying rules
 drug taking
 inappropriate sexual activity
 vandalism
 extremes in risk taking behaviour
 pre-occupation with self
Supporting refugee students
and their families
Key Points to remember:
•The importance of family well-being
•Supporting parents and families
•The importance of school