Pediatric Associates of the NW Blogs

The Humanitarian Crisis at the Border- How to Talk With Your Child

Scott Spencer, MD, MPH
August 01, 2019 04:00PM

The humanitarian crisis that is occurring at the Mexico/U.S. border shelters may be hard to imagine for some families, but may be very real and immediate for others. During this difficult time, it is wise to think about how we can help our children understand what is happening and be sensitive to those that are directly impacted. The media can be scary for children, but hearing from us directly helps reassure and empower children to feel they can help in their own way.

Familiarize your child with what an immigrant is and how they may have different cultures, different ways of life, and different beliefs.  Your family may have a history of immigration, or know families with this recent history.  It is a chance to discuss the core values of how you treat people that are different than you.  For young children the book, “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes” by Mem Fox, is a great starting point.

Further your discussion by talking about refugees. Talk about the basics of life - food, home and peace. Talk about how being a refugee means that a person or family didn’t have these basics in their country, and therefore had to leave to come to a different country.  You may need to explain other harder concepts like war or persecution.  This can be difficult.  Here are a list of children’s books that may help

Once your child understands how refugees are in dire need, talk about your family’s values toward treating people in need.  Talk about a time when you volunteered, and how important it was for you to help.  It may be natural for them to want to help. 

The first way to help may be just being sensitive to those directly affected.  You can discuss how to perceive emotions of fear, sadness, or concern.  It may also be important to recognize those who aren’t being sensitive and how this can lead to bullying.  This is an important time to mention that if you know families directly affected, I encourage you to read this article -  If you need additional assistance, the medical and mental health providers at PANW are ready to help support these discussions with your children. 

In terms of directly helping those at the border, you and your child may be interested in contributing in a tangible way. With this in mind, PANW is taking action. We are partnering with a local organization, Positive Charge!PDX, to be a donation site for their emergency collection initiative. Along with a Seattle-based organization (Little Mercies) who is collaborating with social workers at the border, Positive Charge!PDX is gathering much needed comfort items and necessities to pack and ship to affected children awaiting immigration court dates. PANW has always prioritized the health and safety of all children, and is accepting of all politics, religions, genders, races, and ethnicities. With your children, please consider contributing to our donation collection efforts. Each of our offices will have donation bins available through September 7th.  If you don’t have time to drop your donations in our offices, you can involve your children in purchasing items off the Amazon wish list Items will be packed into backpacks, along with handwritten cards of hope and kindness. You and your child can also help write these cards in our offices, just ask at the front desk for supplies.


Requested Items:

  • Travel toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Skin cleansing wipes
  • Band-Aids
  • Non-perishable snacks (granola bars, apple/fruit sauce, fruit leathers, juice boxes, dried fruit)
  • Maxi pads/tampons
  • Deodorant
  • Diapers (any size)
  • Diaper cream
  • New or gently loved shoes
  • New socks and underwear
  • New or gently used children’s clothing
  • New or gently used stuffed animals
  • Small, rechargeable crank/solar flashlight (with batteries)
  • Small pack of crayons/coloring pencils
  • Coloring book
  • Book in Spanish
  • Notes of kindness and hope
  • Small/light backpack
  • Superhero costumes/accessories
  • Polaroid cameras/film
  • $5 to purchase a blanket in Mexico