Some of you, I imagine, are as lucky as I am, to have a three-year-old child in your life.

Perhaps that three-year-old is your child or, like me, your grandchild, or even a younger sibling. From any perspective, a three-year-old is a wonder conveyed. It is their sense of excitement and delight and — yes — wonder at the universe they're discovering daily and are able to convey with their freshly articulated speech.

Our grandson, Olson, is fascinated by leaves, bugs, squirrels, birds and trucks. Big machines and the family dog, Oliver, are special favourites.

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He uses his senses, his hands, his body to explore and comment on the new world he's finding so satisfyingly delightful; each day yielding greater expansion of his universe, made safe by mama and papa.

Then comes night time, and he finds many reasons to delay bedtime. Our intrepid explorer needs the comfort of bedtime stories, soft toys, multiple hugs — and still there may be tears as the fearlessness of daytime is succeeded by the fears of the unknown night.

Independence gives way to separation anxiety. And it's all normal on the path to growing up.

Most people understand that kids are sensitive to separation, even older kids.

That's why United States first lady Melania Trump insisted on staying in New York City till the end of the school year, at a cost of $150,000 per day to taxpayers, lest 12 year-old son Baron be discomfited by being shifted too abruptly from his schoolmates.

That potential personal trauma seemed far from her mind when she flew to visit a Texas centre for refugee children wearing a $39 Zara jacket inscribed "I really don't care. Do U?"
With only minimal effort you can begin to appreciate the effect that the sudden inexplicable forced removal of little children from their parents must have upon that absolutely beautiful process of exploration inherent to the normal development in those kids.

It's an act of wanton cruelty, like tearing the wings off butterflies.

After a long, difficult journey from home through a thousand miles of Mexico the family arrives, presents itself at the US border to claim asylum only to have that 3-year-old forcibly removed.


The child physically taken along with cries and struggle is removed to some place many miles away from the only comfort and safety he has known.

The surroundings are strange. The sounds, the language spoken are unfamiliar. The faces are strange ... even the food offered is strange.

There is no way for the child to make any sense of this. He is thrust back on more primitive forms of thinking — fears and fantasies substitute for nascent reality-based reasoning.

Bodily functions are less controllable; sphincter muscles less reliable. The child begins after a while to regress as the memory of mama and papa grows dimmer over time. Time itself, a measure only partially grasped before, with the loved parents, becomes elusive, infinitely lengthened.

Jay Kuten
Jay Kuten

Fear, anxiety are the main drivers of existence with concomitant surges of the autonomic nervous system.

To survive the child begins to shut down emotion. If and when reunified, the child may not recognise his parents.

The harm done will be lasting. This is a form of psychologic torture ... for parents and child.

By international agreement, safety for children means perpetrators — like child pornographers — cannot be tolerated.

The Trump administration had to know the effect they would have on these refugee families, as the special treatment for son Baron demonstrates.

If we do nothing, we're accomplices.

If we can offer Australia to take 150 of the claimants on Nauru or Manus, we can make a similar offer to the US regarding asylum seekers from Central America.

The least we can do is express our strong condemnation of family separation as a country, as individuals.

As a gesture of condemnation we ought to hold the author of the contemptible policy responsible by declaring Stephen Miller, senior adviser to Trump, persona non grata. He should not be welcome with impunity to our shores.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.