Immigrant and refugee preschoolers’ sandplay representations of the tsunami

Lacroix, L., Rousseau, C., Gauthier, M.-F., Singh, A., Giguère, N., & Lemzoudi, Y. (2007)

The Arts in Psychotherapy

34(2) | 99-113

Extensive media exposure to natural disasters such as tsunamis may cause adverse effects including psychological distress and even posttraumatic symptoms in young children, particularly those who have suffered previous losses and trauma. This paper analyzes spontaneous representations of the 2004 tsunami through sandplay by a group of immigrant and refugee preschoolers, beginning 2 weeks after the tragedy. The children used a variety of coping strategies, making both nonverbal and verbal references to the tsunami. It was represented using a variety of figurines, including religious ones. We considered the children in light of four categories based on family homeland and psychological affinity to the tsunami experience. Our results suggest that sandplay provides an appropriate space to express and work through emotions stemming from the interaction of past and present experiences of adversity.