David Goldman has been battling for five years to regain custody of his son, Sean Goldman, from Sean's stepfamily in Brazil. David won his battle this week, and father an son werein Rio de Janeiro.
But, says psychologist Dr. Jenn Berman, Sean Goldman is likely to have a very hard time getting re-acclimated to life in the United States, with David Goldman, in both the long- and short-run. "Emotionally speaking," Berman told Jeff Glor, adjusting could prove to be a "psychological Armageddon" for Sean, 9.
Video of Thursday's reunion show a media mob scene around the Goldmans and a visibly stunned Sean Goldman.
In the short-term, Sean "has to acclimate to a completely different culture, and a world that is really unfamiliar to him," said Berman, author of "The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids." "Most of us don't have memories before three-to-five (years old), especially when you've gone through a trauma. But this is a child who has faced some of life's biggest traumas: a divorce, the betrayal of the trust that his mother had with him, the death of his mother, the abandonment of his father. Unbeknownst to him, his father's been fighting day and night for him but, as far as this child's concerned, he's been abandoned by his father. So, this is very traumatic, not to mention the whole media circus."
The immediate future and years ahead will both be "incredibly difficult" for Sean, Berman says. "And, emotionally speaking, this is a psychological Armageddon, because he has had trauma after trauma, and it is very difficult, when you have been betrayed so early on, to form intimate close relationships as you get older. Kids are very resilient, but this child has many challenges ahead of him."
Sean apparently not speaking English well will also make things "incredibly difficult," Berman says. "The fact that he doesn't speak the language, that he's now coming back to a culture that's completely unfamiliar to him, because he probably has no memories about it, he has lost all of his friends, he's lost his familiar school, he's lost the family and support system that he has in Brazil. So this is incredibly traumatic."
What's David Goldman's best course at the moment?
"I think he needs to block the media out, but I do think he's likely to need some support. His son is probably going to need some therapy to help him make sense of what's happened. It's incredibly confusing for a child to experience what he has gone through, and his father's likely to see some things that may surprise him. His son may regress. He may have trouble sleeping, eating, playing. He may act out some things through play that may surprise or scare his father. So they could probably both use a lot of guidance."