How do we survive and thrive after second hand terrorist events? Let’s define an event second hand if one’s exposure to the event is through media and they are not geographically near the site of the attack. At the time of this writing, police have just killed three terrorists in France and are looking for the fourth: a woman. It seems, when it comes to killing; women are considered right up there and equal to men – as long as they don’t drive 😉
Not long ago people in Australia endured a coffee shop terror event. Yesterday was a deli, a media office, and a printing business. The insidious truth is it is very frightening. Terrorists have found new, and in some ways more powerful tools to wreak, well: terror. The tool is the intimacy and randomness of it all. We no longer need groups to commandeer aircraft. The illusion of intelligence agencies being able to provide homeland security can survive that. But now “It” can happen to anyone, anywhere.
It is indeed a pretty frightening new reality. How do we learn to cope? How do we help our children cope?
First off don’t stew in the broth of fear that watching the constant new coverage can bring. After the Boston Marathon it was found that people who watched six or more hours of coverage a day had greater stress reactions than people who were actually involved in the bombing.
The constant drumming of information acts like a mantra and sifts through all levels of consciousness including dreams.
Q) Who is most likely to develop the most severe stress reactions?
• Survivors of domestic abuse
• Rape survivors
• Sexual abuse survivors
• Victims of physical assault
• Victims of random act of public violence
• First responders
• Survivors of natural disasters
• Survivors of a major catastrophic event caused by human error
• Combat vets
• People recently diagnosed with a life threatening illness
Q) What can we do to help young children understand what has happened?
• Seek support: Seek out the help the community will provide or if you need it: professional help
• Talk with your kids – tell them you will be there to take care of them.
• Express your love.
• Watch the news together and talk about it. Your presence will be reassuring.
• Limit the news on TV or computers.
• Be patient if they ask a lot of questions. Or if they ask the same question repeatedly.
• Assure them these events are extremely rare.
• If they are old enough; explain that these events are about politics and are not personal.
• Encourage your child to talk about the event with friends, teachers and other important people in their lives.
• Stay strong as a parent. Manage your coping skills (sleep, nutrition, keeping normal routines limit alcohol or medications, seek professional help if you need it.
• Don’t judge
Q) What are common reactions children might have?
• They may regress to earlier childhood stages. For example, they may wet the bed again, want a “blankie”, or be afraid of being alone.
• Their sleep may be disturbed. Either falling asleep and/or nightmares. Do not allow news near bedtime. Before bedtime: only loving and quiet activities.
• They may feel helpless. If they are old enough to help somehow let them help. Or, if not, help them to write a letter to someone.
• They may develop physical ailments such as stomach aches or headaches. Love those away.
• Be a model of a good coping parent. Sleep well, exercise, keep routines, no drinking or pills. If you have trouble being that coping individual – seek profession help as well
The bottom line truth, according to the odds (1 in 20 million chance of dying in a terrorist event) dying by terror event is one of most unlikely ways you can die. Live your life as if you were going to die anyway – because you will eventually. The leading cause of death is birth.
Consider this: Maybe you are a dog lover. If someone told you that your dog would live to be 35 years of age if only you never let him out of a cage and kept the room freezing and never played with him – would you do it? My assumption is you would not. That’s no way to live.
One other idea: agoraphobia (the fear of ever leaving your home essentially) is thought of as a fear of fear. If there is a plane crash and you stop flying – you feel less fear. Then there is a car accident around the corner from your house. So you choose to stay out of cars and close to home. Then perhaps something happens on your street… and you can see how agoraphobia insidiously roots itself.
And even if you never left your house you could die there anyway. Maybe you don’t want to paint disparaging pictures of Mohammed on your door – but short of courting danger; giving up your life by not living seems a sad choice.