Helping Children to Cope With a Terror Attack

Children can suffer emotional trauma after seeing a terror attack. Let us understand how we can help children to cope with a terror attack.

I called up my seven year old cousin in Pune to wish him happy birthday on 27th November 2008. I asked him about his plans for his birthday. Instead of telling me his plans, he told me, "Terrorists attacked Mumbai. I am watching breaking news." His one sentence made me think. We grown ups can overcome such situations but what consequences children must be facing? What they go through to experience or see a terror attack? How to handle their emotional confusion after terror attack?


Helping Children to Cope With a Terror Attack

Terror attack on Mumbai creates chaos 

India's financial capital, Mumbai, was in complete chaos on the night of 26th November, 2008. Terrorist attacked crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station and left people . Later the gunmen targeted two five-star hotels, the Oberoi Trident at Nariman Point, and Taj Mahal Palace & Tower near the Gateway of India. Their next aim became the Leopold Cafe, a popular tourist restaurant in Colaba, and the Cama Hospital. 

Reporters rushed out of their offices and hit the locations. They started covering the event live. Terrorist were carrying bags of arms. They had the blueprint of their mission. They were fully aware of the interiors of the buildings. 

Cameramen captured the whole picture of the assault on their lenses. News channels were broadcasting a floor of Hotel Taj set on fire, Innocent people held hostages, bloodshed, and bullet firing in all directions. 

The firefighters, NSG (National Security Guard) and marine commandos, jawans of army, and policemen approached the area under attack. At least three high-level officers, including chief of the Anti Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra, were killed by gunfire. The massacre left almost 172 dead and more than 100 people injured.

Terrorist attacks and children 

Now the real question comes. Is India safe? The incident took place around 9.45 PM on Wednesday. As quick as a wink gunmen gunned down innocent passengers. They did not even spare little children. The terror strike left CST station blood stained. It is almost impossible for eye witnesses to forget the glass shattering and explosions. People living in south Mumbai remained petrified to see such mayhem. 

Children, who saw the terror strike closely, can suffer an emotional trauma. 

Today due to extensive media exposure children are well aware about current happenings. Let us try to explore some ways to help children cope with terror attacks.

Talk to your child. Communication is the key. Have conversations on terrorism on dinner table. Let your child take active participation in the conversations. 

Talk to your child about recent terror attack and ask him how he feels about it. 

If he seems to be disturbed after watching news reports on television, take out time and talk with him. Let him ask his questions related to the attack. Answer his quarries one by one and assure him that everything will be fine and not to panic. 

If child has closely experienced the attack, he may suffer emotional imbalance for a while. It is hard to cope with trauma caused by seeing blood and dead bodies. Hug your child and tell him you are there for him. 

Do not lie to your child about facts of the terror attack but this does not mean you have to tell him everything. According to his age you decide how much information he can take in. 

You may witness some behavioral changes in child after terror attack. Child may experience disturbed sleep pattern and fear. You may also visit a child counselor or child therapist if situation demands. 

You may take help of other parents by sharing your experiences and concerns online, through message boards or by discussing on the issues with the parents you know in person.

Remember that children need extra emotional support in such situations. They try to visualise the images related to terrorism. They may have some mental images of a terrorist. For some, terrorist would be a man dressed up in black clothes having gun in his hand; while some other may think that terrorist knows magical tricks. Child's imaginations vary according to his age. You as a parent have to understand his feelings. After all parenting is also an art.