Self confidence comes from within. Nobody can give it to someone, nor can they be told to be confident. It comes from repetitive recognition of one’s personal self victories by actively participating in good, healthy, positive activities in communities. If communities supported children at all stages of their life to manage their emotions or any trauma they may be experiencing, I feel it would go a long way to helping families raise thriving, self confident children. Click here or the pdf file to learn more or read an excerpt below.
Each year, there are more than 58,000 non-family abductions and more than 1 million children are reported missing. This is a staggering number, but it doesn’t include the other young victims—the sisters and brothers of those who have been abducted. These overlooked children suffer the loss of their sibling. Their lives are turned asunder, and family patterns are irrevocably changed.
This publication is the effort of those who have lived the nightmare of losing a sister or brother. Eight siblings joined with the Office of Justice Programs to write this guide. During its creation, these siblings spoke eloquently and from their hearts about the need for a resource for left-behind children whose needs are often overlooked. At the time of the abduction, these siblings said they felt isolated and overwhelmed by their emotions. They rarely found the support they needed to deal with the gaping loss they faced. Their determination to prevent other young people from experiencing this trauma is to be applauded. In every page of this guide, their compassion shines through.
The U.S. Department of Justice, through its Office of Justice Programs, is honored to support this valuable effort for the population of siblings who have been left behind. I feel certain that the words of encouragement and insight the authors of this guide have shared will be meaningful to these children.
This guide is for you:
• If you are reading this because your brother or sister was abducted,
• If you are reading this because someone you know—a friend, a classmate, or a neighbor has been abducted, or
• If you feel that nobody could possibly understand what you’re going through.
A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS OF THIS GUIDE
Like you, we are the brothers and sisters of children who were kidnapped. We felt frightened and confused, as you probably do now. Sometimes,we still do.
We wrote this guide because when our brother or sister was taken,we didn’t have anyone to talk to. No one totally understood our feelings. No one really listened, and no one could really help us cope. We couldn’t find answers to the millions of questions we had or people who could make us feel better. We felt alone.
You are not alone. We wrote this guide to give you some answers and to let you know there are people who really do understand a lot of what you’re going through. We wanted to give you some idea of what you can expect to happen in this situation in the days and weeks—and maybe even the months—ahead. We wanted to help answer some questions, like:
• What feelings will I have?
• What might happen from day to day?
• What can I do to make myself feel better?
We wrote this guide for brothers and sisters like us, but in the process, we realized that it may also be helpful for the friends who are trying to support you, the teachers and counselors in school who want to help you, and the family members and even parents who are also struggling with how to cope. We wrote this guide to give you hope and encouragement.
School and Work
• Try to hang out with positive people. The last thing you need right now is negativity.
• Get yourself involved in productive activities. Join a group or club. Find a good cause and volunteer. It’s a way to feel like you’re doing something to help, which you may not feel at home.
‘I would work out literally for 5 or 6 hours every day. It was my getaway. It was my focus.” – Marcus “Sports was a really big deal for me. It gave me discipline, teamwork, and confidence, and it was a great stress reliever, too. My coach was always there to encourage me.” – Martha “When you’re playing sports, nothing else matters.” – Marcus
One of the best things you can do for yourself is get involved in a team sport, a school club, or other activity. They can be a welcome relief from thinking about the situation at home. Sports are a way to turn your mind off and focus all your attention on physical activity instead. A team sport gives you a clearly defined role, and it can feel good to be part of a team, working toward a common goal. It’s one area of your life where you can take control again. A group activity or school club can also give you a broader support network and something positive and constructive to do for yourself.
• You may not ace every test, but give yourself credit for what you do accomplish. Whether it’s answering a question correctly in class or spiking the volleyball in gym class, pat yourself on the back for your small victories.
“In high school, especially, it’s easy to hook up with the wrong people. Be careful who wants to hang out with you and why.” – Martha
Finally, this will be a vulnerable time for you. There may be other kids who try to take advantage of your vulnerability and who don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart. This is a time to trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy or find yourself thinking “This is not a positive or productive thing to do,” don’t do it. Stick with the friends who make you feel good about yourself and life in general.
• Try to surround yourself with people who are positive and who help you to feel that way.
• Immerse yourself in exercise, or music, or books. Reading is a good way to take your mind off things.
• Don’t be too hard on yourself. You may find it difficult to concentrate on work at first. Recognize that it’s natural to be distracted and that you will become more focused in time.
• Take frequent breaks from work to clear your mind. Go outside for a walk. Stand up and stretch. If you’re having trouble accomplishing the work, see if it’s okay to leave early that day.
• Take good care of yourself physically –eat well, exercise, get some rest. Even when you don’t feel like it, these things are important.
• Use healthy outlets for dealing with stress. Remember that some things you might turn to for comfort now may hurt you in the long run.
A New Normal
From the moment your brother or sister is abducted, your life—and your family’s life—will change. Nothing will ever be exactly the same again. All the things that feel like a part of “normal” everyday life may feel different now.
“I didn’t go back to school right away, but I never missed a dance class. Dance was fun.” – Carmen
There are things you can do to help yourself find a comfort zone amidst all the chaos. Doing positive things can help you to restore some balance in your life and regain a sense of normalcy from day to day. Here are some things to try:
• Take on some kind of physical activity, whether it’s running, swimming, joining a sports team, lifting weights, or dancing.
• Lose yourself in mental activity. You can concentrate on school work, but you can also read, do crossword puzzles or sudoko, or take up meditation.
• Express yourself through art. Draw, paint, work with clay, knit, do beadwork, design clothes or jewelry, listen to music, play a musical instrument, experiment with cooking or baking.
• Write. You can keep a journal, write short stories, a novel, or poetry.
• Talk. What matters is that you find someone to talk to who you trust, whether it’s an adult or a friend your age. Find someone who is not judgmental, someone you’re comfortable with: a friend, relative, counselor, godparent, or member of the clergy.
• Volunteer. Volunteer for a cause that has personal meaning for you, whether it’s a missing children’s organization, an animal rights group, or a tutoring program.
• Take care of an animal. Pets can love you unconditionally, make wonderful companions, and give you someone to hug. If your parents say this isn’t the time to bring home an animal, see if you can walk the neighbor’s dog or volunteer at an animal shelter.
Even if life doesn’t feel the same again,it’s important to live your life the way you should at your age.Try not to retreat from life or to put everything “on hold” until your sibling returns. Hold tight to friends and the things that make you feel good.Remember that whatever feelings you have are okay, so let yourself laugh, cry, or be angry.
Routines can give your life some much needed structure, so use school, sports, clubs, and other activities to give your days routine and a sense of familiarity and meaning. Try to stay positive, even if life feels very unfair.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in negative routines and activities.There are a number of things you should avoid, things that will only prolong many of the difficulties you’re facing right now or make them worse.
At all costs, avoid:
• Drugs. Stay away from tobacco, alcohol, legal and illegal drugs. They’re addictive and physically harmful. And they make your “lows” even lower.
• Inappropriate relationships, ones that are controlling and unsupportive, ones that make you dependent and unable to help yourself heal.
• Withdrawing from friends, family, and support systems. It’s okay to need some time alone, but don’t isolate yourself for long periods of time.
• Obsessively following other cases of child abduction. • Closing up inside and not feeling your feelings.
• Expecting someone else to make everything alright. Things will eventually feel better, but it may take time.
• Blaming yourself. Stay away from statements that begin with “I should’ve or I could’ve.” You are in no way responsible for your sibling’s abduction.
• Taking care of everyone but yourself.
“There will always be a ‘before’ what happened and an ‘after’.” – Carmen
LIFE GOES ON Once the abduction of a brother or sister has happened, there’s no going back to things exactly the way they were before. So much of your day-to-day life may be difficult, painful, and frightening. You wonder what will be the outcome. Will your brother or sister come home safe and sound? Will your brother or sister ever be found? Will you know how the story ends?
As the brothers and sisters who authored this book,we will tell you that the story hasn’t ended yet. The fact is, we continue to be affected by whatever happened to our siblings years ago. We continue to cope with thoughts and feelings that were awakened during that time.
Hard as it may be to believe, we will also tell you that the experience has actually had some positive affects on our lives. We may have been forced to grow up faster, but we have also grown up stronger. We have become more sensitive and empathetic to other peoples’ problems. We have learned that life does go on, that it still holds much that is good and satisfying, and that we can and should dare to hope that things will get better, still.
Where To Find More Help
Who do you go to when you need someone to listen? In the past, you may have turned to your parents or brothers and sisters for support. They may not be able to help you right now, though, because—like you—they are trying to cope with the loss of your sibling. It’s not that they are ignoring you or that they don’t care. It’s simply that they are coping in the best way they know how, and they may not have the energy right now to be good listeners.
Your parents are the first people to turn to, but if they can’t listen, it’s also a good idea to talk to:
• Close friends.
• Someone facing similar circumstances.
• A trusted adult: a lifelong babysitter or family friend.
• A member of the clergy.
• A close relative.
• A school counselor, teacher, or coach who you know and trust.