Practical Coping & Challenges

Practical Coping

Kidnappings bring a great deal of new challenges and issues to families. Here, you will find guidance on how to cope, how to look after yourself and your family, dealing with the challenges of sleep and health, and advice on how to organise information related to the case.

Looking after yourself and your family

You might feel guilty about asking for support while your loved one is being held – but it is vital that you get help, too. Most former hostages admit that the experience is worse for their families who have the constant worry of the unknown.

Some kidnappings are safely resolved quickly, but others take longer. The stress of the situation will begin to take its toll, but there are simple things you can do to keep yourself and your family well. This will help to improve your concentration, stay on top of the case, and be ready for the twists and turns along the way. See Looking after yourself and your family

Managing the kidnapping

Staying on top of the kidnapping, making sense of the information you are given or find yourself and being prepared for meetings with the government and others can be difficult given the stress you may be under. There are a number of practical things you can do early on that will make this easier for you to manage. See Managing the Kidnapping.

Practical Challenges

Experiencing the kidnapping of a loved one is a frightening experience. As well as dealing with worry and uncertainty, many families experience practical challenges that arise as a result of what they are going through. Hostage International can help you to solve problems as they arise, better understand how to work with the government and other agencies, and get you access to professionals able to assist with specialist issues free of charge.

Relationships with government and outside agencies

For most families going through a kidnapping, their only previous contact with ‘the government’ has been as a result of getting a speeding ticket or parking fine. Most families have little experience dealing with big government bureaucracies. There are many different agencies and departments involved in responding to a kidnapping, so you are likely to deal with a large number of individuals and parts of government. It can be confusing and overwhelming. It can seem overly formal to put your correspondence in writing, making a note of what has been said and agreed actions, which is normal practice for government agencies.

Hostage International can help you to make sense of this, prepare effectively for your meetings with government, and help you to understand how best to handle your interaction with the government.

Handling the media

Each kidnapping is unique and there is therefore no ‘standard’ approach to the media. In most cases, you will be advised not to publicise the kidnapping in the media. This might be because the kidnappers have asked that the case be kept out of the media, it might be to help limit false leads, or it might be due to security concerns. There are some cases where media can play a useful role. In all cases, it is advisable to make decisions about the media in conjunction with the people who are managing negotiations and have a full picture of communications and background information.

Social media

You need to think carefully about using social media during a kidnap. Much of the content on your accounts will be public or semi-public, so can be accessed by the kidnappers themselves or the media. Your accounts or those of your loved one held captive might contain information or photographs that could be harmful for them. Some families may experience unwanted attention or messages on social media, which can be very upsetting. You can talk through these issues with Hostage International or See Social Media or download our guide.

Finances and household management

You may experience financial problems as a result of the kidnapping. There might be additional costs for you, your ability to earn an income might be impacted, you might need to cover costs of your loved one, such as insurance or subscriptions, that they would normally pay. You might also experience problems when trying to access joint bank accounts, insurance policies or in dealing with government agencies, such as HMRC. Hostage International can help, contact us through our helpine 0845 608 1360 or by on contact form

Supporting children

Your children will be looking to you, other adult family members and their teachers for help to deal with their emotions. You might be unsure how to communicate with your children. You might worry about scaring them. Even very young children can pick up that something is happening.

Aureen Wagner, PhD, Director of The Anxiety Wellness Center, has offered this advice for parents:

“Remain as calm as possible; watch and listen to your child to understand how upset he or she is. Explain a traumatic event as accurately as possible, but don’t give graphic details. It’s best not to give more information than your child asks for. Let your child know that it is normal to feel upset, scared or angry. If older children or teenagers want to watch television or read news online about a traumatic event, be available to them, especially to discuss what they are seeing and reading.”

The following tips might be useful and help you to build your relationship with your children during the kidnapping. Reassure them that you’ll do everything you can to keep them and their loved ones safe. Encourage them to talk and ask questions. Let them know that they can be open about their feelings. Answer questions honestly. Protect them from what they don’t need to know. Avoid discussing worst-case scenarios. Limit excessive watching and listening to graphic replays of the traumatic event. And stick to your daily routine as much as possible.

Most children and teenagers will recover from their fear. If you are worried that your child is not coping well or you would like guidance on how best to support them, contact us on 0845 608 1360 or via our contact form

Continuing to work

Experiencing a kidnapping as a family member is a stressful and difficult situation. You may not feel able to work, or you may find that you struggle to concentrate. This might mean you find work more challenging. This is not unusual. For many, continuing to work is an important way of maintaining a routine and keeping the family financially secure. It might be possible to rearrange your work, by working flexible hours or more part-time. There might be the option to reorganise your tasks if you are finding some difficult. Hostage International can help you to think through your options.

Dealing with the impacts of trauma

Having a loved one kidnapped puts a lot of stress on a family. It is normal for this to impact you emotionally. Everyone reacts in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to cope. It is important to look out for any signs that you might be struggling to cope. Very few family members will go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – most are able to recover and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives. Hostage can support you emotionally and you can read our dedicated page on Dealing with the impacts of trauma.