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Negotiating a new day: parents' contributions to supporting students' school functioning after exposure to trauma

Authors Grelland Røkholt E, Schultz J, Langballe

Received 27 September 2015

Accepted for publication 23 February 2016

Published 22 April 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 81—93

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S97229

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Rebecca Sargisson

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igor Elman


Eline Grelland Røkholt,1 Jon-Håkon Schultz,2,3 Åse Langballe2

1Department of Allied Health, Bereavement Support Center, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, 2Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, Oslo, 3Department of Education, University of Tromsø, the Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

Abstract: Parents are advised to get their children back to school soon after exposure to trauma, so that they may receive social support and restore the supportive structure of everyday life. This study explores parents' experiences of supporting adolescents in regaining school functioning after the July 2011 massacre at Utøya summer camp in Norway. One year after the attack, 87 parents of 63 young people who survived the massacre were interviewed using qualitative interviews. The qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis. All parents were actively supportive of their children, and described a demanding process of establishing new routines to make school attendance possible. Most parents described radical changes in their adolescents. The struggle of establishing routines often brought conflict and frustration into the parent–adolescent relationship. Parents were given general advice, but reported being left alone to translate this into action. The first school year after the trauma was described as a frustrating and lonely struggle: their adolescents were largely unable to restore normal daily life and school functioning. In 20% of the cases, school–home relationships were strained and were reported as a burden because of poor understanding of needs and insufficient educational adaptive measures; a further 20% reported conflict in school–home relationships, while 50% were either positive or neutral. The last 10%, enrolled in apprenticeship, dropped out, or started working, instead of finishing school. Implications for supporting parents with traumatized adolescent students are indicated.

Keywords: traumatic stress, terrorism, parenting, trauma-informed schools

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