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01-04-2012 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2012 Open Access

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2012

Parenting After a Natural Disaster: A Qualitative Study of Norwegian Families Surviving the 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2012
Gertrud S. Hafstad, Hanne Haavind, Tine K. Jensen


How do parents support their children after a high-impact disaster? To answer this question, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 51 Norwegian parents. These parents and children were all severely exposed to the trauma of the tsunami disaster. The analyses show how parents interpret their children’s signs of distress, as well as their own strategies of support in the aftermath. The main strategies described by the parents were watchful waiting, careful monitoring of the children’s reactions and a sensitive timing when providing support. Such monitoring, and interpretation of signs of distress, served as an aid for the parents in determining what needs their children had and what support they therefore needed to provide. A range of support strategies were employed, including re-establishing a sense of safety, resuming normal roles and routines, and talking to their children. Parents who were themselves severely impacted by the disaster reported a reduced ability to assess their children’s reactions and thereby were unable to provide optimal care in the aftermath. Interestingly, the parents’ support strategies mirror the early intervention recommendations put forward in the NICE guidelines and in the Psychological First Aid guidelines which is a well accepted and promising practice for helping children after disasters.

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