Teachers' Perspectives on Providing Support to Children After Trauma: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

A considerable number of children are exposed to extreme stressors such as the sudden loss of a loved one, serious traffic accidents, violence, and disaster. In order to facilitate school psychologists' assistance of teachers working with traumatized children, this study aimed to explore elementary school teachers' perspectives. Using a qualitative design, the study explored the perspectives of a purposively varied sample of 21 elementary school teachers (ages 22–55 years; with 0.5–30 years of teaching experience; 5 men). The teachers participated in semistructured interviews, which were transcribed and analyzed in line with the method of “summative analysis” by F. Rapport. Even though some teachers expressed confidence in working with children after traumatic exposure and many referred to a supportive atmosphere within the school, the most prominent themes in the participants' narratives reflected uncertainty about, or a struggle with, providing optimal support to children. They searched for a clear role definition as well as a good balance in answering conflicting needs of the exposed children and classmates, wished for better knowledge and skills, and experienced difficulties related to the emotional burden of their work. The findings suggest a need for further research into this understudied topic. In addition, the identified themes can be used by school psychologists to systematically explore individual teachers' strengths and difficulties and to provide them with tailored advice and training.

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