Photo: The Expert Group
Photo: The Expert Group

The objective of The Expert Group established by the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children is to present advice on how society better can support children and adolescents who have experienced crises or disasters. Their experiences and advice can be used by authorities, support personnel and by other young people who have themselves experienced traumatic events.

The child has the right to express his or her views in all matters affecting the child, and the child’s views shall be given their due weight.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 12

These young people have first hand knowledge about what is important and supportive during and following an incident such as the terror attacks in Utøya, Norway, 22nd July 2011.

Members of The Expert Group are critical of being perceived as a single homogenous group with an identical experience of the terror attacks itself, and the time afterwards. Their experiences, while different, are overlapping. Nevertheless, when seen collectively they provide a knowledge base of advice for helping children and adolescents in crisis.

People have different needs even though they were all at Utøya. I want to be myself. I don’t want to be “the girl from Utøya”.

Member of The Expert Group

The youths describe both positive and negative experiences with support services. Most of the survivors were offered counselling from a psychologist or the local crisis response team when they got home from Utøya. This was perceived as supportive. Those who participated in both individual and group counselling with other survivors were highly satisfied. Many of the youths who received appropriate support think that the following is crucial for being able to function:

The psychologist is there for helping me, while in the group I get to share my thoughts with others. A very good combination.

It is also essential that parents and siblings receive support and follow-up. Both members of The Expert Group and their siblings need functioning parents. The parents need to let the children think for themselves; they need to give them space.

We experienced it first hand, but our parents and siblings have also been exposed to something traumatic, something that affected the ones they love most of all. If psychologists or schools are not providing follow-up, the parents have a much harder time.

Member of The Expert Group