Christchurch Earthquake 2011
A University of Otago study has documented the long lasting after-effects of the Christchurch earthquakes on children.
Researchers interviewed 38 primary school, 38 intermediate and 18 secondary school-age pupils whose lives were disrupted as a result of the quakes.
The study found all but eight had experienced some form of relocation.
Nearly half moved to Dunedin or Central Otago and were currently enrolled in schools there.
Associate Professor Dr Claire Freeman, one of the researchers involved in the study, said most of the moves were sudden, unplanned and occurred soon after the quake largely due to damage to their home, lack of services, education reasons, or due to the stress of the earthquake and ongoing aftershocks.
The study found children who left Christchurch experienced a huge sense of loss, in some cases leaving family members, friends, pets, belongings, their homes, schools and communities behind - often without a chance to say goodbye, Freeman said.
"What also came through was the sheer complexity of the children's situations; how they rarely experienced a simple A to B move. Some had to move multiple times, with members of their families going in different directions.
"For some families there really was no alternative but for parents to make the decision to move, but also we found that young people needed to have more of a voice when it came to talking about how the earthquakes and moving away from Christchurch were impacting on them."
On only 28 occasions, the children eventually moved back to their original house.
"The effect of the earthquakes was long lasting. Recurrent earthquakes kept the trauma alive for families, as did moving and changing scenarios with the state of their homes.
"Some children have had to deal with the fact that they didn't know and, in some cases, may still not know whether the move is temporary or not," Freeman said.
The young people answered that the most difficult aspects of moving were leaving friends and family behind, the education differences in the new places they went to and adjusting to their new location.
Many still thought of Christchurch as home and would like to live there again in the future, she said.
However, the majority of those children who had moved had settled in well to their new communities and schools.
Freeman said they were relieved to be away from the aftershocks and enjoyed new experiences and making new friends.
"Without downplaying the impact on them, the children still showed a huge amount of resilience and strength."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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