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KidsTime

In this article, we explore the benefits of the KidsTime approach from the perspective of children with lived experience of parental mental illness. Access to a supportive environment in which to share experiences has been identified as a key protective factor for these families.

The KidsTime approach – creative ways to support children of parents with a mental illness (COPMI).

This article is adapted from the paper: ‘KidsTime Workshops: Strengthening Resilience of Children of Parents with a Mental Illness’ (Spierling, Tahta-Wraith, Kulikowska, and Cunnane, 2019).

In this article, we explore the benefits of the KidsTime approach from the perspective of children with lived experience of parental mental illness.

Access to a supportive environment in which to share experiences has been identified as a key protective factor for these families.

Why is KidsTime Needed?

Families affected by parental mental illness rarely talk to each other or others about their difficulties.

The KidsTime approach combats this stigma by encouraging families to speak more freely about mental illness, using creative ways to make this easier.

Led by trained staff, the workshops provide a non-judgemental space for children and their parents to share experiences and talk to others in the same position.

At the workshops, children learn about mental illness through discussions, games and drama. This helps dispel the stigma and any frightening misconceptions they may have.

Imagine how powerful this is for children who until this point have felt so alone.

What Children Say About KidsTime

“It’s somewhere to be with others who understand how you feel. They might have the same situation too, and they just cheer you up. It’s a great place to go. It’s also a place to unwind. Sometimes your parents are on medication or there is something wrong. This is a place to come to, to calm you down.” (Young boy, KidsTime Workshop)

“My mum mixes up reality with imagination. She takes antidepressants and sleeping pills but there is often no way of knowing what state she is going to be in. Sometimes she does not want to talk, she just wants me to sit with her. Because I have lived with my mum, I can usually tell when other people are down as well. You start to feel guilty if the people around you are not happy, which is illogical, but I cannot help it.

That is one of the things we have talked about at KidsTime – the burden of having that insight. My school and college mates do not understand that, but with my friends from KidsTime we can jump straight into a deep conversation. That means a lot to me.“(KidsTime participant, aged 17).

“KidsTime is a wonderful place to go and you can express your feelings.” (Young child, KidsTime)

The Benefits of KidsTime

  • It’s a space where kids can be kids. Children of parents with a mental illness are often highly anxious and stressed. Drama and games allow them to forget their worries and just have fun.
  • It allows for free expression of difficult feelings. Within the workshops, the children act out fictional scenes that capture their everyday experiences. This provides a channel for free expression of difficult emotions such as fear, anger and anxiety
  • It introduces the possibility of change. The dramas represent mental illness as a changeable process rather than as a fixed entity.

KidsTime – What the Research Shows

An evaluation by the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families (2014) shows the following benefits:

  • Increased understanding of mental illness
  • Improved parent-child relationships
  • Reduced feelings of fear, shame and isolation
  • Boosted confidence in children and young people

Some 95% of families in a study (2016) of the German KidsTime Workshop, said they had benefited from the experience and wanted to continue.

Different evaluations demonstrate that the strength of the workshops lies in their ability to facilitate communication and positive relationship building within and outside of families.

Learning points:
  • Families affected by parental mental illness are often isolated and alone
  • The KidsTime approach provides effective peer support for children and parents
  • The workshops tackle shame, stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illness, reducing fear and isolation
  • Young people’s confidence and self-esteem is boosted through this approach
  • The approach helps adults rediscover their confidence and pride as parents

KidsTime: Your Thoughts

 

  • How does this approach help the family? What makes a difference, in your opinion?
  • What might prevent a family attending a KidsTime Workshop?
  • Do you think the multi-family approach is important? Could you work more effectively one-to-one with a family? What is the difference in aims?
  • Why is the use of Drama so important in the KidsTime method? Do you think there are risks associated with using drama to access the child’s thoughts and feelings?

References

K.H., Tahta-Wraith, K., Kulikowska, H. and Cunnane, D., (2019). ‘KidsTime Workshops: Strengthening Resilience of Children of Parents with a Mental Illness’, *Family Therapy-New Intervention Programs and Researches. IntechOpen.

Spierling, K. H. (2016). Kidstime Workshops–ein Projekt mit Multifamilienarbeit für Familien mit psychisch erkrankten Elternteilen. Systeme, 30(1), 54-74.

Wolpert, M., Hoffman, J., Martin, A., Fagin, L., & Cooklin, A. (2014). An exploration of the experience of attending the Kidstime programme for children with parents with enduring mental health issues: Parents’ and young people’s views. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 20(3), 406-418.

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How To Support Young People Living with Parental Mental Illness

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