A Psychoeducational Support Group Program for Children Who Have a Family Member with a Mental Illness
What is Kids in Control?
Kids in Control offers education and support to children between ages of 8 and 13 years who have a parent with a mental illness. Once a week for eight consecutive weeks the kids meet for 1 ½ hours. During the sessions they are given information about mental illness as well as an opportunity to develop and practice healthy coping strategies for dealing with difficulties they may be facing. Using crafts, games and interactive learning activities, children have an opportunity to join together in developing healthy attitudes and coping skills.
Why a Program for Children?
Challenges that families face when one member has a mental illness can be huge and at times overwhelming. Imagine what it must be like to be dependent upon a parent who is actively psychotic, paranoid, or so deeply depressed they can’t get out of bed. What must it be like to live with a parent with uncontrolled manic swings, who is grandiose and full of energy one minute and in the next minutes, in an uncontrollable rage?
Children who have a parent with a mental illness face a number of burdens, discomforts, responsibilities and fears. Their lives can be shattered by unpredictable episodes of bizarre and disruptive behaviours and be prolonged period of separation as a result of of hospitalisation or apprehension by child protection workers. Kids may be at risk emotionally as a result of their parent’s negative mood, their lack of availability and possible family conflict. The consequences are extensive and can result in neglect, abuse, academic difficulties, poor peer interactions, confusion and inadequate coping skills.
Benefits of the Program
Feedback from youth who have taken the program has revealed several aspects of the program that are helpful…
- Participants routinely comment on how earning about mental illness has helped alley their fears in that “somehow it didn’t seem as bad”.
- Learning how to deal with stigma and helping children resist messages of self-blame and responsibility are other important topics.
- Facilitators are continually amazed at the level of sharing and the intensity of participation by the kids.
Outline of the Program
Week 1: Group building and story telling
Week 2: Group building and learning to identify feelings
Week 3: Learning about healthy boundaries and how to communicate feelings
Week 4: Learning about mental illness
Week 5: Learning about the treatment of mental illness
Week 6: Developing resiliency
Week 7: Societal attitudes and stigma
Week 8: Self-care and self-esteem
After completing the program, kids are invited to attend reunion meetings for ongoing support.
The British Columbia Schizophrenia Society acknowledges and thanks the Ministry of Children and Families for their financial support to make this program available to children and their families.