The core philosophy of KidsTime Workshops is that children’s resilience to parental mental illness is improved and vulnerability lessened when they:
- have an understanding of their parent’s mental illness
- can discuss it with a sympathetic adult
- feel their experiences are validated by the group
The workshop does this in several ways. The use of drama techniques in the warm-up session encourages families to interact playfully as a family. It can be daunting coming into the group, and often in Wirral KidsTime some of the adult and child participants begin by feeling anxious or uncomfortable in the group; we frequently start sessions with an adult sitting outside the group or a child may hide behind their parents or the long curtains. Families where a parent is struggling with their mental health are often isolated in the community and when they start at the workshop they often sit on the edge. The drama games designed to break the ice at the beginning of the session are vital to establish a sense of fun, group safety and acceptance.
After working together on a topic that explains some aspect of the experience of living with a parent with a mental illness, we split into separate child and adult groups. Much helpful work in developing a drama or dance in the children’s group starts by working up the drama in the planning stage. Children’s ideas and thoughts are sought and this allows the children to talk about their experiences as they plan the drama. When they understand that they are not alone, because other children have experienced the same thing, their experiences are made valid. This is an important technique to help them process, think about and verbalise traumatic experiences and ways to cope.
Performing the drama is a process of finding words and bodily expression to communicate and think about the subjects tackled. The group builds confidence as the drama or dances are always responded to with pride and enjoyment.
But most of all it’s energetic, active fun!
“The workshops take action on helping us learn about mental health in really fun ways. We use a lot of drama to help us figure out our own thoughts and feelings about our parent’s difficulty. This makes it easier for us to express things in a way that is interesting and easy to understand. KidsTime Workshops are never boring!”
“We normally start our group activity with lots of fun games and warm-up exercises. We then make up stories together that describe all our different experiences. We act these out and film some of them so that we can show our parents how we feel about the topic we have been working on.”