Group offers support for kids ages eight to 13

Kids in Control is an educational support group for children whose lives have been impacted by the mental illness of a family member

The Mental Illness Family Support Centre is offering an educational support group for children between the ages of eight and 13 whose lives have been impacted by the mental illness of a close family member such as a parent, sibling or grandparent.

The group provides age-appropriate information about mental illness in a safe and nurturing environment. The purpose of the sessions is to help the children feel connected, to teach healthy coping skills, to increase resiliency and self-esteem and to have fun!

“It is so wonderful to see the children grow and change over the course of the sessions,” said Dianne Hustler, with the centre. “Children who have a parent with a mental illness can face some challenges, discomforts and fears, and they may deal with unpredictable behaviours  or periods of separation from their ill parent. This group lets them know that they are not alone.”

The children meet after school for one and half hours once a week for eight weeks. They use crafts, games and interactive activities to learn about mental illness and coping skills.

Group facilitator Fran Wood said the young participants enjoy the group so much.

“They may sometimes feel isolated and alone or be reluctant to speak about their family situation because of the stigma attached to mental illness,” she said. “Here the children get to spend time with others in a similar situation. They have fun while learning about mental illness and learning to identify supports. They also learn that it is OK to just be a kid.”

Family volunteer Cecilia Skerrit grew up with a parent living with a mental illness.

“A group like this would have been so helpful to me when I was growing up,” she said. “It is a comfortable place for the children to learn more about their unique feelings and gives them a voice to express themselves.”

Kids in Control runs eight consecutive Tuesdays after school from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., Feb. 2 to March 22 at the People Place. For more information or to register your child, contact Dianne at 250-260-3233 or mifsc@shaw.ca by Thursday, Jan. 21.