Family SMILES Supporting children living with parents with mental health issues

This service is no longer being delivered, but we have carried out an evaluation. On these pages you can find out how the service worked and what we've learnt.

Children can feel isolated and frustrated when mental health difficulties affect the way their mum or dad behaves. Sometimes children feel protective of their parent and so don’t seek help and support for themselves.

Children and Young People Now Awards 2014 FinalistFamily SMILES aimed to help children, aged 8 to 14, to build:

  • self-esteem
  • resilience
  • life skills.

Our goal was to give them the confidence to talk about their experiences with other young people who faced similar situations.

We also worked with parents to help them understand the impact of their illness on their child and to improve their parenting skills to provide a safe, secure and supportive family environment.

blonde girl in glasses smiling and laughing

How it worked

Groups of up to 8 children of a similar age met together weekly. Over 8 sessions they took part in:

  • creative activities
  • discussion
  • play.

This helped them gain a better understanding of their parents' mental health problems. We also helped them develop practical life skills, like what to do in an emergency.

Parents attended 6 one-to-one sessions which helped them:

  • develop parenting skills
  • enjoy better relationships with their children
  • make a safety plan for their children so that they are cared for safely in the event of the parent suffering a relapse.

We also helped make sure families were receiving the support they need from other services, such as adult mental health services, housing, child or adult social services.

Keeping children safe

Find out how you can keep children safe from abuse and other dangers, both online and in the physical world.
Advice on children’s safety

Evaluating the impact

Find out how we evaluated Family SMILES.

Learn more

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Family Environment: Drug Using Parents (FEDUP)

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Donate now

Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.

Make a donation

Domestic abuse

Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse, and teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships. 
Read more about domestic abuse

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns or cuts.
Read more about physical abuse


Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.
Read more about neglect

Child abuse and neglect

Find out what child abuse is, how to spot the signs, who is affected and what you should do if you're worried about a child
More on abuse and neglect

Donate now

Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.

Donate now

Are You There?

We're calling on the government to help our Childline service be there for every child dealing with meantal health issues. 

Learn more