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.

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Evaluating the impact

Find out how we evaluated Family SMILES.

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