Family SMILES Supporting children living with parents with mental health issues

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 aims to help children aged 8 to 14 build:

  • self-esteem
  • resilience
  • life skills.

We want to give them the confidence to talk about their experiences with other young people who face similar situations.

We also work 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 works

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

  • creative activities
  • discussion
  • play.

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

Parents attend 6 one-to-one sessions which help 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 help make sure families are 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're evaluating Family SMILES.

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