There’s no doubt that it can be a challenge having weekly online play-based educational groups these days. But Kids in Control has found a way, and halfway through the 8-week program, it’s better than ever.
Regardless of age, learning about a family member’s mental illness or substance use can feel very scary and confusing. But during Kids in Control groups, children can come together weekly for eight 90-minute virtual sessions to learn and grow together.
Before everyone introduces themselves, the group shares virtual backgrounds and virtual filters. We then send the parents and guardians on a scavenger hunt! Yes, a scavenger hunt!
In advance of the group, each group participant is mailed a package addressed to them – who doesn’t like to receive mail? In it, they will find all the materials needed for their program. Contents include stickers, paint, glue, and materials for crafts. Also included in the box are directions for the parent and guardian scavenger hunt, which occurs on the first day. Adults are asked to leave the online meeting and find the following items like:
- Something BLACK you can wear
- Something YELLOW you can eat
- Something RED that smells nice
- Food colouring
- A cup of flour
The adults are asked to return to the meeting 20 minutes before we close to show off their treasures. And even if they are done early, the parent is asked to return at the designated time.
Group participants are thrilled to see the adults participate and successfully find everything on the list. We have had the pleasure of seeing masks, bananas, berries, perfume, flowers, and many other wonderful discoveries. Some of the items are for fun, while others will be use in later sessions. For example, the food colouring will be used to make calming/mood jars, and the flour will be used later to make homemade stress balls.
A weekly group check-in has always been an important aspect of the Kids in Control program. In response to COVID-19, we now have an anxiety check-in to monitor how everyone is feeling on a scale of 1-10 at the start of the group session and again at the end. Recently, we have been using a grounding exercise to help group participants ‘brush off and shake out’ the anxious feelings before getting the session underway.
Helping kids navigate anxiety during COVID-19
Kids are not required to have their camera on if they are not feeling up to it and can use the chat to express their feelings or ask questions. We have found that all children remain engaged, and anxiety levels fall dramatically by the end of the session.
Encouraging group participants to learn self-care
Currently, we are running two province-wide groups – both scheduled to conclude mid-March.
Last week we made sock buddies! Activities like making ‘sock buddies’ can be helpful in reducing stress by helping children focus on the weight of the sock animal and their own achievement of creating their own sock animal.
Over the course of the group, children participate in online games, such as Feelings Bingo, Plinko, and Mental Illness Trivia. They also win prizes that are mailed out to participants following the sessions.
And along the way, the children learn about self-care and we help them navigate through their fears and questions about their family member’s mental health.
With four more classes to facilitate, the question remains, “Who has more fun? The kids or the facilitators?”
If you have any questions please see our FAQ on the Kids in Control page or refer a child for an upcoming Kids in Control session, please complete the referral form and email it email@example.com.