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The goal of Silkworth's children’s programme – Silkworms – is to initiate and deepen the healing process for boys and girls growing up in a family that has been hurt by alcoholism and other drug addictions.
Children are often the rst to be hurt and the last to be helped.
Silkworms provides education and support for children between the ages of seven and 12 who are dealing with an addicted family member, usually a parent or older sibling.
During the four-day programme, children who have been a ected by addiction go through role- playing exercises, games and group discussions that help them to identify and express their feelings, develop self-care skills, and strengthen their communication skills.
A safe and supportive environment is created in which to help children explore their feelings and the impact of addiction upon them and their family, as well as providing them with tools to help to keep them safe beyond the programme.
Regular children’s meetings after Silkworms ensures that participants continue to be supported with living alongside addiction while o ering a new group environment based on friendship and trust in which to share and explore their thoughts and feelings.
Interrupting the cycle of addiction
Addiction is a disease that very often gets passed, inadvertently, on to younger members of the family. However, although the familial cycle of addiction has been well- documented, Silkworth believes that it can be interrupted and the charity is dedicated to doing just that.
From Silkworth’s beginnings as the Families in Recovery Trust back in 1994 there was a realisation that we had to work with children. e Silkworms programme helps children to understand that the situation is not their fault and gives them the tools to deal with issues as they come up and not let them build up inside.
No child is ever turned away from the programme because of inability to pay. Donations to Silkworth are important to funding the charity’s programmes and the full-time staff that this requires.
Talking about addiction as a family disease
One of the most important exercises during the Silkworms programme is the bag of rocks. Children are given the chance to pick up a heavy back-pack lled with rocks symbolising the emotional issues that their loved ones with addiction are carrying around inside. is exercise helps children to understand addiction and separate the disease from the parent or sibling that they love.
Addiction is talked about as a family disease and as a disease that hurts everyone, but opportunities for children to be an integral part of the treatment and recovery experience are rare. A child’s participation in the Silkworms programme often strengthens a parent’s recovery. During the programme, children are given the chance to talk to their loved one about how the disease of addiction has a ected them. Having children express their gratitude to parents for seeking help for addiction so that the disease ‘does not take them away again’ can be a very important motivating force for recovering addicts. Children have a way of helping the family heal and helping parents to let go of shame and guilt.
Cutting through the stigma
By bringing children touched by addiction together, the Silkworms programme helps to cut through the shame and stigma that many children feel. Despite the fact that one in three children are affected by addiction, each believes that he or she is the only one. Shattering that belief is an important part of the programme, helping to ‘normalise’ the experience that children are having. Interacting with others in the same situation enables them to realise that they are not the only ones embarrassed to invite friends round or who become frightened when their parents ght.
Empowering children is an important part of breaking the cycle of addiction – it is at the core of the Silkworms programme. e disease of addiction is one
of silence, secrecy, shame and isolation. Silkworms helps children break through this and gives them a voice.
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