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May 2018 saw Jersey’s very first Silkworms children programme run by the Silkworth Charity Group. Rated as “excellent” and fantastic” by the children enrolled, the four day activity based programme has been designed to help children better understand addiction and how it’s affected a close family member. Information is given in age appropriate language and learning takes place within a supportive and safe environment to help children start talking about something which often carries stigma and shame.
Each day of the programme is structured around four central themes: addiction – what, why and how; the feelings addiction can invoke; how children can look after themselves when they can’t cure or control addiction and celebrating the childrens’ skills and special qualities which can often be inadvertently overlooked by those struggling with addiction.
One parent said: “I loved how it has given my daughter confidence in herself and how she now realises it’s not her fault” and one child said she wished it “could have been longer!”
We know children growing up around addiction are likely to feel many conflicting and confusing emotions such as embarrassment and helplessness as well as sadness, anger and frustration. They’re also likely to have been shown love and affection inconsistently as the adult grapples with the disease which can take away choice and stop them from caring for others in a way they’d like to.
As such Silkworms helps children start to talk and share and to alleviate some of their thoughts, feelings and concerns. Like the journey a silkworm makes to become a silk moth, Silkworms is designed to help young islanders with their own personal journey as children grow their understanding of addiction and further develop their sense of being to feel more secure in themselves and with the addict and their behaviour.
The therapeutic programme incorporates games, activities, role plays, drawing and arts and crafts to help the learning and healing process and, where appropriate, the final day gives an opportunity, for children to share their thoughts and feelings directly with the addict, or another close family member, to enable the child to really be heard. Facilitators can then help with joint discussions and a deeper awareness of how addiction has affected them.
One mother said: “I hoped the programme would give my daughter a better understanding of addiction, to help her understand not to hold everything in and that it wasn’t her fault. It absolutely covered this and has opened up opportunities for us to talk about how she feels as well as giving me thoughts on how I can make this easier for her. Thank you so much for helping my child with her feelings around her dad and how we can move on with our wellbeing in mind.”
Another parent offered this advice to those who may know of a child suitable for Silkworms: “Absolutely 100% do it and don’t be worried. My daughter enjoyed it and it’s really helped us. The facilitator was easy to talk to and explained things well.” Another parent said: “Your child deserves this.”
Addiction is a disease that very often gets passed on through family generations and while helping children understand addiction isn’t their fault, as is often thought to be the case, Silkworms also helps children distinguish the addict from their behaviour; the disease from the scary and confusing things that can be said or done.
In addition, the programme gives children the tools to recognise and manage their emotions as well as to help keep themselves safe, emotionally as well as physically, beyond the programme. Following Silkworms, regular meetings are run so children can continue to be able to share their experiences in a supportive environment with others in a similar situation.
Silkworms’ programmes are run free of charge, throughout the year, for small groups of 7-12 year olds. Addiction could be a current or a past issue and in a variety of forms including alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs or gambling for example and the relationship with the close family member will vary for each child; some will be living with the ‘addict’ while others might not see the addict because of their addiction.
Each programme is tailored to the participants on the course and Silkworth Charity Group will work as closely with families as possible to maximise the benefits of the programme. Ideally, the addict will be in recovery, or if it’s someone with a chemical dependency, they will be at least 30 days sober or clean but this is not an absolute and Silkworth Charity Group can offer support and assistance to help someone get to this stage, if desired.
If you would like to refer a child to Silkworms, please download the form below, scan and email it back to:email@example.com or post it back to us. If you’d like to find out more, or to discuss things further, please call 729060.
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