Here in Gloucestershire we are really excited that we have started running KidsTime workshops (something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time) and we just wanted to share how the experience has been so far for us at Gloucestershire Young Carers.

After weeks of planning, recruiting facilitators and volunteers, looking for a suitable venue and meeting new families we welcomed our first four families through the doors in September.  We have had to keep our numbers low at the moment, as we want to make sure everyone is safe with rates of covid rising again in our area.  Everyone (including the staff) was slightly apprehensive and nervous at the beginning of the workshop, but having addressed the subject of mental illness right at the start, by the time the pizzas arrived all the families were relaxed and connecting; all the children were playing a quick game of hide and seek outside and the parents were really chatting with each other.  By the end of that session the parents were swapping social media details and phone numbers.  It took quite a while for the families to leave that evening as everyone was ‘buzzing’; the children wanted to stay to play with each other and the parents wanted to stay and continue chatting.  By the time we locked up the venue that evening all the staff were exhausted but felt exhilarated!

From the comments we heard in the workshop (a parent voiced to the group that the definition the Mental Health Lead had given to describe mental illness was exactly how she felt and she didn’t know that other people might feel like that too – she thought she was the only one) to the feedback we had at the end, when a parent described the session ‘like a breath of fresh air’ and a child said she ‘enjoyed having fun and making new friends’, we knew that KidsTime was going to have a huge positive impact on these families.

All the families came back for the October workshop looking more relaxed and excited and we managed to get them all singing and playing percussion instruments at the start of the seminar!   It was obvious that the parents had been in regular contact with each other over the last month.  The children came bounding in with special things from home they wanted to show us.    Provision of a volunteer-run creche in an adjoining room significantly improved everyone’s capacity to engage with the session. The whole family watching the video at the end of the session was very powerful with one parent commenting “I’ve realised that the children understand so much more than we think they do – they are all so intelligent.”  From an alternative perspective a child said that “it felt embarrassing watching the film – very cringy to watch things back!”.  By the end of the workshop we felt we had achieved what we had set out to when one parent fed back “We are building a community” and another “Although mental health is a serious topic it is good to have fun”.  The workshop had even inspired a child who exclaimed “This has got me into acting – I now want to go into films & be an actor” …… watch out Hollywood!