St Elizabeth Hospice children and young people’s support service has grown rapidly with over 40 people accessing direct support in the last year.
Work with young people has included counselling in school and at the hospice either as individuals or sibling groups and facilitating family meetings to start conversations, offering a ‘safe’ place to express emotion.
In addition to working directly with young people, many families have received advice on how to talk to young people about challenging issues. The team are currently midway through phase one of teen project ‘dying to talk’ in which 15 members of staff from three local secondary schools are being trained in how to support young people and families living with serious illness and death of a family member. The next phase of the project is due to begin in the first week of July, with teen support groups running in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Stowmarket once a month, offering an opportunity to meet peers in similar situations, develop supportive relationships and explore ways of coping.
The hospice has recently trained twelve primary school workers in practical methods working with grief as part of dying matters week 2018 with positive feedback from families that the schools are better equipped in understanding their children and they are more at ease at school.
In addition to this the hospice is in the process of updating their bereavement information for families, to give a better understanding of what to expect following the death of loved one, how to talk to children about difficult issues and identify different activities to complete as families to facilitate conversations.
Key to the success of this service is having a dedicated space for young people. A private, contained space has been created where children and young people can share very personal information without interruption. The age appropriate decoration allows children to feel at ease and identify it as a safe place to share. The range of expressive mediums; sand, lego, playdough, art supplies, etc. allow for children (and adults) to share their feelings in many ways. This is especially important for younger children or those with learning difficulties, without the opportunity to use them or have a dedicated space for them, it is unlikely these young people would be able to process what is a significant life event. Families consistently describe the ‘sunflower’ room as warm, comfortable, non-clinical, and a safe place for children and adults alike.
For more information about the service – contact the emotional wellbeing team on 01473 707999.