This 19-25 June 2023 is the 25th anniversary of Refugee Week. Refugee Week is the world’s largest arts & culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.
For Refugees Week, Theraputic Playgroup (part of Windsor Walk CIC) have written this guest post describing their work helping the mental health of refugee children and their families through play. Aymie, Development Coordinator at Windsor Walk explained the importance of getting the project ‘out there’ for others to read and to help shift the dominant, negative narratives about refugees in the media.
10 Windsor Walk (10WW) is a Community Interest Company founded in 2018 whose key aim is to provide accessible mental health support for vulnerable people in South London and establish innovative therapeutic services outside of the traditional talking therapies model.
What is the Theraputic Playgroup?
Therapeutic Playgroup aims to support the parent-child relationships in early childhood (0-3 years), within the refugee and asylum seeking population of South London.
Families who have experienced profound loss and trauma have been able to spend time in the company of others with similar experiences in a welcoming, supportive environment and over time, have forged friendships and their own network that exists beyond the Therapeutic Playgroup sessions.
As part of ongoing evaluation of the Therapeutic Playgroup, one parent reported: “I’ve been coming to this group with my son and now I have friends. Before, I had none. It makes life easier for myself and baby. I enjoy and love everything, thank you.”
One mother who joined the group soon after the birth of her second child told Playgroup Practitioners: “You helped me find a way of understanding the change in the relationship with my son after my daughter was born.” Many parents have expressed that they felt safe to share their thoughts and feelings in the group.
By supporting parents struggling to cope, children are simultaneously supported with emotional needs at an important developmental stage and significant moment in the child and parent relationship.
It is well documented how transgenerational trauma, if left unattended, can be passed on from adults to children through family structures and coping strategies (Source: Intergenerational Trauma in Refugee Families: A Systematic Review, 2017)
The Therapeutic Playgroup provides a mental space for carers to consider and plan the future for themselves and their children, accommodating the unavoidable anxieties that arise during times of uncertainty, and help parents recognise the skills they already have and can develop to move forward. Through play, the therapists supporting the group can work with parents to interpret and address needs and emotions expressed by the children, alleviating common feelings of frustration and anger. The Therapeutic Playgroup helps support parents in recognising and practicing their ability to remain calm and emotionally available when faced with very demanding behaviors of a young child, which is often immensely challenging when a parent’s own basic needs such as shelter, warmth and nourishment are not being met.
The weekly play sessions provide a space to play with toys and a garden often not available in temporary or inadequate housing. Most of the children have not yet attended a nursery setting and this group based play is a way to develop communication and social skills in a safe environment that centers the particular emotional needs of the group.
Since the playgroup began in September 2019, 27 parents and 30 children have been welcomed and supported. There are plans underway to support parents interested in setting up similar groups and for an in depth research project that can help inform and improve health and education services for refugee, migrant and asylum seeking families with very young children.
A massive thank you to Theraputic Playgroup for sharing their vital work. If would like to find out more about the Therapeutic Playgroup please get in touch with the Centre Manager Rebecca: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow them on Twitter here.