League for Mental Health Slovakia introduced the international programme Zippy’s Friends in Slovakia in September 2013 and implemented it in 20 Slovak schools in the school year 2013/2014.
The Zippy’s Friends (ZF) programme promotes the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young children in many different countries and cultures. The fundamental concept behind the programme is very simple – if we can teach young children how to cope with difficulties, they should be better able to handle problems and crises in adolescence and adult life.
The programme has been developed specifically for five to seven year-old children of all abilities. It teaches them how to cope with everyday difficulties, to identify and talk about their feelings and to explore ways of dealing with them. It also encourages children to help other people with their problems.
One important feature of the programme is that it has been designed to be universal. Unlike many other programmes, which concentrate on helping children who have particular problems or difficulties, Zippy’s Friends can help all children. Instead of treating mental illness, it promotes mental health.
Zippy’s Friends does not tell children what to do. It does not tell them that ‘this solution is good and that solution is bad’. Instead, it encourages children to explore and think for themselves.
The programme does not simply focus on helping children to cope with their own problems. It demonstrates the importance of talking to other people when we feel sad or angry – and the importance of listening to other people when they feel sad or angry. It affirms a child’s ability to both use and give support.
Zippy’s Friends programme was developed by the British organization Partnership for Children (http://partnershipforchildren.org.uk). It is currently being implemented in 30 countries and there is already one million children participating in the programme in 2014.
Zippy’s Friends programme was implemented in the school year 2013/2014 in Slovakia thanks to the grant from Children of Slovakia Foundation. School teachers from 20 schools were trained and they carried out the programme with 420 pupils.