mental health promotion,
social and emotional wellbeing
Objective: This paper reports on the use of child participatory approaches to evaluate the implementation and impact of the Zippys Friends emotional wellbeing programme on children in disadvantaged primary schools in Ireland. Design: As part of the overall evaluation study, which comprised a clustered randomised controlled trial, qualitative participatory approaches were utilised to explore childrens experiences of the Zippys Friends programme. Setting: From the overall sample of 44 primary schools (N = 717 pupils) that participated in the evaluation study, a subsample of 9 classes (n=161 children) from the intervention and control groups was randomly selected to take part in child participatory workshops at pre-intervention, interim and post-intervention. Method: A semi-structured child participatory workshop consisting of three activities, including draw and write technique, feelings activity and group brainstorming, was used to explore the childrens experiences of the programme and its impact on their coping strategies and emotional literacy skills. Results: The results from the draw and write activity provided evidence of the positive impact of the programme on childrens use of problem-solving and support-seeking strategies in coping with certain problem situations. Findings from the participatory workshop also helped provide insight into how the programme impacted on childrens emotional literacy skills. Children in the intervention group had a broader range of vocabulary and understanding in relation to emotions concerning problem situations. In addition, children identified factors that, from their perspective, supported their engagement with the programme, including the use of narrative through story and the activity-based nature of the programme. Conclusion: The use of participatory approaches generated data that enriched our understanding of how children experienced and benefited from the programme from their own perspective, thereby providing insights that were untapped by other research methods in this study.