New app supports children to overcome challenges when seperated from parents
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New app supports children to overcome challenges when seperated from parents

by Freya Lucas

December 08, 2020

A new app, which has been made available free of charge through Emerging Minds, will help children to overcome some of the mental health challenges they can experience when their routine is broken, or when they are staying away from their parents. 


While I’m Away will limit disruptions to children’s care that can make them anxious, affect their ability to concentrate, impact their mood, and make sleeping difficult. 


The app enables parents to create unique profiles for each child, and then assign a caregiver to each child, such as a grandparent, friend, babysitter or other family member. The app then guides parents through a series of questions which have been designed to capture the most important information about children for each profile, including key people, daily routines, interests and hobbies, and health and medical information.


Nominated caregivers can download the app to access the child’s information, view care plans, and keep them updated in real time. Parents can also email or print a PDF copy of the care plans to give to caregivers who don’t have access to a mobile device.


Emerging Minds Director Brad Morgan said the app can limit the impact of extended separation from parents, and reduce the potential for children to develop lasting fears and anxieties.


While it is common, he said, for children to experience mental health difficulties when they are separated from a parent, or spend extended time with someone who isn’t their primary caregiver, these difficulties aren’t often recognised as mental health concerns. 


They can instead be misunderstood, interpreted as behavioural issues or dismissed as intentional actions. We often hear children labelled as ‘naughty’, ‘defiant’, or ‘a worrier’ when it’s actually separation from their parent that is affecting their wellbeing.


While I’m Away can be used in a variety of situations, including by parents who may need to go into hospital, who travel, and parents who have a shared parenting arrangement, allowing parents to continue to support their child’s mental health and wellbeing even when separated for extended periods.


“Mental health is often considered only as problems and concerns, but this app is about maintaining positive social and emotional wellbeing. It will help prevent issues from developing during childhood,” Mr Morgan added.


Dr Andrew Leech, General Practitioner (GP) and children’s health expert, welcomed the release of the app, which he described as a unique offering to the parenting landscape. 


“The app is unique in that there is nothing currently available that enables parents to easily share valuable information about their child with other caregivers,” he said.


Fully understanding a child’s background is very important in continuing to support them when change occurs because a child’s social and emotional development is closely influenced by the relationship they have with their parents, Dr Leech explained. 


The impact of separation from their parents can be significant, especially if it’s sudden or unexpected, but through using the app, children can keep consistent routines, which can help to lessen the impact of separation over time. 


Father of three, John Clark, was invited to test the app, and fed back to its creators that he could see the value of the app in the event that he was hospitalised with his mental health issues, as it would help support with the care of his children who were then aged four, six and eight years.


“As a parent,” he said, “your number one priority is your children, even when you’re unwell.” 


“You often feel helpless when you’re experiencing a mental illness…like you lose control of your life. But, you can’t make rational decisions when you’re unwell, you need someone to make them for you or have a plan in place if something happens.”


The While I’m Away app is available for free download now on the Apple app store or via Google Play.

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