Parents and children alike are taking part in "Strengthening Families," a program offered through ISU Extension. This year sessions are being held at Sioux Central, Albert City-Truesdale and Alta.
In an age of families with two working parents or single-parent households, along with kids in a staggering list of activities in and out of school, the family unit often suffers. An effort in schools throughout the county is trying to help both parents and their children prepare for the future.
Tammy Nepple, juvenile court liaison for Sioux Central, said the program helps parents learn about setting limits, and their children learn why parents do what they do.
"These people are interested in seeing what they can do to make their families stronger," Nepple said.
This is the fourth year Nepple has worked on the Strengthening Families program at Sioux Central and she said the program continues to grow.
One of the young students, Charlie Stoppenmoor, said he has learned to appreciate the stresses his mother goes through.
"I forget she can have a bad day," he said.
Along with Nepple, Jennifer Schumacher, juvenile court liaison at Alta and Albert City-Truesdale, and Jean Drey, Sioux Central drug-free coordinator, help to facilitate the program.
The class meets once a week for six weeks. Each week the program begins with the parents and children in separate sessions before they come together for a family activity together.
For the first hour, the parents discuss topics such as making rules and setting consequences for their children, how to solve problems in the household, and how to love and set limits.
In children session, the kids learn how to handle frustration and learn to understand their parents' roles as caregivers. Youth also learn how to avoid problems with drugs and alcohol, while strengthening family communication.
The kids also wrote letters to their parents thanking them for something they do for them. They were instructed to take the letters home and put them somewhere their parents could find them in the morning.
After the youth creed, the parents read their creed:
We are strong and caring parents who show love and set limits. We are helping our kids become responsible young adults.
Every day parents face the difficulty of setting rules and limits for their children, along with proper consequences. In Strengthening Families, they learn how to set those limits but in a more positive way to support their kids.
"I'm hoping to learn how to talk with my son rather than to him," said Carrie Nelson, who is in the class with her son, Charlie Stoppenmoor.
During the parents' session they discussed several examples of how they can talk with their kids when they're upset about something.
"It's important to let them know how you feel instead of doing something negative, like yelling," Carrie said. "It's more constructive to have a conversation about what they've done and what you want them to do differently."
Nepple and Schumacher appreciate the opportunity to offer Strengthening Families in Buena Vista County. One of the purposes of juvenile court liaisons, Nepple said, is to provide proactive and practical solutions to prevent problems from even starting.
Research shows that youth are most vulnerable to peer pressure and social influence during transitional times in their lives.
"We must strengthen prevention efforts to help reduce substance abuse and behavior problems," Nepple said. "When youth advance from elementary school to middle school, they often face social challenges."
Families must get involved to help reduce that risk. Strengthening Families offers parents methods to use with their children that help establish a connection early, she said.
"Beginning that now helps parents later as their kids move onto high school," Nepple said. "They've already started to establish that relationship, which continues as their kids grow up."
For the last creed, both the parents and their children read the family creed:
We are strong families who care about each other and have fun together.
Dawn Miller and her son, Alex, decided to enroll in Strengthening Families for the opportunity to do something together.
"Plus we want to keep ourselves on the right track," Dawn said. "Alex is a good kid - I'd like to see him stay like that."
The course has already provided her more focus on how to handle situations. "There are more appropriate ways to handle some situations," she said.
Alex said he likes what he has learned in the youth sessions, but said being involved with his family is important. "I like being able to spending time with my mom," Alex said.
Dawn is happy she got involved in Strengthening Families, and said the program opens up the eyes of both parents and children. "They worry about us as much as we worry about them," Dawn said.
Things like that help a child to be more aware of how and why parents act the way they do, Carrie said.
"It helps to show them there's a world beyond their little part," she said.
And working with other parents has been a benefit for all the families involved, Carrie added.
"In a way it's nice to know other parents experience the same things whether they have a daughter or a son," she said.
More programs will be upcoming for Alta and Sioux Central, including a Celebrating Families course for parents with 2nd and 3rd grade children.
"Those courses will cover the same concepts such as working with rules and chores, and love and limits," Nepple said.