Strengthening Families Program

Friday, March 23, 2012
The Siebrecht Family - Jamie,Tracy, and Cobe.

The Strengthening Families Program for children ages 10-14 and their parents is currently being held at Alta. The seven sessions will be held on Monday evenings.

This interactive program, with curriculum provided by Iowa State University Extension, is designed to address critical issues facing children and their families. Some topics included are peer pressure, problem-solving, tools for families to grow stronger and positive family communication. Some funding for the program is provided by a grant received from Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CFAR); additional funding and volunteers to assist in carrying out the program come from local and area businesses, organizations and individuals.

Program facilitator is Dorene Ehlers.

Each week a different topic will be focused on as well as a family participating.

This is the perfect age to reach these students. At this age, the kids start to become more independent and there is also more peer pressure at this age. The more open communication and mutual respect the kids can have with their parents, leads to more healthy decisions.

Week 2:

Parents - Making House Rules

* Understand changes in youth

* Understand the need for rules - deciding on rules and responsibilities

* Learn to remind youth about rules without criticizing - using "I" statements (I feel...when...because...I want you to...)

Youth - Appreciating Parents

* Acknowledge their own (and their parents) frustrations and difficulties - what is good and what is hard about being a youth or parent

* Understand that parent stress may cause them to do or say certain things - why are parents stressed

* Appreciate the things that their parents do for or with them - physical, emotional, privileges, etc. - fun times, things you learn, material things, ways you know you are loved

Family - Appreciating Family Members

* Identify family strengths

* Express appreciation

This week's activities included youth playing a mystery compliment game where each person had an index card taped to their back and wrote a compliment on each person's index card. The youth found that even if they weren't best friends or know each other well, they could compliment them on their smile, shoes, how they treated others in the group, etc. Then they sat in a circle and gave a round of compliments.

Another game the youth played was "Body Talk." In this game, youth acted out a famous person using body and facial expressions. They learned that it isn't just how a person speaks that makes an impression on you, but also, how we act or express ourselves. As the saying goes, actions do speak louder than words.

The families started out with a candy game where they each had a Life-Savers candy and depending on the color of candy they had in their hand, depended on how they would respond to a question. For example, if they had green they would name someone they admired. If they had orange, they would name a proud moment. If they had red, they would name a situation in which they were embarrassed.

The families then created a family tree with the roots representing grandparents and the strengths each one had. The trunk of the tree represented the strengths of the whole family. The branches of the tree represented the parents, youth, and siblings with the leaves representing the strengths of each of the family members.

The families ended the evening with the Parent, Youth, and Family Creeds and the Closing Circle Phrase. This week's phrase reinforced what the family activity was all about by having the parents name one strength that their son or daughter has and for the youth to name one strength that their parent or parents have.

Expressing appreciation for one another helps families communicate in a positive manner and can be a bright spot in an otherwise stressful day.

The Siebrecht family - Jamie,Tracy, and Cobe

"We have enjoyed the first two weeks of Strengthening Families because it helps us know things that we are doing right as parents, and some things that we could do better to communicate with our kids. "

The continued, "The second week in the parents session we discussed house rules and how they can benefit everyone. Our family has always had rules, but it was good to be reminded to include the kids in making these rules. By including them, we can identify what they think is fair and they are glad to be part of the decision making. Written rules also give clear expectations. Cobe like making the family tree because it was fun to come up with words to describe everyone in the family, including grandparents."

The Siebrechts said they feel every family could benefit from attending Strengthening Families.

"The program gives families an opportunity to learn through the program and by other families sharing their experiences. A great thing for us is also the opportunity to have one on one time with our son and to improve our communication with each other."