Strengthening Families Program

Friday, April 13, 2012
Jorge and Angie Gallaga (and friend Karen)

The Strengthening Families program for youth ages 10-14 and their parent/ parents met again the Alta. The Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14, a parent, youth, and family skills-building curriculum.

The program helps families build strong family relationships. Research shows that protective parenting improves the relationship between parents and youth and decreases the level of family conflict, contributing to lower levels of substance use.

The featured family from week three's lesson is Jorge and Angie Gallaga. Week three's session for the youth focused on following rules. The youth started out with a round of compliments as they do with every session. Then they moved on to an ice breaker game called Traffic Jam and a game called the "Driving Game" where location cards were placed around the room. Each driver had a different name of a car they were to drive. Beginning at the Driver's License Station, each driver read aloud the directions on a card that matched the type of car they drove. If they broke a rule, they staying at that location, if the card says they followed the rules, they could advance to the next station. The first driver to arrive at the Pizza Place is the winner. The youth than discussed the activity and the rules they had to follow, what they felt when they had to stay at a station, the consequences of following or not following the rules, and what they learned from the activity. They also discussed rules and responsibilities that adults have to follow and the possible consequences if they don't.

Juana, Juan, and DJ Rodriguez

The parent's session focused on using consequences, the importance of staying calm and respectful, using small penalties for small problems and saving large consequences for major problems. They discussed having a jar of 5 minute chores the youth could do if they don't follow through with a chore or rule. The youth can help come up with the ideas to put into the jar. If they do the chore, the slate is wiped clean in regards to the misbehavior. If they ignore or fail to do the 5 minute chore, then a privilege is taken away. The parents discussed appropriate privileges to take away for small misbehaviors and which ones are best to use for major infractions.

The family session focused on understanding family values. The goal was to help families see the connection between family values and their activities and decisions, and also to identify their own family values. The session started off with an activity called "Value Charades" where each family took a turn acting out one of the family values listed on a poster. The other families had to try and guess which one they were acting out, such as being kind to others, hard work, or spending time together as a family. They then played a game where the youth were given a card with a scenario on it and they had to match it to a parent whose family value card was the best fit for the scenario. Some scenarios fit more than one value card, so the youth had to decide which one they felt was a better fit.

Those activities lead right into the family project for the evening where each family chose four values from the poster and created their own family shield using pictures that were provided, their own drawings, written words, or a combination of all three. When they were finished, each family stood in front of the other families and told the others about the four values they chose to represent them as a family.

"This program is pretty sweet," according to Jorge. "It shows you how to handle certain circumstances with your kids, how to guide your children on the right path, and help build a beautiful relationship. An activity we had a lot of fun doing was putting together the family shield where our kids get to pick good qualities they think are important.

Angie, the daughter, likes it when they get to play the games and activities together. She likes discussing the family's ground rules. "We like learning new things," she said.

The featured family for week four is the Rodriguez family - Juana, Juan, and DJ.

All parents want to protect their children, but it is getting tougher to do in today's world; this was the topic for week four. Parents are challenged to stay on top of the small misbehaviors such as skipping household chores or not doing homework in hopes of not having those bumps in the road lead to more serious behavior problems like drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the ISU Extension and Outreach website, the Strengthening Families Program 10--14 has been evaluated with hundreds of families by research institutes at Iowa State University. Analysis of data has shown positive results for both parents and their children.

Kids need the skills to help them resist the peer pressure from other others can lead to dangerous behaviors like drinking and drug abuse. The youth spend two weeks on the steps to take to resist peer pressure. This week's topics were keeping out of trouble with their friends, what youth do to be liked, and situations that might get them into trouble. They watched videos depicting young people being pressured into doing things by a peer and then practiced role-playing situations using the first four steps of resisting peer pressure, which are: Ask Questions, Name the Problem, Tell What Could Happen, and Suggest Another Route. Their home practice for the week was to notice a time when they or someone else experienced peer pressure and if they were pressured, to use the four steps they just learned. The Youth Creed rings especially true during these two weeks of dealing with peer pressure. It goes, "We are strong young people with a great future. We are making good decisions, so we reach our goals."

The parent session this week was about building bridges. The topics discussed included understanding the value of good listening, learning to listen to feelings, and understanding the basis for misbehavior. They watched videos showing how parents reacted to various situations either with each other or with their children, first using poor listening skills, then good listening skills. They spoke about how things were when they were a kid, qualities they admire in other parents, and how youth meet their needs in negative and/or positive ways.

The family session was all about family communication. The goal was to help families learn to building skills and how to solve problems together. One activity that they did was to play a listening game. First the youth were to talk by reading a scenario on a card and the parents listened and then reverse roles. Both the youth and the parent were to try to come up with a "feeling" they thought the other one would experience if faced with the situation on the card. They also played a joint problem solving game where the families were to have a family meeting. The purpose of the activity was to families work through a series of four steps to solve a small family problem. The steps were to: name a small problem they had at home, write down the different points of view from each family member brainstorm possible solutions, and to choose a solution from their list to try at home.

"I enjoy taking classes that help reinforce parenting skills," Juan said. "Sometimes finding the time to spend with our children in this busy lifestyle is so difficult. Classes like this one allow for a chance to enjoy working and learning with them and learn ways to speak with them and communicate with each other. I think it is a fun project for moms, dads and kids to be able to learn and spend time together."