The final evening started off with a potluck supper before the parents and youth went their own ways for the last time. The parents answered questions on a survey in regards to how often they did things before taking Strengthening Families versus how often they would once they have taken the program. Some of the questions asked on the parent survey were: wait to deal with problems with my child until I have cooled down, listen to my youth when he or she is upset, try to see things from my youth's point of view, and helping my youth know what the consequences are for breaking rules. When finished with the surveys, the parents wrote a letter to their youth about new things they had learned about their youth from coming to the program and telling them things they loved about them when they were little and the things they are proud of now.
The youth were able to speak to several high school students on a peer panel and ask them questions about what high school is like, how they handle peer pressure, or how do they handle stress. The youth also did a worksheet entitled "What Do I Do When" where they were to match problems to possible ways to solve the problems.
Surveys were also filled out by the youth on how often they did things before coming to Strengthening Families and how often they would do them now. Several of the questions were how often they would use the peer pressure steps they had learned, how often they would sit down and work together with their parents when a problem arose without screaming and yelling, and if they know the consequences when they break a house rule.
The youth finished with writing a letter to their parents to tell them about some of the things they had learned in their youth sessions, what they liked about the family sessions, and why they are glad they have the parents they do. The letters that the parents and youth write to each other are mailed out at a later date as a surprise in the mail.
Parents and youth were asked to comment about what they liked about the program. Parents said they learned the importance of listening to their youth, setting clear limits, following through with consequences, learning different strategies for communicating with their youth, and the importance of including the youth, when possible, in making decisions that affect them and the family. The youth liked how they talked about how to handle stress, how to handle peer pressure and other problems, why parents have rules, and what makes a good friend.
The second half of the final evening began with two slideshows of pictures that were taken throughout the seven weeks. Each family went home with a DVD with the slideshows and the pictures that were taken. Then the families received a graduation certificate, a 4 X 6 framed picture of the family, and a gift bag. Each family also went home with a new board game to play as a family on a designated family night. While enjoying the cake and punch, names were drawn for various prizes that were donated by area businesses. The evening ended with the grand prize drawing for a summer family pass to King's Pointe Waterpark. Every family that attended hoped that their name would be drawn, especially the youth and younger siblings, but it was the Wall family that walked away with the wonderful prize donated by King's Pointe Waterpark. Peter, Lisa, Susy, Tony, and Adam are looking forward to a summer of fun in the sun!
"It was another fun and exciting year of Strengthening Families for those who attended, as well as the facilitators, observers, and others that were able to see what the program is all about," said Dorene Ehlers, program coordinator.
"Thank you to everyone that made the 2011-2012 Strengthening Families Program such a huge success! It would not have been possible to accomplish what we did without support from area businesses and the families that attended. We look forward to starting up again in the fall."