The teenage years are often difficult for both parents and teens. Many pressures erode communication between generations, resulting in negative patterns which drive parents and teens apart.
Enter the Strengthening Families Program. Available through Uncles & Aunts at Large, “this program focuses on the positive,” said Lorraine Chaput, program coordinator. “It’s a very unique program that allows parents and teens to be together for 14 weeks.”
A typical session starts with a family meal at 5:30 pm. Following that, parents and teens go into separate rooms and discuss complementary assigned topics. The two groups are then brought together to practice their new skills. For example, parents may discuss how to help their teen handle peer pressure, while the teens are asked to think about handling peer pressure.
“It’s not a therapy-based group, it’s a skills-based group,” stated Chaput.
The program is not aimed at families in crisis, but is for families with problems such as conflict at home or school-related problems like peer pressure or bullying. Families may drift apart simply because the needed skills are not present to build strong relationships. These skills are not difficult to learn and can replace destructive family patterns with a more positive approach. The new skills need some practice, but the rewards are great if family members continue to use those skills.
Getting a teenager involved is not always an easy task as they may shut down, especially when an adult is offering to help. Lack of self-esteem often causes teens to act out in a negative manner. The program encourages personal responsibility, which in turn develops a positive self-image necessary for healthy family and future relationships.
Paul and his son Will took the Strengthening Families Program. Paul struggled with anxiety and clinical depression, economic and employment challenges, and a lack of parenting support. He said UAAL staff made him “feel better about myself, I am now more comfortable in my own skin and talking to other people.”
Will had anger issues “which he continues to work on, but … the program has improved his ability to deal with conflict.”
Another couple came into the program with their 12-year-old daughter. Karen stated she hoped to improve their relationship with their daughter, which she described as stressful, toxic, fractured, and in some cases, violent. Today Karen says her daughter is a much happier child and is shocked that “such a low-intervention program can make such a difference in the lives of families.” Karen stated, “there is love back in our home…and we even hug each other throughout the day.”
The Strengthening Families Program, developed in 1984, has been delivered worldwide and is is free and available to families with children aged 12 to 17. Two sessions start in September and another two in February 2019; one at Lillian Osborne High School, and the other at Rosslyn Junior High School.
Featured Image: Lorraine Chaput brings parents and teens together to create positive outcomes. | Chantal Figeat