When two families first came to TFI Family Services, Inc.’s Strengthening Families Program, the teenagers were reluctant to participate. The parents, though, were doing their best to aim for stronger, healthier families, and they were bound to bring their teenagers with them.
SFP is Kansas’ first research-based parenting program designed specifically for families in which parents struggle with drugs and alcohol. Meetings begin with family-style meals, followed by two hours of separate group meetings – parents with parents and children with other children – and close with the families reuniting for the final part of the evening.
For the first month of the program, the teenagers frowned, barely spoke and sat apart from their parents.
Around week five of the 14-week program, the teenagers’ attitudes began to shift.
This shift was partly due to simply sticking with the program, but it was also due to something called belonging. Everyone who enrolled in the program carried through and graduated together, and the teenagers formed bonds not only with their parents but also with the other teenagers in the program.
By the time graduation rolled around, the two families’ teenagers were sitting with their parents and engaging in the group activities. At home, discussions that formerly involved yelling, arguing and demanding turned instead into efficient and appropriate conversations that utilized skills the teenagers and parents learned from the program.
These skills, such as conflict resolution and emotion management, are likely to benefit the teenagers not only at home but also at school and in the workplace. Because participants eat dinner together and then break up into sessions – parents and teenagers meeting in separate groups – the teenagers learned to communicate not only with their parents but also with their peers.
The program benefited the parents by giving them a safe place to say things like, “Sometimes, I’m just going crazy and I need a break – what do you guys do to take a break?” Beyond finding they were not alone in their struggle, the parents also had the opportunity to learn skills to overcome issues that had plagued their families for years.
Parents who have graduated from SFP have shared that they have learned a lot about strategies to help them reinforce good behaviors. One parent shared, “I like how everyone was able to be open during group sessions,” and another parent, who had come into the group feeling hopeless, said “Information from the group has helped me to become a better parent.” SFP benefits families because it is more than just a box of tools – it’s a place of building relationships.
For more information on TFI and its SFP, visit www.tfifamilyservices.org.