There was laughter around the entire room as families worked together on their “family tree” projects. But these trees were even better…not just a list of family names. Each tree showed the characteristics of those people as well. Were they loving? Were they funny? Did they help out each other?
Grandparents formed the roots of their tree. The family’s strengths made up the trunk and individual family members and their strengths became the branches and leaves. Although the project won’t extend more than three or four generations, some children would take interest in their ancestors’ lives. Parents can help them learn about their ancestral ties with the help of genealogical resources (like https://www.genealogybank.com/explore/obituaries/all/usa/virginia/danville/danville-register-bee) to encourage the young curious minds. Program facilitators also shared designs for blended families and single-parent families to meet the needs of everyone in the group.
The family tree project is just one of many activities that allows families to have fun while they talk about their strengths and solve problems together. The Strengthening Families Program was developed to help families build on those strengths and prepare for the exciting and challenging transition to adolescence and junior high. Program activities are designed to reinforce lines of communication and decision making skills that are essential in preventing teen substance abuse and other behavior problems. Families learn how to show love and support while solving problems together.
At the start of the evening, adults and children split up to work with facilitators in separate discussion groups. The interaction with others can make such a difference. “I enjoyed listening to other parents. I thought I was the only one,” shared one mom. “There are so many other parents struggling with the same issues. I thought I was a loner on this one.”
Later in the evening, the youth join their parents for special activities, like creating their family tree. “It’s good to have one-on-one time with my mom,” said one teen whose younger sibling is playing with other kids in the childcare room.
Offered in the fall and spring of each school year, the Strengthening Families Program has positively impacted many children and families in the community. Surveys from past programs have been overwhelmingly favorable with parents, youth and providers commenting:
- Helps us listen to our kids.
- Was just great!
- I love the concept of family meetings.
- 100% helpful
- This program is awesome!
Strengthening Families is designed with busy families in mind, helping them make the most of their valuable time while preparing for important milestones in the lives of their children. Offering free childcare and a healthy meal at the start of each evening helps eliminate obstacles that may prevent a family from participating in the program.
Strengthening Families is a nationally recognized program that helps improve parenting skills and build family relationships. Families have fun as they participate in activities and games that allow them to solve problems together and discuss what makes their family strong. Strengthening Families is geared to parents and youth ages 10 to 14; childcare is provided for younger children. There is no cost to participate in the program, but registration is required.
To learn more about the program, call Cortland Prevention Resources at 607-756-8970 or visit their website.
The Strengthening Families Program is co-sponsored by OCM BOCES, Cortland Prevention Resources, Family Counseling Services, CAPCO, CCSI and PINS Diversion.