‘Strengthening Families’ series starts Thursday in Marysville

MARYSVILLE – The decline of the American family has been well-documented and debated for half a century.

Some say rather than a deterioration the family unit has just undergone tremendous change.

However you feel, the Marysville Together Coalition is offering a free “Strengthening Families” program for parents and their children 10-14 years old. It runs from Jan. 24 to March 14 from 6-8 p.m. at Cedarcrest Middle School. To sign up go to marysvilletogether.org.

Coalition members Greg Kanehen and Andrea Kingsford will lead the seven-week sessions after being trained last fall. Kanehen will meet with the adults and Kingsford with the kids then all will gather for activities to show what they’ve learned.

Kanehen said being a parent is hard. “It doesn’t come with a manual,” he said. Many people parent the way they were raised, and that’s not always a good thing, he added.

This curriculum not only teaches adults how to be good parents, it also teaches their children for when they have kids later in life.

“It teaches how to handle disagreements in a respectful way,” Kanehen said, adding kids need to know their feelings are not right or wrong.

They also need to feel love, safe, a sense of belonging and secure. If just one of those needs in lacking, the child could lose control.

When that happens, parents need to ask themselves, “Why now?” Assess the situation and speak calmly.

The curriculum has been around for years, and it used to be offered locally. Kingsford, who has a “passion for education,” said she’s glad it’s coming back.

“There’s time for discussion, laughter and play,” she said. “It opens the communication lines.”

Kingsford, who has a background in elementary education, along with continuing education for adults, said she knows some young people may not want to join in at first. They don’t have to. They can watch. But she said after awhile she thinks most will participate because the activities are fun.

One is making a family shield, and everyone gets to decide what goes in it. “They are not hard conversations,” she said. “Having fun opens the doors to talk about other things.”

Another thing they practice is giving compliments. It’s amazing how good that makes people feel, she said.

“It helps people open up to learning if they receive compliments,” Kingsford said, adding kids learn compassion and understanding about the challenges parents have. At the training, Kingsford said there was a woman who had attended the program four times with each of her kids. She found it so valuable that she decided to become a trainer.

The adults watch videos and discuss what they’ve learned while the youth are engaged in activities when the groups are separated. Then they come together and spend time interweaving the things they’ve learned, Kingsford said.

“I’m looking forward to helping families gain more empathy for each other – feel more connected as a family,” she said.

Kanehen said by learning to talk about feelings, showing love and setting limits, children will become responsible adults.

He said people need to affirm situations instead of talking down to others, even when establishing consequences. “You need to negotiate an agreed-upon outcome that will satisfy the parent and the teen will think is fair because they were involved in the process,” he said.

In Kanehen’s experience in other roles, he has seen the impact of poor family relationships. He has seen problems related to alcohol, drugs and violence, along with emotional, sexual and verbal abuse.

“Create an environment of mutual respect, clear communication and a willingness to bring out the best in each other,” he said. “That will make families and relationships stronger and the community healthier.”

Related programs

•A “Guiding Good Choices” program will start in late February. It’s five sessions. In the past it was taught to middle school parents, but they said they wished they’d learned it when their kids were in fifth grade. ”Life Skills” are being taught in health classes. The pilot program teaches self-management, social norms and resistance to peer pressure. •Some members of the Marysville Crisis Support team are cutting back hours for various reasons. So Kanehan has recruited some new members. Trouble is they need to go to training, and their program is not funded; it’s all volunteer right now. So the organization is seeking donations. Team members are there to help families during times of need such as a heart attack, traffic fatality, suicide, overdose or other tragic event.

•For more, go to marysvilletogether.org

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