Jaden Freeman (left) and Cherise Schafer participated in a Purdue Extension program aimed at improvi
Jaden Freeman (left) and Cherise Schafer participated in a Purdue Extension program aimed at improving communications and strengthening families. Schafer says the program even helped improve her son's grades in school.

Like a lot of parents, Cherise Schafer realized that “the teenage years are kind of a new frontier.” As her son, Jaden Freeman, turned 13, the family turned to Purdue Extension’s Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14.

“It was a perfect time to do something like this,” says Schafer, a Clay City resident. “Before we went, we weren’t communicating that well. We don’t have big problems. But I was kind of failing at effectively communicating — explaining the ‘why behind the what.’ I think now he understands how important it is to me. It’s been a big improvement.”

The program involves seven two-hour sessions. During the sessions, certified facilitators help parents and children from 7 to 10 families build communication skills. Youth learn ways to lower aggression, resist peer pressure, and reduce behavioral problems in school. Parents learn ways to build positive relationships with their children, and learn to set appropriate limits and follow through on consequences while showing love and support.

Jaden, a rising eighth-grader, says he usually isn’t comfortable around people he doesn’t know well. But the Strengthening Families moderators fostered a great environment.

“It was a fun way of making myself change,” Jaden says. “I’m not as uptight now. Everybody was so energetic. It was a lot more fun than just sitting down and talking about our feelings.”

Cherise “was surprised how open the kids were.” Brooke Wilkinson, Purdue Extension Educator for Clay and Owen counties, agrees. “Especially when it came to peer pressures they’d experienced,” she says.

Before the program, Jaden admits his grades were “horrible.” But he went from failing most school courses to passing all of them. The Strengthening Families program may not have been the sole reason for the academic turnaround, Cherise says, “but I believe it helped.”

“I told Brooke, ‘If you offer it again before Jaden turns 15, I’ll go again!’” she says.

Related Links

Purdue Extension-Clay County

Purdue Extension-Owen County

Purdue Extension’s Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14

The Efforts

Purdue Extension’s Strengthening Families program empowers parents and 10- to 14-year-old youth with education in peer pressure, communication, goal-setting, problem-solving, rules and consequences, resisting substance use, and more.

The Impact

Nearly 30 Purdue Extension Educators in four counties delivered Strengthening Families as a pilot program in four counties for 17 adults and 34 youth. Participants reported dramatic increases in productive family conversation, established and understood expectations, empathy for one another’s experiences, and patience in resolving issues.

The Numbers

200%. Increase in youths’ “most of the time” responses to various statements, including listening to parent points-of-view.

25%-100%: Increase in parents “most of the time” responses to various statements, including listening without criticizing.

The Future

We plan to expand Strengthening Families to significantly improve family bonding, communication, and collaboration, and help youth reduce peer pressure. We are helping youth resist substance use and helping families build valuable, much-needed skills.