Making family communication a habit

6:00 pm

Michelle and Saun Schultz want to be the best parents they can be. So for seven weeks in spring 2018, they took their 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, out of her comfort zone to attend the inaugural Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10–14 in Tippecanoe County.

One evening each week at 6 p.m., they joined a group of other families with youths in the same age range. They shared dinner and separated into groups for an hour of skills development and parenting tools. Parents and children would then come back together, do a small project and reflect on the lesson.

The goal of the program is to improve communication, which in turn helps delay the onset of adolescent substance abuse, lowers levels of aggression in youth, increases resistance to peer pressure, reduces behavioral issues in school and improves parenting skills and the relationships between parents and children.

Michelle said their family was quick to institute the idea of a family meeting, a time when they can each check in, sharing thoughts, feelings and any concerns that arise with Hannah. “The number one thing was just time together, to get ideas on how she feels and how we feel,” Michelle says.

Hannah was initially a bit reticent, fearing she was somehow in trouble. But as the class proceeded, she became more comfortable, opening up.

Now all topics are open at family meetings; respect and rules are shared by all. Michelle feels empowered by the experience. “We’re kind of like a ‘knowledge is power’ family,” she says. “I highly recommend the class.”

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increase in the number of youth in the program participating in family meetings at the program’s conclusion.

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