by Colleen O'Brien
Active Parenting has helped make a valuable contribution to
the lives of hundreds of employees in Labrador City, Newfoundland,
thanks to the efforts of Debbie Samson, coordinator of the Employee
Assistance Program (EAP) for the Iron Ore Company (IOC) of Canada.
What began as her initiative to introduce Active Parenting programs
to IOC workers has escalated into a province-wide commitment
to parent education reaching even the most distant corners of
this isolated region.
The iron ore mine is the backbone of Labrador City, a town
of 8,500 located on the Quebec border in Northern Canada. Its
residents are survivors, learning to weather long, harsh winters
and at times an even harsher economy. Eight years ago, the IOC
received a call for help from employees who were having personal
problems. In response to this need, the local unions and IOC
pooled their resources to establish the Employee Assistance Program.
This organization provides assistance to employees and their
dependent family members when they experience difficulties and
sponsors education and prevention programs aimed at improving
personal and family life.
"We try to give help in whatever form that means,"
says Samson, who has coordinated the program since its inception.
"Because we are an isolated community and do not have every
service available to us, I have to be inventive. I try to recognize
the needs of the community and address them in the best way possible."
Shortly after starting the program, Samson identified a need
among her clients for help raising their children. "A pattern
began to emerge," she says. "And I discovered that
many of the employees who were seeking my help for an addiction
or divorce were also having trouble parenting their children.
Their personal problems were taking a toll on their families.
I knew that if the Employee Assistance Program was really going
to help these parents, we had to provide them with the skills
to rebuild their families."
In 1995, Samson discovered the help she needed in Active Parenting
programs. "I love everything about the programs," she
exclaims. "But what caught my attention immediately were
the discipline skills. I know many people my age that grew up
with parents who punished rather than disciplined. This didnt
feel right to me as a child so I rebelled against it. I like
Active Parenting because it offers positive discipline techniques
and involves the child in establishing consequences."
Samson was overwhelmed to think of the number of people both
at the IOC and in the Labrador City community who could be helped
by Active Parenting programs. She turned to the Child Protection
Team for assistance in bringing the programs to their region.
"It was an easy sell," she laughs. "Once the Team
was introduced to Active Parenting Today, they decided
to adopt parent education as their goal for the year."
Samson then arranged for Al Reynar, President of Active Parenting
Canada, to conduct a Leader Training Workshop for Active Parenting
Today and Active Parenting of Teens in Labrador City.
The EAP, with the help of other community groups, funded the
training, and the Child Protection Team recruited 22 volunteers
from community agencies to participate in the workshop.
The response to the first Leader Training Workshop was so
encouraging that Samson was compelled to form the Labrador West
Active Parenting Committee. For the past three years the Committee
has sponsored Active Parenting Today,
Active Parenting of Teens and
1, 2, 3, 4 Parents! classes throughout
Labrador City as well as Parents on Board workshops in the local
schools. "The feedback has been fabulous," says Samson.
"The whole community has come together in support of Active
Parenting. I cant say enough good things about it."
Apparently Samson isnt the only one talking about Active
Parenting. Word of Labrador Citys success has worked its
way across Labrador, sparking an overwhelming demand for the
programs. "We have had more requests for workshops than
we have time," says leader David Martin, a member of the
Active Parenting Committee. "Labrador is a hotbed of Active
As a Student Services Consultant for Labrador, Martin has
mandated the use of Active Parenting programs throughout the
region. To achieve this goal, he and Marina Collier, a primary
school guidance counselor, travel across Labrador and throughout
Newfoundland conducting Leader Training Workshops.
"All we require is that the community give us one person
to be trained from each of its professional agencies," says
Martin. "Once the leaders are trained, the community establishes
its own parent education agenda. Our network of leaders just
keeps growing and growing."
Their efforts have been so successful that the Active Parenting
Committee is now sponsored by a local airline, which allows Martin
and Collier to fly for free to their training destinations. "We
have spread Active Parenting to the farthest reaches of Labrador,"
laughs Martin, which is no small feat considering it takes nine
hours to drive from Labrador City to the closest town. "We
have made a significant impact quickly because these communities
are so small. The best feeling is leaving a town knowing that
Active Parenting has been put into place to improve the entire
Samson finds it difficult to contain her excitement as she
describes the response she has received from parents. "I
was working with a couple who was having difficulty communicating
with their child and with each other," she says. "In
fact, they had allowed their marital problems to escalate to
the point that they could no longer handle their child. They
separated with little hope of reconciling. After attending an
Active Parenting Today workshop, the couple got back together
and their child stopped acting out. These parents told me they
couldnt find enough words to explain what a difference
Active Parenting has made in their lives."
Active Parenting also has made an impact at the IOC. "Many
of our employees work in the mines and need to be alert at all
times," says Samson. "Concentration is difficult if
parents are worried about a problem with their child. Employees
who have taken the Active Parenting course have gained the skills
to handle these problems. As a result, they are less stressed,
spend less time worrying about home and are able to concentrate
more on their jobs. This results in better communication and
morale, which leads to an improved work environment."
Samsons next project is to offer the Windows:
Healing and Helping Through Loss program to IOC employees.
"Windows is very personal to me," explains Samson.
"My father was killed in an automobile accident in 1995,
shortly after we held our first LTW. This traumatic event opened
my eyes to the need to learn more about how to deal with my own
loss and to help my clients cope with their losses. I had a basic
understanding of grief but realized that most people do not."
To help her both personally and professionally, Samson decided
to attend the 1997 Training of Trainers Seminar and is now a
certified trainer for Windows.
She has just begun her first Windows workshop and believes
it is a timely addition to the EAPs education initiative.
"I knew there was a need for a loss education program because
my clients were identifying losses but not knowing how to deal
with them," she explains. "I have many clients who
have given up the bottle, many who have experienced death or
divorce and others who are suffering from a gambling addiction.
They need to recognize that these are losses and learn how to
As with the other Active Parenting programs already in place
in Labrador, the word about Windows is spreading fast.
"I am anxious to introduce this program to the community,"
she says. "I am comfortable doing it because I have been
there and I know that Windows really can help with the
healing process. We just need to remember to look for the positive
that comes out of loss."
When asked to reflect on her experience as EAP coordinator,
Samson is thoughtful for a moment. "Ive lived here
for 23 years and I am proud of the way the people in this community
have learned to work together for a common goal," she says.
"I have a personal and professional investment in this town.
Active Parenting has allowed me to improve the lives of IOC employees
and families throughout the community by introducing them to
Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 1998 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.