||Michigan leader Peggy Hendrickson adapted Active Parenting
of Teens to fit her grant objectivesand created a new
program in the process
by Virginia Murray
When the staff of the AuSable Valley Community Mental Health
Center learned that they had been awarded a substantial Center
for Substance Abuse Prevention/High-Risk Youth grant, they were
thrilled. But they also knew they had a lot of work ahead of
One challenge was fitting the parenting education objective.
After reviewing available programs, AuSable's Director of Prevention
Services Peggy Hendrickson selected Active
Parenting of Teens. While the program met their needs
for parents, the objectives required a program that takes a family
systems approachone which incorporates both parents and
their children. Thus some customization of the program was going
to be necessary.
"I called Active Parenting hoping to hear that someone
had already created a program that incorporated the teens so
I wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel," recalls Hendrickson.
There was nothing available at the time, though, so after getting
permission from Active Parenting, Hendrickson set about developing
a supplemental curriculum herself.
The plan was to use the same Active Parenting of Teens
program for both groupsparents in one room, teens in another.
The first step was to translate the concepts from Active Parenting
of Teens to appeal to a teen audience. Explanations were
rewritten to be age-appropriate. Activities, games, and mild
competition were added and less of the video was shown. The development
committee (educators recruited from the three-county area) also
added a segment at the end of each session for parents and teens
to come together to practice their new skills.
With each pilot test of the expanded program came surveys
and revisions. "We did a lot of process evaluation in the
first year to identify problems and make improvements,"
notes Hendrickson. For example, "we found some of the concepts
in Active Parenting of Teens to be a bit theoretical for
our families," so specific examples were added that the
participants could easily relate to. The program was revised
several times over a period of five years.
In Families in Action, teens learn in
one room (shown here) while their parents learn in another. At
the end of the session, both groups meet for a closing activity.
A teens-only edition of the program is also available.
The agency covers a three-county area in rural Michigan, serving
about 60,000 people. The target audience for the new hybrid programredubbed
Families in Actionwas
families with middle-school-aged children. After a few years
of testing, says Hendrickson, it became clear that when families
learn together and then practice the skills together, they are
more likely to continue to use those skills on their own. They
also realized that when parents and teens attend together, they
motivate each other to come back each week.
"We found that the kids would get excited about the program
and insist that their parents bring them week after week,"
notes Hendrickson, "so the parents would come back even
if they felt too tired or busy." In fact during the first
pilot test of the program, several families had a scheduling
conflict and were unable to attend the final two sessions. But
the teens "didn't want to be left out, so they asked that
the sessions be rescheduled."
Participants were mostly families with children in their pre-teen
or early teen years. Hendrickson found that younger teens were
more willing than older teens to participate in an activity with
their parents, and were often the most enthusiastic about the
program. "If you can get them through the first two hours,
you've got them hooked."
What about Families in Action is so appealing to notoriously
hard-to-please teenagers? For one, says Hendrickson, there is
a focus on increasing their self-esteem, on helping them feel
good about themselves. The teen component of the program works
to develop a cohesive group from the start. Plus there is the
fact that "teens are very interested in their peer group.
They like learning communication skills that are useful for functioning
in that group."
After creating the teen component, they recruited group leaders
from all parts of the community. To publicize the groups, they
sent home flyers to parents through the schools. They also encouraged
parents to recruit other parents. One valuable lesson they learned
in this sports-loving community was to schedule groups during
AuSable was pleased with the results of the Families in
Action groups. Eventually 414 families participated, including
514 parents and 471 teens, for a total of 985 Families in
Long-term research proved that the program was effective in
helping with the issue of substance-abuse prevention. One of
the studies was published in The Journal
of Primary Prevention in 1998; the other will be published
in The Journal of Drug Education
in the summer of 2000.
The author of Active Parenting of Teens, Dr. Michael
Popkin, was also impressed with Hendrickson's work, and in 1999
Active Parenting Publishers agreed to publish the entire program.
Hendrickson revised the program again, this time updating it
to work with the revised edition of Active Parenting of Teens.
The program was renamed Families in Action for Parents and
Teens and will be available in May.
The new Families in Action program kit is actually
two kits in one. The Parent and Teen Program includes videos
and participant's guides for both parent and teen groups, two
separate Leader's Guides, reproducible handouts for parents,
and promotional materials. The Teen Program, on the other hand,
can be used for teen-only groups. Teens will learn the same valuable
communication, relationship, and conflict-resolution skills as
found in Active Parenting of Teens, but with all the fun
(and informative) activities developed by Peggy Hendrickson and
her team of advisors.
Leaders who already own the revised edition of Active Parenting
of Teens (the one with the blue-jeans cover) can take advantage
of the "upgrade" offer, which provides all the extra
elements necessary for a Families in Action program.
Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2000 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.