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Teens and Parents Learn Secrets of Happier Home Life
"LEADER" On-line: Vol. 6, No. 2

Teens and Parents Learn Secrets of Happier Home Life

  Teens and parents join together for a candlelight ceremony at the conclusion of the Families in Action class at Eastern Allamakee Kee High School in Lansing, IA. (Allamakee Journal photo)

by Diana King

"It was time well spent," says Karen Tenneson, reflecting on the time she took to coordinate a grant proposal to bring Families in Action training to her northeast Iowa community.

Decorah, Iowa, pop.10,000, is the regional service center for a primarily agricultural area in transition as economic pressures force people off the farm and into new jobs and living situations. In their work with local teens, Tenneson, Luther College Upward Bound Counseling Coordinator, and community leaders in nearby counties saw many families struggling with issues related to independence, discipline, problem-solving, emerging sexuality and the risks of drugs and violence.

"I helped coordinate the proposal for an Iowa DECAT Grant because I was familiar with the Active Parenting of Teens program from my earlier work with another agency," explains Tenneson. "Our director, Phyllis Gray, wanted to train our Upward Bound leaders to work with teens and their parents and we knew that community leaders in surrounding counties wanted a joint parent-teen program too."

Tenneson received the grant and in September 2000, Active Parenting's Training Director Susan Reed traveled to Decorah to train 14 professionals representing 8 organizations that serve a 15-county area (Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention, Clayton County Substance Abuse Services, Helping Services for NE Iowa, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Luther College Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound, NE Iowa Empowerment and St. Mary's Elementary School).

"I was so impressed by the can-do spirit of the people from these organizations. They weren't just talking about a good plan to help parents and teens in their communities, they were actually doing something about it!" says Reed.

Naturally, this diverse group of agencies is implementing Families in Action in equally diverse ways. For example:

Luther College, Decorah - Tenneson is making plans for the Summer 2001 Upward Bound program that brings students from eight counties onto campus for a 6-week enrichment program. Twenty-five teens will meet for three hours each week to participate in the teen portion of the program. Their parents will participate in mini-sessions during orientation and when they return to pick up their teens. Luther College Upward Bound encourages teens to stay in and excel in high school and set personal/career goals that include higher education. "Families in Action will help these teenagers learn communication and behavior skills that will make a difference in their family life and community relationships," Tenneson adds.

Eastern Allamakee Kee High School, Lansing - The high school and two community service agencies joined together in presenting a Families in Action program offered as two five-hour workshops. Knowing it's difficult to get parents and teens involved in after-school programs, health teacher Marlene Duffy offered her students pizza, video rental coupons and a grade incentive to encourage attendance. The adult class was led by Barb Winters of Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention. Then to add a bit of entertainment value to the class, Kathy Schwartzhoff, Helping Services of NE Iowa, developed a family version of the popular TV game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" complete with "lifelines." Ms. Duffy notes, "the kids loved this." An inspirational candlelight ceremony concluded the program.

St. Mary's Elementary School, Clayton County - Sister Suzanne Gallagher, school principal, opened the Families in Action program at St. Mary's to the entire community under the auspices of the Safe Coalition-Iowa program that encourages drug-free communities. Ten teenagers and 10 parents attended the inaugural session.

The focus on "fun" and the variety of activities and videos helped keep both teens and parents coming back for more. Among the most successful activities was one in which both teens and parents identified stressors in the lives of the other group. Letters of encouragement were also a powerful tool for reopening the lines of communication.

After teaching the first round of classes, leaders agreed that the "program has something for everyone," says Tenneson, "and it was flexible enough that it could be modified if a group wanted to spend more time on certain issues."

For more information about Families in Action, call 800-825-0060 or click on the link.


Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2001 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.