by Diana King
|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)
"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
"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
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
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.