Strengthening Families Program kicks off for 2013

Since 2003, the Strengthening Families Program has helped Fort Dodge families work together to communicate better with each other and to help children learn to communicate effectively with their peers.

This year’s iteration of the program will launch today with sessions at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge,

Meeting weekly over a seven-week period, sixth-graders and their parents attend two-hour classes, with the first hour consisting of the parents and children working with separate facilitators and the second hour working with each other to discuss and practice what they have learned.

The youths also learn how to make good choices, how to seek out good friends and role models, and how to handle peer pressure. They are guided through discussions with a series of problem-solving steps such as: ask questions, name the problem, tell what could happen, suggest another route, start, and ask others to join you.

At present, 76 families have registered to participate, said Sherri Schill, co-team leader of Fort Dodge PROSPER, which oversees the program.

Schill joins Marcy Harms, director of student services for the Fort Dodge Community School District, in overseeing the program. Harms and Paulelda Gilbert, former nutrition and health field specialist for Iowa State University Extension, were the among the founders of the project.

“The program has been very well-managed over the past 10 years,” said Schill, who became co-team leader in the fall of 2012.

Schill succeeded Mary Conrad, who helped oversee the program for six years.

“What I loved about this program from the very beginning is the difference you see in the way families communicate,” Conrad said. “It’s a great way for youth to get involved in one-on-one time with their parents.”