MARQUETTE - Child and Family Services of the Upper Peninsula is once again offering its free "Strengthening Families" program, which looks to help parents of young children - and the children themselves - learn how to work better as a family.
"One of the things we really like to see is a connection with the families that are going," said organizer Danielle Slattery. "It builds a support network for them. Same with the kids. It's a new group of friends they get to see once a week."
Running weekly for 14 weeks, the program offers its participants a chance to learn how to improve communication skills, how to set and meet goals and how to get along better as a family.
Taking place inside the Faith In Christ Fellowship Church, the program begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays, with a free meal for participants. Then, families participate in hour-long breakout sessions, with the children heading off with one counselor and the parents with another.
The children learn how to talk with their parents, to set goals and resist peer pressure, among other things.
The parents learn how to engage with their kids, to utilize positive discipline techniques and how to help their children in school, to name a few topics.
Then, from 7 to 8 p.m., the families reunite and take what they've learned to the table, practicing their newly found skills.
Free childcare is also provided to families participating in the program who have other children under the age of 6.
Transportation is provided as well.
"There's also transportation assistance available," Slattery said. "So, if families have their own car, they get a gas card for coming. if they don't have a vehicle, we can help either pick them up or drop them off, call a taxi service, to make sure they get there."
The first session takes place Thursday, but Slattery said families looking to enroll in the program can still do so until next week. The program will at the same time every Thursday through June 7.
"You're going to want to start as soon as possible, within that first or second week, to get a feel of the program," she said. "The program is sequential. it kind of builds off each other every week."
Slattery said the program has been offered for a number of years in the Marquette area, and has seen several families graduate. It has even seen a few families come back.
"Once a couple of families go through it, a lot want to go through it a second time or a third time, and every time, they learn something different," she said. "Parents always talk about how much they like that connection with other parents. They're seeing they're not the only ones that are struggling ...
"They're learning they're not the only ones out there struggling with minor things, like temper tantrums, all the way up to actual, physical violence."
Slattery said what makes the program successful is its ability to create a community of like-minded parents, and gives the kids a chance to make new friends.
"What makes it successful is the community connection," she said.
The program is made possible through a grant from Northcare CA.
For more information on the Strengthening Families program, call Slattery at 228-4050, extension 122, or at 458-0535.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.