Strengthening the ties that bind

Program offers families ways to connect

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

Whether your family is as dysfunctional as Ozzy and the rest of the Osbournes, or as normal as Beaver and the other Cleavers, an upcoming program may still improve a family's interpersonal skills in ways never thought possible.

"The program doesn't presuppose that anyone is having difficulties, it just aims to strengthen a family, and have fun while doing it," said Kristie Sellers, PhD, in regard to the Strengthening Families Program, offered jointly through Central Peninsula Hospital and the Community Action Coalition.

This 14-week program designed to improve family relationships, parenting skills and youth social skills is funded through a Community Prevention Team grant provided by the State of Alaska Behavioral Health Prevention and Early Intervention Services.

"That fact that its free is one of the coolest parts," Sellers said.

And families get a lot more than an education during the once a week meetings, she said.

"We cook dinner for them and then have a family meal," Sellers said.

Following the food, parents and children (6-12 years old) are separated to focus on age-appropriate subjects that relate to the broader subject of family interaction. Daycare is provided for children under the age of 6.

"Parents do a parenting class and get good information about child development, building relationships and the use of discipline. Children go to a kids class where they learn social skills, learn about making friends, sharing feelings and saying no to drugs," she said.

After the meetings, the families are reunited for a group event.

"We bring everyone back together for a family activity. Sometimes it will be playing a game together, or sometimes it will be holding a family meeting.

"Research has shown that parents who hold family meetings have kids that are less likely to have difficulty in school, less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system and less involved with substance abuse problems. So, we practice the meetings so families get good at them," Sellers said.

The program is only offered twice a year, and has averaged roughly 12 families each time it has been previously offered. Sellers said getting to know each family, and seeing them get to know each other better, is one of the perks of her position.

"Over 14 weeks everyone learns a lot and really gets to know each other, which is what we want. We want to make connections because we want to see people get through the whole program," she said.

The weekly Strengthening Families program will be held from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. beginning Feb. 21.

For more information, location or to register, call Sellers at 714-4524.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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