Parents and children learn to see eye to eye in the family-oriented program Transitions, offered by Bradley Initiative for Church and Community.
“Not only is it a transition for [youth] going from being a preteen to a teen, it is a transition for us as well,” said recent Transitions graduate Sherry Miller. “Just having the tools to know how to adapt to [the transition]. It is new to us, like it is to them.”
Miller added, “They don’t come with a rulebook.”
Transitions is a free program offered to families through the local nonprofit. The focus of the curriculum is to provide parents and children with tools during the key transition years: elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school.
According to a flier for the program, “All youth transitioning into middle school and the teen years experience increased stressors, such as new peer influences, a more demanding school curriculum, added responsibilities, and increased opportunities for independent decision-making.”
Registration is currently open for the program’s next seven-week program beginning Tuesday, Oct. 22, and ending Tuesday, Dec. 10.
A variety of subjects are discussed throughout the meetings, but first comes the family meal. Children and parents are then separated into their respective groups. An hour later finds the two meeting for continued lessons as a family unit. This time often includes projects and discussion.
One project in particular sticks out in group facilitator Shelia Fuller’s mind.
“One of my parents when we were doing the family tree said she couldn’t make a tree because she is a single mom,” Fuller said. “I told her she was going to make a beautiful family tree, and they did. Her face lit up when they did this together, because she realized there was so much there.”
Fuller emphasized the make-up of a family does not matter. The program has had single parents, guardians and grandparents enter with their dependents.
It has been an eye-opening experience for both the families and facilitators.
Single mother Melinda Walden said she signed up to better communicate with her son.
“I wanted to come to Transitions, so that way Otto and I could have more communication, and maybe bond, because I’ve just had him back for a year now and he has a lot of anger,” Walden explained. “We can’t deal with [his anger], if we can’t talk about it.”
Her son, 12-year-old Otto Applet, agreed, saying the program has helped him with his anger issues.
When asked what he thought of the program, Otto responded with an emphatic, “It’s awesome!”
He added the program may not be well received by all kids.
“Some kids who are in my class wouldn’t really get into it because their moms don’t care what they do,” Otto said. “[Some who] can’t run in the streets, but aren’t really best friends with their mom or dad [either], would not like this program.”
Fellow Transitions classmate 11-year-old Noah Miller said he would suggest the program to his friends.
“It has been an experience where we learn about how to deal with friends and peer pressure,” Noah explained. “And how to deal with responsibilities and boundaries and stuff.”
The two boys met through the program and get on well despite having different interests. Otto is a basketball and football sports enthusiast whose favorite movie is “Insidious Chapter 2.” Noah explained he enjoys reading the “Captain Underpants” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series when he is not drawing.
Both can agree they had fun during the program.
They both enjoyed the Consequences activity.
Explained Otto of one of Noah’s turns, “He got the consequence he didn’t look in the car side mirror and he backed up into his friend’s car, so he had to stay at the space.”
Added Otto, “I went to the movies and left my headlights on, so I had to wait an hour to get [his car] recharged.”
Miller and Walden said the program gave them important skills to relate to their sons.
“It is so easy to be a parent and be dogmatic saying, ‘I have these rules and you are going to follow them,’” Miller said. “It is so easy to want to be the strict authoritarian type, but that just doesn’t work.”
Walden added, “They told us to calm down and actually hear our children. Listen and take into consideration what your child is saying.”
The two, who did not know each other prior to the meetings, expressed an interest in monthly reunions with other parents to keep each other accountable.
Group facilitators Fuller and Cheryl Coffman said it is normal for bonds to grow both within families and between participants.
“We have families who come in and maybe don’t say a word the first night. We’ve seen by week seven they are talking as much, or more, as I am,” Fuller said. “They are bonding with each other and you see a bond growing between them and their children.”
Continued Fuller, “No one tells you the adolescent years are going to be this way. You just start living them.”
Coffman said a similar progression is seen among the children.
“They are very quiet the first night, typically,” Coffman said. “We get them moving, get them involved in playing, talking and giving each other compliments. They realize it is nonthreatening.”
More information on the program, including registration, can be found by contacting Kerri Couse, Transitions director, at 559-1112 or email@example.com.