Bradley Initiative for Church and Community’s Transitions program aims to aid families with children ages 10 to 14 during what can be a tumultuous time in any youth’s life.
Newly-named Transitions Director Joe Mullins said the program is for families across the spectrum.
He stressed the program is not for a particular socioeconomic group. Instead, the common factor between every family is the age of the children.
“This program is designed for families with children between 10 and 14. You are at risk because those years are so volatile,” Mullins said. “They are so volatile because kids are starting to make decisions for themselves, but they also have to live with the consequences.”
Life throws a lot of changes at youth ages 10 to 14. Over the course of four years, children leave elementary school, enter middle school, experience peer pressure, develop hormones and enter high school.
Mullins explained the transition can be difficult for many families. He explained the program is designed to equip parents and youth with the tools needed to tackle life challenges together.
Transitions is an evidence-based program derived from the Strengthening Families Program. Objectives within the program are separated into through sections: youth, parents and the family as a whole. Lessons built into the program include: listening skills, how to manage stress, setting boundaries with love, protecting against risks, resisting peer pressure and encouraging good behavior among other items.
The seven-week sessions are offered five times a year. The next one will begin mid-March. Families meet once a week for a two and a half hour meeting.
Every meeting begins with a free meal. Families have 30 minutes to eat and catch up with each other before the hour-long small groups. Caregivers and the youth come back together for a final hour of family games, projects and discussion.
“We work with the entire family as a unit to make the transition,” Mullins said. “I think it is so important because decisions kids make at that age have such a tremendous impact on their life, especially the rest of their teenage years.”
Many take moody behavior from teenagers as being a given.
Youth Development Director Chrissy Jones said the belief does not have to be every family’s reality.
She said one mother who went through the program did not realize the impact middle school stressors would have on her son.
“She said she was thankful she went through the program because it helped her communicate with her son,” Jones said. “The communication continued, and it made [her son] feel like he could talk to her about some of the situations.”
Added Mullins, “It doesn’t have to be the case where communication stops at the teenage years.”
Jones explained one of the reasons stress builds up between caregivers and the young teens.
“When children become adolescents, that is a step closer to adulthood. What you end up having are these 11, 12, 13-year-olds who feel like they are almost adults. Their parents feel like they are still babies,” Jones said. “There is conflict between [youth] wanting all this freedom and their parents being hesitant to give it to them.”
Mullins said he would like to see Transitions spread out from Bradley County into neighboring counties.
For more information on the program, call either Jones or Mullins at 559-1112.