Since 2002, the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) of Washington State University has been offering community classes to improve family communication and general parenting skills. The program is intended for families with children aged 10 to 14. The class is structured to meet over seven weeks in two-hour sessions that include a shared meal.

Taught by trained facilitators, the evening usually starts with parents and children meeting separately, then coming together for the last hour. For parents, the first hour can include sessions on building bridges, decreasing conflict, making house rules, showing love and setting limits. For youth, their time together might be about resisting peer pressure, managing a range of feelings and stress, and learning to make good choices.

As a family, the goal is to build on their relationships, learning to support and appreciate each other, and in other words, strengthen their family.

“My husband and I attended the Strengthening Families class with both of our kids,” said Shuksan Middle School parent Joannie Lego.  “It was a wonderful class and we learned a lot about parenting skills, improving communication methods, setting boundaries, and creating a family environment where everyone feels validated.”

“In the midst of busy lives and schedules, it was time well spent and a great reminder of the importance of taking the time to focus on family, spend time with one another, and work together. I highly recommend the class!”

In 2018-19 school year, Bellingham Public Schools hosted 4 programs; both Shuksan and Kulshan middle schools offered a Spanish and an English program. Countywide 11 classes were held. Sessions are currently in session at Shuksan and will start soon at Kulshan in 2020.

You can find the list of current/upcoming classes in Whatcom County at the WSU website.

“I truly believe this is an extraordinary program and many of our families can really benefit from participating in it,” said Isabel Meaker, executive director of family engagement in Bellingham Public Schools.

“This is a chance to bring families together in deep, meaningful ways, and at the same time promoting healthy, strong and fun community connections.”

For a recent podcast featuring the Strengthening Families Program as the best program for substance abuse prevention in youth, click here.

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