MOOSIC, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Social pressures facing children these days seem greater than what most of their parents experienced growing up. There’s a program to help kids cope with those pressures that’s taught to families after school.

Terry and Brayden Insalaca of Moosic aren’t the only ones in their family learning at Riverside Elementary East. So’s mom. “It just helps with communication as they’re headed into their teen years and really provide us with the tools that we need,” said Pamela Insalaca.

She’s talking about a program called “Strengthening Families”. It’s aimed at helping 5th and 6th graders and their parents keep communication lines open and steer clear of substance abuse and other problems.

“It really has meant a lot,” said Riverside Elementary East Principal Nicole VanLuvender who serves on the board of “Strengthening Families”. It’s a seven week program offered twice a year through the Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County. Ms. VanLuvender and her sons Aiden and Avery also participated in the program. “It’s provided them the opportunity to gain those peer relationship skills that they need facing peer pressure,” she said.

Tools that are what experts say students need now more than ever. Riverside Elementary East 5th grader Curtis Lipisko completed the Strengthening Families program and said, “We learned to not do drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. Stuff like that.”

Once students complete the Strengthening Families program, their lessons aren’t finished. They’ll participate in a 17 session Life Skills program in seventh grade taught by teachers. Penn State Extension Educator Karen Thomas said, “You might say I have a wonderful child. My child does everything, does well in school. But you never know what happens when the child gets into high school.”

While currently offered to students at Riverside, Carbondale Area and Western Wayne, “Strengthening Families” is open to any child age 10 to 14 and their caregivers — helping kids succeed by helping them stay on the straight and narrow.

There’s still time to sign up for “Strengthening Families”. It’s free and open to the public and even provides free child care for younger family members during the sessions. For more information, contact Karen Thomas at Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County at 570-963-6842.