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Bringing Families Together

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NORTHUMBERLAND (WBRE/WYOU) — Administrators in a local school district are gearing up for the start of a new program to help bridge the gap between children and their parents.

The goal is to strengthen the bond so that kids can excel not only in school but throughout life. The program will take place at Shikellamy Middle School. It’s called Strengthening Families and with the success of the program in previous years, teachers and parents are looking forward to starting back up again.

For adolescents, sometimes it’s not easy being a middle schooler.

“Sometimes, me and my friends get mad at each other and sometimes it gets physical,” seventh-grader Nicholas Cooper said.

But thanks to the Strengthening Families program, “I feel like this program has helped stop that in many different ways,” Cooper said.

Strengthening Families is designed for families with kids ages 10-14. It’s a seven-session program focused on reducing family-related risk factors and adolescent behavior problems.

“I think by building stronger families within your school, you’re also building stronger families within your community and that’s a piece that I feel personally is a great asset the school is offering,” Stephanie Reitmeyer, director of education for Greater Susquehanna United Way said.

The program is covered under Penn State’s Proper model where they only support evidence-based programs.

“Because it’s an evidence-based program, we track everything from start to finish and then we use that data to support a reduction in the risk of those behaviors,” Lisa Pfleegor, school counselor and program coordinator, said.

So far, it’s estimated there is a 20 percent reduction in risk factors and behaviors of peer pressure and drug and alcohol use for those in the program. First, it kicks off with a family dinner.

“We find importance there because if you don’t have to rush home from work and get something together for the family to eat before you come, you’re more likely to come and enjoy yourself and put your focus in the programming,” Pfleegor said.

And then the families break into discussion sessions, tackling topics like establishing house rules and preparing for teen years.

“Kids aren’t the same as when we grew up and it was nice to be able to learn to interact with your child, what questions to ask them, even the dinner beforehand. Just getting some time with your child that you normally wouldn’t get on a busy school night,” parent Janna Portzline said.

“It solved some of our issues that we have and they might be big issues or small issues but it helped us and we love each other more than before now,” seventh-grader Mollie Portzline said.

Parents say they almost wish the program was available to them sooner.

“I just thought this was so beneficial as a facilitator and parent to teach the kids refusal skills and to help deal with peer pressure and face everything middle schoolers face nowadays,” Annette Cooper, parent and facilitator, said.

“The communication and the ways of discipline, things like that,” grandparent Nancy Ney said.

Strengthening Families was supposed to kick off this Thursday, but organizers need more families to sign up before they can start. They need a total of 12 families. Right now, they’re at five. The goal is to try to start it back up next week.

If the program can successfully start next Thursday, administrators say it should wrap up before Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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