Guest commentary: Families bond through laughter, communication, and skill building

Merrily Waldron
Partners of Routt County/Grand Futures

Who can say they have flawless communication within their family? Not me. Many times, parents or caregivers want to protect youth, while youth want to feel trusted to make their own decisions.

How then, can we compromise so every family member is heard? Let’s face it, communicating with our families can be difficult at times. When we are going through family hurdles, it can be frustrating.

I believe at our core we all want the best for each other, but how to come to a common solution is a question many families ask themselves. How can we learn to bring our families back together through understanding, laughter and supportive skills for navigating the tougher issues?

In January, Grand Futures Prevention Programming (recently acquired by Partners in Routt County) brought the Strengthening Families Program 10-14 to Routt County, and it was a success.

Strengthening Families Program 10-14 (SFP 10-14) is a weekly class for youth 10 to 14 years old and their parents or caregivers. This evidence-based program is proven to bring:

• Increased parental involvement

• Increased positive parenting skills

• Decreased family conflict

• Decreased youth depression

• Decreased youth aggression

• Reduced drug and alcohol use, and other behavioral issues

• Increased youth cooperation

• Increased number of prosocial friends

• Increased youth social competencies

• Increased youth school grades

The weekly, two-hour sessions include separate parent and child skill-building followed by a family session where parents and children practice the skills they have learned independently, work on conflict resolution and communication, and engage in activities to increase family cohesiveness and positive involvement in the family.

The families come together to embrace their differences while celebrating what brings them together as a family. As a facilitator it was a joy and honor to watch the family’s bond and grow each week!

One of the participants stated, “At first it was my wife that wanted to come, but after the first class, the whole family looked forward to coming back every week. We loved it.”

Another of the dedicated families shared, “We have seen much improvement in our family dynamics, the class really works.”

SFP 10-14 is for families from every walk of life. Participants engage in topics such as understanding each other better, resisting peer pressure, solving problems together, setting appropriate limits, and supporting each other’s goals and dreams.

Each session started with the families and facilitators sitting down together for a delicious meal, generously donated by Rex’s, The Drunken Onion and the CSU Extension office.

Child care was provided for any younger siblings, and local facilitators ran the sessions out of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ location. Participants graduated the program and were provided with gift baskets and incentives after attending a minimum of five of the seven sessions.

The SFP 10-14 Program was developed at Iowa State University and is an evidence-based curriculum recognized by The Substance Abuse in Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, 4-H Program of Distinction, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the U.S. Department of Education. The World Health Organization named SFP 10-14 the No. 1 prevention program out of 6,000 programs analyzed for long-term effects on substance use and misuse.

We plan to start another session soon and hope to expand throughout Routt, Moffat and Grand Counties. We are looking for families to participate in future sessions and individuals who are interested in becoming trained facilitators (bilingual and English speaking).

If you have any questions or want to register please feel free to contact Merrily Waldron at 970-761-5189 or

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