Parents and caregivers have an opportunity to strengthen communication and learn strategies for dealing with new situations that might arise as their children approach their pre- and early teen years.

Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District has contracted with Northwest Parenting to put on a seven-week program called Strengthening Families Feb. 5 through March 19 at Broadway Middle School. The sessions are scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Parents and guardians and their children ages 10 to 14 are the targeted participants. Dinner and childcare for younger siblings will be provided at each session.

The class is designed to strengthen the bond between youth and their caregivers through participation by both parties.

“The premise of the program for parents is showing love while setting limits,” said Teresa Crouter, the program coordinator.

Similar information is given to children in their separate sessions, and age-specific challenges like handling peer pressure and developing future goals also are addressed.

During the second portion of each session, parents and children are brought together during for a joint discussion on topics like holding family meetings, establishing boundaries and rules, learning strategies for strengthening family communication and dealing with difficult situations such as drug and alcohol experimentation.

Northwest Parenting brings in parent and youth educators who are trained in the curriculum to lead the sessions.

Families undergo pre- and post-assessments to gauge the class’s effectiveness. Those who want further training can sign up for booster sessions in the following weeks.

The level of need among families who participate in the program often varies.

“Ideally, it’s not a program designed for the highest-need family. It’s designed for the average family that’s experiencing normal day-to-day dilemmas,” Crouter said.

Often the program is attended by families on the cusp of facing new or different communication and interaction issues in the home as children become pre-teens or teenagers.

The program has not been put on in Seaside for several years. It was held in Astoria last year.

The recreation district is contracting with Northwest Parenting for the class — which generally costs between $4,000 and $4,500, Crouter said — using a portion of an Oregon Community Foundation grant.

“It’s a huge expense, but they reached out to us,” Crouter said.

Space is limited to 10 families. The cost for the program is $25 per family, but scholarships are available. To register or get more information contact Northwest Parenting at (503) 325-8673x2.

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