Our hope is that by providing families in the community with ongoing support through group interaction, families will be inspired to raise their children in a healthier way. We find that families in our current "Youth Chat" and "Mom to Mom" groups have been positively impacted by meeting weekly with our team and with their peers. Additionally, we find that ongoing support is essential in combating some of the initial reasons they come to the group. The Alliance Family Success Center run groups within some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Jersey City. If we can uplift the youth and families of these neighborhood we can not only foster pride in the individual but give the individual a voice. To create a sense of belonging and pride in self, family and in the community is what we try to instill in all of our families.
Though the "Youth Chat" group was initially created to allow a child a forum to grieve the passing of her mother, topics have become much broader than we could of ever imagined. Youth in the groups talk about poor self esteem, issues over social media and conflicts in the home. We offer youth support and raise some of the same topics in our "Mom to Mom" and "Fatherhood Initiative" groups. Such topics have included; Ways to cope with feeling of anger in a situation. We role play and talk about ways you could have made the situation better.
These topics provide both child and parent an open forum by which they can receive feedback from others who might be dealing with the same issue. Our model of educating the youth and educating their parents separately but discussing topics that are the same in the groups is what is changing the way children and their families interact.
In the groups families are challenged to resist their desire to think or act negatively and replace it with a healthier, more constructive action. For instance, in our "Youth Chat" group, one 11 year old girl stated she had been in 2 fights at the school in just the first 4 months of the school year. We found others in the group to have similar issues in school and some were even nearing expulsion. We challenged all the youth in the group not to have anymore fights. Ever!
We are teaching youth that they can have a voice in their school, in their home and that their thoughts, ideas and opinions matter. We work with their parents in their groups and stress the importance of listening to their children. We discuss the harm of aggressive and fowl language in the home and challenge families to rethink some of the ways that their household and family function. Parents have made "Feeling" Charts that serve as a way for families to track the emotions of each family member. The Feelings Charts are always well received as parents state they were able to gain insight on some emotions they didn't know their child and spouse were having. Feelings Charts and other exercises like these are done so families can begin to work on the roots of their household issues.
Our most well received groups are always when we partner with another community based organizations. This is another part of our model we find to be why our groups are successful and continue to grow. Partners like Rutgers University's SNAP Education Healthy Eating program hosted healthy eating seminars during some of the groups. They taught families how to make healthier decisions at the supermarket and better ways to prepare food. We have offered all our families seminars on financial planning and provided them with Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University Curriculum. Guest speakers and specialists are invited on an ongoing basis to provide education on parenting, anger management and stress management.
We are enriching the lives of children and their families by taking the time to listen to their wants and to their needs. We believe that any dream is achievable and instill this dream in all the families we service. We break barriers and link families to resources. By uplifting youth and their families through education and peer to peer support, we not only foster pride in self, but we equip families with the tools necessary to combat life's struggles.