Mandy: Building a Stronger Family
“My name is Mandy, and when I was a young mother, I learned about Youth First’s Family First program through a teacher at Fairlawn Elementary School, where my two sons were enrolled. We had just come out of a traumatic situation, and I was in a new relationship with my current husband. The school recommended the program as a way for us to blend our family, get used to one another, and learn parenting skills that I had never been taught before.
I loved that the program offered dinner, so I didn’t have to go home after work and cook and then get them to the program. We were also given games so we could learn how to play with one another. This brought us a lot closer. Throughout the weeks of the program, we did the homework and we won prizes—mostly board games. We would take those games home and keep playing them—which is not something we did together before.
My favorite part of each session was when they would separate the adults and the kids. The facilitators would teach us as parents how we were supposed to be and what we were supposed to say. For example, it’s important to thank your children for doing the small things and point out the good things that they’re doing. And in the other room they were telling our children, “Your parents are going to be thanking you when you do good things like tie your shoes or brush your teeth,” so then it didn’t feel weird when we went home and I did the new behaviors and they knew to say, “You’re welcome!” At first it felt a little bit strange, but we got used to it. And then it just became a natural way of life.
My boys are now adults, and they are amazing young men who hold the door open for others and say “please” and “thank you.” I don’t think those things would’ve come naturally for them if we would’ve just continued on alone without Family First. It was huge to have someone there helping you, working with you, teaching you things to do and say as a parent and then helping you practice. That program changed me as a mother and the trajectory of our relationship.
Before Family First, I just let my kids play with one another. I was drowning in my own stuff, and I didn’t know what true parenting was. I didn’t have skills passed on to me by my parents. I was just kind of surviving, and my sons were just kind of surviving in the same space. After Family First, I knew how to pay attention to my kids and help them. And I knew how to parent my daughter when she came along a few years later.
I’m so glad that Youth First is here and that the Family First program is still growing and thriving. I think it should be something everybody gets to experience, because no family has all of the skills that they need to be the best they can be. I love the education that it gives both the child and the parents.
Thank you, Youth First, for making families stronger for 25 years!”