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Strengthening Families Programme to launch in Limerick later this year



Strengthening Families Programme (SFP) is aimed at families the opportunity to learn new healthy communication skills, build positive relationships within families.

Strengthening Families Programme to launch in Limerick later this year

By I Love Limerick Correspondent Ann Mc Donald

Strengthening Families Programme

The Community Substance Misuse Team provide free service to under 18’s and their families


Le Cheile are funding the Strengthening Families Programme in November this year, with the funding given to the multi-agency Steering committee.  

The programme will take place in Coolmine Mahon House on William Street.

The Strengthening Families Programme (SFP) 14-week behavioural skills training programme is aimed at families with kids aged 12-16 to give both them and parents the opportunity to learn new healthy communication skills, and to build positive relationships within families.

Mike Walsh, co-ordinator for the Mid-West Strengthening Families Programme Steering Committee said, “The skills that can be learnt through the programme assist and reduce the risk of young people getting involved in adverse behaviours such as substance misuse.”

The Parents group will learn new skills to increase desired behaviours in teens through attention, rewards, clear communication, substance use education, problem solving, and limit setting.

In the Teen group, skills will be presented on how to communicate positively, understand feelings, cope with criticism, manage stress, develop social skills, learn problem solving, resist peer pressure, understanding the consequences of substance abuse, and shot term consequences and long-term goals.

All groups are run by facilitators who have trained in SFP and have experience working with children and families in the community.

A broad structure for each 2.5 hour session is as follows:

-Families will meet for the first half hour for a community dinner to meet and socialize with facilitators and other members of group.

-Parents meet separately with group facilitators for an hour to learn how to increase the desired behaviours in their teenagers by increasing attention and rewarding positive behaviour.  They also learn about clear communication, effective discipline, substance use, problem solving and limit setting.

-The Teenagers meet separately with facilitators for an hour, to learn how to understand feelings, control their anger, resist peer pressure, comply with parental rules, solve problems and communicate effectively.  Teenagers also develop their social skills and learn about the consequences of substance abuse.

-During the second hour of the session, families engage in structured family activities, conduct family meetings, learn communication skills, practice effective discipline, reinforce positive behaviours in each other and complete family activities.

A meal is provided every night for all the family to enjoy before the session begins, and there is childcare available for children aged 4 to 11 on site.

A 7 year follow up study of the SFP (12-16) in Dublin was led by an independent researcher, Sandra Roe, with the aim of understanding the impact of SFP on family and community life. The study involved a mixed methods approach, involving family interviews, adult questionnaires, and focus groups with young people and local agencies.

It concluded that, “SFP has benefitted families through improved communication and relationships between parents and teenagers, improved parenting skills and teenagers social skills…” and has created “stronger families with less conflict”. The programme was also found to have had additional benefits including increased confidence, educational benefits and increased relationships within the community. 

Direct quotes from parents who completed the programme when asked what they got out of it: “A better relationship with my daughter, improved ability to communicate, less stressed and more hopeful,” “More understanding tolerance, patience, and learning how to deal with difficult situations,” and, “It was genuinely the most eye-opening experience because I got to see things from my teenagers perspective and they got to see things from my perspective.”

There are self-referral enrolment forms available, as well as referral leaflets for communities or statutory agencies, but families must choose to attend voluntarily.

Referral Agents will link in with their referred family weekly to provide support and guidance around the content of the programme for that week. If the family misses a session, the information will be passed onto their Referral Agent by the Site Co-Ordinator. The Referrer will then cover the missed session with the family before the following weeks programme.

 If you know of a family that you think would benefit from this programme or would like to avail of a referral form or leaflet, contact Jim Prior at 085 1250790 or Mike Walsh at 0860656257.

For more information go HERE 

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Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.