The Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse provides numerous services, many of which are aimed at children and teenagers struggling with the pangs of growing up, the influences of their peers and the world around them.
But what about the families of those who may be struggling with drug use or gang pressure? One of CADA’s premier programs for parents of troubled children is the Fighting Back Parent Program.
Based on the award-winning Parent Project curriculum, this educational program is designed specifically for parents who are facing the challenges associated with raising adolescents ages 10 through 18.
Although 75 percent of the referrals come via Teen Court, any parent or couple can take this six-class course. The parent(s) attend the class one night per week, Monday through Thursday, for six weeks.
The classes are free to the general public and are held at the newly relocated Daniel Bryant Youth & Family Center, 1111 Garden St.
All classes are available in both English and Spanish, and free child care is provided on-site. The program recently expanded to include Carpinteria.
“You’ll find support, you’ll find education, you’ll find resources in this program,” said Lino Celio, program coordinator and class facilitator at the Santa Barbara location.
The curriculum, created in 1999 by a psychologist, police officer and educator, centers on six chapters with different focuses: Control, Confrontation, Supervision, Drugs and Alcohol, Relationships and Rules.
The course starts with a discussion of control and the tools parents have to influence behavior. According to Celio, there are two tools: praise and consequences.
“We ask the parents how they are dealing with love and affection in the home and how they are dealing with consequences,” he said. “The way you use praise and consequences can be very powerful or very ineffective.”
In a 90-minute class, parents learn different strategies to deal with their kids (such as taking away all electronics) and meaningful ways to praise them.
The next week, parents learn about confrontation.
“The No. 1 thing is, are you calm when you confront your child?” Celio explained. “You need to have a plan with what words you’re going to use: I love you, I see, I feel, etc. ‘I’ statements. No more threatening, prepare yourself for the worst.”
In the following weeks, the Parent Program goes on to discuss supervision and drugs and alcohol. The supervision chapter discusses the influence of modern technology.
“Our children are living in a world that is faster and has more influences that impact their lives,” said Ed Cué, Teen Court’s program director. “Technology is an asset and also has unintended consequences.”
“This business of parenting has gotten so complicated,” he said. “Technology has made communication so much more complicated. Teens are speaking to one another constantly, while parents are not.”
The program opens parents’ eyes to resources that will help them better communicate with their children and watch over their children’s communications with other kids. Meanwhile, it provides a venue for parents to build relationships and friendships. The classes themselves nurture a tangible support system for parents dealing with strong-willed adolescents.
“It is amazing to see,” Celio noted. “It’s funny because they all form little groups just like the teens!”
Through this support system, the Parent Program strives to eradicate the feeling of denial and shame that often comes with alcohol and drug abuse. It also helps parents deal with the reality head-on, but in a calm and constructive manner.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the curriculum is the Relationships chapter, during which parents learn about the “hook-up culture” of today’s youth and other destructive behaviors involving alcohol, drugs and sex.
“The Parent Program is designed not only to help parents who are dealing with challenging and oppositional youth,” Cué said. “It can also help parents better understand the challenges faced by their children, and become actively involved in helping them make healthier choices.”
By learning more about their children’s lives, parents tend to turn inward and look at their own lives, too.
“The parents come first just for their child, but then they’ll start working on their own relationships with each other, with their spouses, or other loved ones,” Celio explained. “They start to look at themselves.”
Celio mentioned one family to illustrate the program’s goal of strengthening the family as a whole.
A difficult teenager came through Teen Court for alcohol and drug use and his parents were mandated to the Parent Program. It soon became known that the boy’s father was a drug user, as well. But after the son went through Teen Court and the father completed the Parent Program, both cleaned up and remain sober to this day, he said.
The Parent Program provided resources for the father to help him get over his addictions so that his son could follow, Celio said.
Although the father resisted the program at first, like many parents, he soon came to realize its value.
“Often in the beginning they’re (the parents) a little close-minded, but once they see what we’re trying to offer and that we’re not trying to tell them ‘This is how you have to parent’, they end up praising the program,” said Kristine Pendon, Teen Court case manager.
“We’re giving them other options and knowledge that they can take with them, and, hopefully, utilize to improve the relationships they have with their children and each other.”
The Parent Program really aims to provide just one more tool for parents trying to help their children build healthy, happy lives.
“I see that they embrace it,” Celio said. “I tell them that we have to believe in our kids, that we have to do this stuff in the program. As a parent, you do it, then you let it go. And you have faith that it will work.
“And more often than not, I have a parent who calls me up and says, ‘You know, my kid’s OK.’ And that’s why I do it.”
» Click here for more information about the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse.
» Click here for a related Noozhawk article on Teen Court.
» Click here for a related Noozhawk article on the Fighting Back Mentor Program.