Free Parent Support Groups Make a Difference for Hill Country Families
Misty and Jerry Frerichs’ 7-year-old son, Mason, has a common behavioral disorder that makes him defiant, short-tempered and disobedient at times. It was making for a tense family atmosphere.
“Mason is different than other children,” Misty explains, “and we felt like our house was under siege, and we didn’t quite know how to deal with that.”
During one of Mason’s treatment sessions, Misty wondered aloud to his therapist why more classes were not available for parents to learn how to deal with the ups and downs of parenthood.
When Arlene Kelley met her now-husband Mike, he already had a teenage daughter. The couple grew their family together and had another daughter later in life, Shannon. When Shannon was eight years old, Arlene was invited to a parent support group next door to Shannon’s art class. Arlene accepted.
“I was having trouble with Shannon wanting to mind me,” Arlene says. “Every kid tries their parents, and Shannon was at a point where she was trying to see what she could get away with.”
Different Paths to the Same Parenting Goal
Mason’s therapist referred the Frerichs to a local parent support group, and across town, Arlene heard about the same parenting program while she waited for her daughter’s art class to let out. Though each family faced different challenges, both sets of parents recognized the program had potential to bring a measure of clarity and peace into their homes.
The program, called Texas Families: Together and Safe (TFTS) is operated by BCFS Health and Human Services across Kerr County. TFTS is a curriculum of dynamic, community-based parenting classes aimed at reconnecting, strengthening and empowering families. TFTS lessons address the common, everyday issues parents face raising toddlers as young as 3, all the way up to teenagers at 17 years old – like how to get your child to do their chores or homework, how to stop siblings from bickering, and how to inspire an unruly teen to stay on the right path.
“We teach families how to improve their communication with one another and consider the perspectives of all the family members, especially when it comes to disagreements or discipline,” explains BCFS Director Brenda Thompson.
The seven-week course offers families wrap-around support that includes free meals and childcare, and referrals to other community resources to help meet the family’s basic needs. Attendance incentives are offered at each class and a graduation gift is presented to parents who complete the course.
Putting Theory into Practice
The Frerichs say TFTS taught their whole family simple techniques to improve their communication and relationships. It even helped improve the behavior of their youngest child.
“Mainly it was our words,” Misty says when asked about the lessons she learned that made a big difference at home. “We learned to use phrases like ‘I’m sorry, this is how it is right now,’ instead of phrases like, ‘this is a consequence of your behavior,’ that can trigger a reaction.”
They also learned a little about themselves, too. “We learned to keep our cool in all things,” she adds, “and to think before you speak.” By making these simple, yet critical, changes, home life for the Frerichs has improved.
It’s a lot calmer,” Misty says. “It feels like we’re not at war with our son anymore. We’ve got our family unit back.”
For Arlene Kelley, TFTS provided helpful tips to guide their daughter, and other parents in the class helped Arlene see that every family, at some point, struggles for the right anwers when raising a child.
“I appreciate these classes,” Arlene says. “I wish people would understand that it’s not a weakness to go to one of these classes. It’s not just for parents that aren’t being ‘good’ parents, it’s for everybody. I went with an open mind thinking I could learn something, and I did.”
Arlene looks forward to taking the classes again, hoping to refresh her learning and concentrate on a few of the pointers she learned her first time around. “I’m ready to go back and learn a little deeper,” she says. “Shannon was eight when I went the first time; now she’s 10, and we’re dealing with different things now that she’s two years older.”
“I’ve got a wonderful daughter,” Arlene continues, “and I learned so much in the class, and I want to be even better.”
TFTS is now enrolling families with children between the ages of 3 and 17. For more information, call (830) 896-0993, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/TFTS, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
BCFS Health and Human Services operates out of the BCFS Hill Country Resource Center, a one-stop shop for nonprofits and social services on Main Street in Kerrville.