Parents Need Support to Prevent Youth Violence

By Alyssa Banks, Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support, Minnesota

This story originally ran in NACCHO’s Stories from the Field.

Parent support group programs can be an effective strategy to teach caregivers necessary skills to better parent at-risk youth. Poor parenting can have many negative effects on families and children. For example, it can create a lack of communication in families and thus letting the children go down a path that is self-destructive or involved with violence. The Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support has supported many parent support group programs through the City’s Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence initiative. These programs aim to strengthen families and help parents and caregivers to provide the best environment for healthy youth development. The programs are also particularly effective because they are culturally specific and focus on the unique needs of each community.

Culturally Specific

Community based partner Holy Rosary Church caters to the Latino community and can deal with the bi-cultural aspect of the children. Their program offers a series of parent workshops that focus on a variety of topics including specific skills for parenting, addressing issues with children, sexuality, gang prevention, and good communication skills. Deb Organ, the workshop supervisor, says “after the workshops the parents feel more confident in their parenting roles because they have more information and better communication within the family.”

Ms. Organ shared the story of one young single mother in the program named “Lucia” and her 16-year-old son “Miguel.” Miguel felt completely misunderstood and as a result began to isolate himself and become depressed. Miguel was headed down the wrong path, and instead of talking to him Lucia would just switch him from school to school. However, after going through the parent support group classes offered at Holy Rosary, Lucia learned that she needed to communicate with her son by asking him what he wanted and what she could do for him. Miguel said he was tired of switching schools and that he just wanted to be somewhere stable. All of the communication skills that Holy Rosary taught Lucia helped her find a solution for her son and her.

Modeling Healthy Relationships

Ms. Organ also spoke of a more drastic change in the Ortega family where the mother, “Donna,” was in an abusive relationship which had taken a toll on her health and the children. Through the parent support groups at Holy Rosary, Donna said she started to realize that she was worth something and deserved better. Donna shared that she no longer wanted to put up with the emotional and physical abuse she had been facing and left with her children. Now Donna and her children are starting the healing process and are moving forward into a safer and freer life.

Whether it is teaching your kids open communication skills or modeling healthy relationships to your kids, parent support group programs help strengthen families and can be an effective youth violence prevention strategy. It is an important prevention strategy that can change negative family dynamics and help aid parents to support and raise their children in positive ways that help them lead healthy lifestyles.