By Kayla Anderson
Around for 28 years, the Parent Project is an initiative that formed when concerned parents approached police departments yearning for officers to step in and work with their difficult or out-of-control teens.
Considering that the Sparks Police Department deals with juvenile issues quite often, officers Ken Gallop and Damon O’Connell looked into The Parent Project and thought that this program could greatly benefit the Sparks community.
“We’re sent to juvenile calls all the time, but we’re only there for 15 or 20 minutes. We can’t solve a problem in that short amount of time. We put a Band-Aid on it, but this program puts parents through a 10-week program where they learn the tools they need to be successful and get that family structure back in place,” says O’Connell.
Therefore, the Sparks PD launched its first 10-week course in mid-July and had 12 attendees with 10 people completing the program. The series is designed to teach parents useful skills that strengthen relationships and family bonds by learning ways to communicate with difficult adolescents ages 11-19 and keep them out of trouble.
“The first class was extremely successful, there was a lot of growth from the parents and many wanted the classes to continue because they’re seeing the change in their son or daughter. The Parent Project offers an immediate support group with other people who are many times dealing with the same issues,” O’Connell says.
In a confidential setting, parents work together and learn skills regarding: the dynamics of change; managing conflict at home; consistent parenting; positive sleep and diet habits; setting standards and values; improving family unity; and practicing positive self-concepts.
“It’s about managing life in general. We talk about love and affection and ways to show that on a daily basis. We often assume that people know that we love them, but it’s important to communicate that every day. We have a little bit of homework each week and everyone comes back and tells the group what worked and what didn’t,” O’Connell says. “We try to focus on every day struggles and how to best manage them,” he adds.
As well as strengthening the family structure, some of the other goals of the Parent Project are to reduce family conflict and juvenile crime, improve school attendance and graduation rates. Local law enforcements work with families to identify underlying issues and resolve them before it ends up in an irreparable situation.
“This has brought about positive change with families. We teach (parents) about drugs and alcohol, running away, threats of suicide,” says O’Connell. “We talk about how important their choices are in the friends they have and who they hang out with, plus social media use and outside influences that affect their behavior,” he adds.
Although the Sparks Parent Project program just launched this summer, other cities in America are saying that it works.
The program has proven successful in Roseville, California…six months prior to implementing the Parent Project, 15 families called local law enforcement on 87 occasions with issues regarding their out-of-control teens. Within a year after graduating from the Roseville Parent Project, those same 15 families only called four times.
One Roseville Parent Project graduate says that it’s the only training program that really focuses on teens’ most destructive adolescent behaviors and critical issues that parents are faced with today and provides them with concrete step-by-step solutions.
The next Sparks Parent Project 10-week course will start on September 10. There are still some spots available and the program is open to everyone and free of charge (the Parent Project workbook costs $29 but the Police Department is willing to work with anyone who wants to attend). For more information, visit http://www.sparkspolice.com/our-community/the-parent-project/ or www.parentproject.com.