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Mother-daughter program now includes fathers

Christine Ina Casillas

Juggling balls, tying ropes and getting blindfolded are just some of the activities used to develop better relationships between kids and their parents.

That’s the idea behind a new parent-daughter program offered by Meet the Wilderness that aims to bring parents and their eighth-grade daughters closer together. Meet the Wilderness is a nonprofit organization focusing on education programs for youth.

The new program, which now includes both parents, is a spin-off from the former mother-daughter program, which started two years ago, said Missy Johnson, coordinator for Meet the Wilderness.

The parent-daughter program focuses on developing better relationships between parents and their daughters through activities such as walking tight ropes and hiking rather than sitting in a counselor’s office and getting lectured, said program group leader Jane West of Heart of the West Counseling, LLC.

“It’s an adventurous, fun and exciting program,” West said. “It’s a little challenging. It’s a combination of activities married with information and topics of discussion.”

The initial mother-daughter program was developed after West and Lynn Gottlieb, of Lynn Gottlieb Counseling, visited with counselors at one of Eagle County’s middle schools in 2000.

A majority of the counselors’ time was spent helping girls improve relationships with their parents, Gottlieb said.

Weathering the storm

The group leaders researched the reasons for tension between parents and daughters, but also found that a strong parental bond helps teen-agers through the storms of adolescence, Gottlieb said.

“Parents of adolescents often believe the PR the kids are putting out,” Gottlieb said. “The daughters still crave parents’ attention and time. This program shows them that their parents made time for them for two hours once or twice a week.”

But convincing the girls to participate might be a challenge until they actually experience the program, said Gottlieb, also a group leader.

“They are very wary and cautious about the program,” Gottlieb said. “We have to woo them into it, but once they try it, they find it very eye-opening.”

The program, which comprises seven two-hour sessions, is designed around activities such as a “spider,” in which parents and daughters bind themselves together string and twine, Gottlieb said.

“Each week has a theme,” Gottlieb said.

The parents and daughters also choose a variety of topics – such as relationships and stress – but the group leaders form the activities, such as the teen-ager interviewing the parent and using questions as “What was your relationship like with your parents when you were my age?”

Topics and themes

When parents and teen-agers argue, it causes friction in the relationships and the fun and playfulness among family members gets lost. The group sessions therefore use activities that bring playfulness and fun back into the relationship, Gottlieb said.

“There’s a lot of laughs, a lot of touching and kidding together during this time,” Gottlieb said. “It brings harmony and fun back into their lives.”

The themes and session are intertwined with what’s going on in the parents’ and teen-agers lives, said Joe Schmitt, executive director of Meet the Wilderness. One session involved a group of eight mothers and daughters juggling a ball.

“They had to make sure the ball didn’t get dropped,” Schmitt said. “And it’s like life. There’s a lot of things you juggle in life and some of it can’t get dropped.”

The sessions are supposed to remain confidential.

“What’s said in the group stays in the group,” West said.

West and Gottlieb finally described the program as “spiritual learning invested in topics guided by discovery.”

“In the living of it, telling it is fun, but doing it is better,” Gottlieb said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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