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Empowering Families

How do people learn to be strong, independent, contributing citizens? The process begins early in life. It begins at childhood. It continues through the teen years and is a continuing process. This happens with help from those who are around us, in our schools, churches, and our community environment.

Empowered individuals and families come from wise decision making. We need to help our youth and families along in the decision making process. Basically, there are four steps. They are: state the problem or situation, clarify what has caused the situation, review the alternatives, and make choices.

These steps may sound too difficult to use with children or even teens. Start with children at a young age to think through and make choices. The new skill they learn will be as much a habit as brushing their teeth. For example, if your child is getting ready to go to school, instead of laying out his clothes for the day, let it be the child's choice. Let them think through what colors look good together. Keep this thought in mind: it wasn't fashionable to wear stripes and patterns together. Today some of our more popular designers do just that. The "fashion police" are fairly lenient on kids!

If children need a sweater or an umbrella on that particular day, depending on the weather reports, let them make the choice, or at least let them decide which sweater or coat they will wear. If the selection really bothers you as a parent, ask yourself these questions: Are the children hurting themselves, are they hurting others, and will it make a difference a year from now? If the answer is no, then let it go. Worry about the more important things in life than what color mixture of clothing may be worn to school.

These are some very elementary guidelines. As your children mature, talk about the thinking process with them, looking at the effects of any particular action and work through "what if " situations. Keep the lines of communication open for all members of the family. Use these guidelines on a regular basis and soon each member of the family will be using the skill automatically.

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