For residents of Monmouth County I think this program is one of the best kept secrets around town!

Monmouth County wants to help you strengthen your family with a free program through the Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and the Samaritan Center at the Jersey Shore. Here's how it works:

It's based on the premise of communication and bringing your family back together for family meetings, dinners, and one-on-one time with your children. This, we all know, is hard to do when we have hectic schedules and are running our kids around to their games and hobbies and school events all while trying to keep the house clean and meals cooked and homework finished.

Add to that the challenge of fighting siblings, teens with bad attitudes, and competing with video games, teens who are being exposed to peer pressure and all the battles that can ensue, and you realize just how out of control things can become at home. You may find yourself yelling yet no one is listening.

This program is for all economic levels. Because no matter how much money you have or don't have, we all deal with the same problems as our kids grow and transition to becoming pre-teens and teens. It will also help you, through good communication, teach your children how to make the best choices as they navigate school, peer pressure, and becoming teenagers.

Strengthening Families is a 14 week (once a week) program where the whole family is invited to start the evening with a delicious family meal, followed by group sessions -- one for the kids and one for the parents -- and then everyone gathers back together for a closing discussion or project. You go home with an assignment that may at first seem unimportant or silly to you, but you will soon realize how the little steps you are being taught can change your family dynamic for the better.

There is so much good that comes out of this program. I know this because I have been attending the seminar for the past ten weeks and have noticed a drastic improvement in myself and my boys and our family. I am forever thankful and grateful for this program, having gone into it thinking that I knew all there was to know about parenting and finding out that I could do even better than I thought!

As an added bonus, you are sitting right alongside other moms and dads who thought THEY knew it all, too, and you learn quickly that you are not alone in your struggles at raising your children and that the worries you thought you couldn't share with anyone are the same as everyone else has. You will make new friends and earn the respect of your children. I can't think of a better reward.

The Strengthening Families Program has been around for years yet the information doesn't always seem to reach every parents. That's why I am proud to make sure you know it is here and available to you!

For details on when the next sessions start and the towns around the county where it is being held, along with the specific age groups each session is catering to, go to or call 732-942-5753 for information and to register.