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Manatee County agencies teaching relationship skills

Date: 2007-05-07

No one starts a relationship to end up unhappy.

Yet people who once loved each other - and may still love each other - argue, fight, split up or divorce.

To help couples and teens, Family Resources Inc. is offering six-week courses for people who want to learn skills to better communicate and keep the fun in their relationships.

The programs, modeled on the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, or PREP, are supported by the federal government. A $5 million five-year grant was awarded to Family Resources Inc. in Manatee and Pinellas by the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families to strengthen communities through healthy marriages.

The key word is "healthy," said Jane Parker, mental health counselor and program director at the Women's Resource Center of Manatee.

The Women's Resource Center is the site of the first workshop, which begins May 9.

"That's what makes us excited about it," Parker said. "We do have a divorce workshop, but we also believe in healthy relationships."

While Family Resources is the grant recipient, and will offer the classes under the name YouandMe.We, the Women's Resource Center also supports the program.

"It's a valuable program for the health and future of the community," Parker said.

Parker said many couples need to learn what a healthy relationship looks like. The PREP course takes a couple through an education process toward better communication, which is the basis for a healthy and lasting relationship.

Carol Rosenbaum, a family educator at Family Resources in Bradenton, works with Rodriguez Perry and Sandi Kaiser, also educators at Family Resources, to lead all the workshops.

"PREP teaches relationship skills that will increase positive behaviors and reduce negative behaviors so that the relationship will last a long, long time, and only get better," Rosenbaum said.

Danger signs that a relationship is headed for trouble include withdrawing and not talking, misinterpreting comments, outright disrespect and name-calling.

"Another sign is escalating behavior," Rosenbaum said. "Yelling and then yelling louder and then hitting. Those kinds of things do damage."

The workshops are open to all committed couples and single teens or teen couples. The programs designed for teens are especially valuable, Rosenbaum said.

"The earlier you get a couple learning these skills, the less time there is to have these destructive patterns develop in a relationship," she said.

The Department of Health and Human Services provides funding for PREP and other similar programs because many social ills are prevented when couples, especially married couples with children, stay together.

"Children will do better with both parents in one place - physically, emotionally, financially," Rosenbaum said. "And the community does better, because the need for social services is reduced."

Research supporting a public policy that promotes marriage was published in 2002 by the Institute for American Values. "Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences" shows how families with intact marriages benefit the community through emotional stability, financial condition, physical health, and a reduction in crime and domestic violence.

Parker emphasized that the couples' workshops are open to any committed couple, with or without children. The Women's Resource Center is considering starting PREP workshops for single women and single parents, she said.

"The material is so good, so valuable, that anyone can benefit," Parker said.





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