Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 14, 2022
USU Extension offers free gift for strengthening your family

When we think of what to give our kids for Christmas, we usually think electronics and games, things that are fun. But if you want to think about something that will really make your kid happy, think about something that can’t be wrapped and put under the tree. USU Tooele Extension has a gift for you, and it’s free. This gift idea includes bonding with your kids in a new kind of family activity—taking a class together.  

You may already know the advantages of spending quality time with your kids—but it is good to get a reminder. Time with kids improves their mental health, boosts self-confidence, helps kids learn adaptive skills, promotes resilience, and helps kids perform better academically with fewer behavioral problems. And with signs that youth are struggling more than ever with mental health, this is a really good time to build some family bonding time into the schedule both for the holidays and the new year.

USU Tooele Health Extension wants to help you make family bonding a bit easier. Last summer, the Tooele County Health Extension conducted an intensive, three-day facilitator certification for more than a dozen community representatives. Then in the fall, they offered Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth aged 10-14 (SFP 10-14) to the first group of community families. Matt Huntington with USU Health Extension said, “The skills taught help youth learn resilience, and stay safe from dangerous substances.” Matt continued, “We enjoyed watching the families in our first cohort form stronger bonds of understanding and love while having fun and learning skills, and we’re really looking forward to working with our next group of families!”

USU Extension is running another round of the Strengthening Families Program (SFP 10-14) in January, 2023. This program was created by Iowa State University Extension & Outreach and has proven to really help kids learn the skills that will help them have a better year. Participating families meet weekly over a seven-week schedule to learn generational empathy, respectful and thought-provoking communication skills, and new methods for helping youth make decisions for better outcomes when faced with peer pressure. They practice 18 Tools and Skills for Parenting Youth. They learn about resources and services available to local families. They make weekly commitments to each other. Each week also includes a group dinner paid for by the program along with a youth-only session, a parent-only session, and a family session. Free child care is also provided for participating families. 

Whether or not a class is the right approach for your family, you should look for ways to build your family relationships that are evidence-based and supported by the research. Another example of a great bonding activity is regular family dinners. But why not combine that family dinner with the evidence-backed approach of the SFP 10-14 program? Taking the SFP 10-14 has been shown to delay the initiation of substance use in youth, created stronger family bonds between parents and youth, and shown an increase in positive behaviors among youth.

You know what my favorite part of the program is? It is that youth keep showing progress even after the classes and dinners in the program end. Youth need skills to help them resist the peer pressure that leads to risky behaviors, and once they get those skills, they last. Another great outcome is less arguing and conflict. Research shows that this approach to protective parenting improves family relationships and decreases the level of family conflict (Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, 2022). The federally-recognized, award-winning program has made a difference for thousands of families across the US and abroad, and now in Tooele County!  

The Strengthening Families Program 10-14 is currently free for Tooele County families, and the next cohort begins Jan. 11, 2023. For more information about SFP 10-14 in Tooele County, please contact Matt Huntington at (385) 468-4834 or email

Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County Office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2409 and at

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