STEP enables parents to "learn new ways to handle persistent problems," "to get in touch with their feelings and their child's," and "to overcome a sense of guilt and develop a sense of confidence and self-esteem."

Improving parent-child relationships is the focus of a series of discussion sessions beginning in July. The program, called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) is research-proven, cost-effective, and makes a difference in families. Over 4 million families have completed the STEP training world-wide. The STEP program is sponsored by Suzanne Hamilton, Licensed Professional Counselor, of Turning Point Christian Counseling. Suzanne has over 23 years of experience as a Licensed Professional counselor and is the retired Director of Ascension Counseling Center.

Step encourages mutual respect between parent and child, increased cooperation, more effective communication, and a more responsible, self-reliant attitude among children. There are three options for the STEP training based on the age of the parent's child. Early Childhood STEP is for parents of children from birth through 5 years of age. STEP, Ages 6 - 12 focuses on parents of children in this age group. Finally, STEP Teen focuses on parents of teens ages 13 - 18. Each of the three programs focuses on the uniqueness of children in these age groups. According to Suzanne, "When it comes to children's development there is no such thing as one size fits all. All three STEP programs contain 7 sessions that are unique and geared to the child's developmental level."

The parents who have participated in STEP groups say they find the program helpful for many reasons. High on their list is the opportunity it provides them to share experiences and learn from others. Some STEP leaders speak of networks of parents that have grown up locally around the program. Others say that STEP enables parents to "learn new ways to handle persistent problems," "to get in touch with their feelings and their child's," and "to overcome a sense of guilt and develop a sense of confidence and self-esteem."

Cost is $13 per session, which includes the cost of the 137-page Parent Handbook. Groups are in the evening from 6—8 p.m. for the convenience of working parents. For more information on STEP groups being organized in Gonzales and Donaldsonville, contact Suzanne Hamilton of Turning Point Christian Counseling at 225-253-9635.

Contributed by Turning Point Christian Counseling