In the parent encounter group, parents meet to discuss family issues and challenges with their peers. Different and disparate views and approaches are discussed within the group. Conflicts in approach between spouses are aired, considered, respected, and mediated amongst group members. Because group members learn how to give honest and constructive feedback to each other, communication becomes better at home as well.
The group is gradually introduced to principles of human needs during the sessions. This important material is critical to understanding not only what we need as parents, but also what our teens need. We come to know that when these needs are not met, discord takes place. This is true for parents and teens alike. With needs in mind, we try and make informed decisions about parenting styles. The group considers which parenting styles support or frustrate the basic needs of our teens and us as parents. As family leaders, we look at authoritarian, permissive, and consultative leadership styles, and how each meets or frustrates the needs problem. We reason out what to expect from each approach, and choose accordingly. We also look at our individual roles and goals, and plan purposefully to get what we want for our family members and ourselves.
Later in the encounter group, and only when we are ready, do we look at interpersonal skills that embody and support the principles that we have developed. In this way, we can legitimately use approaches that clarify and resolve conflicts that occur, but have their foundation in principle and truth. We know that relationships regress the minute we treat others as objects – when we try to “technique it” to get our way.
Ultimately, through the Teen Encounters program, we look to heal family fractures, and re-integrate teens and parents. We work with both encounter groups to develop a family mission so that parents and teens continue to receive the support that they have been receiving from their encounter groups, but now from the family. We work specifically on developing a cooperative family mission statement that serves the needs of the family and the individual. We take considerable time and effort on this, as it is intended that this living, breathing creation will grow and strengthen over time.