Learning to Communicate

In AVANCE Houston's 22 years of service, its staff has focused every new program on the same core mission: the education of parents and children as a family unit. So it seemed natural to add a healthy marriage curriculum to AVANCE's Head Start and Early Head Start program.. "We understand the benefits a healthy relationship has on a child's self-esteem and sense of self-worth," said Nilia Jimenez, senior director of marketing and healthy marriage programs. "When children see parents communicating well, they learn to communicate better with their parents as well as their teachers, peers, and the rest of the community."

AVANCE's Head Start Healthy Marriage program (HSHM) offers five core curricula for the entire family. In the family strengthening classes, children learn the speaker/listener technique taught in the adult classes, and depending on their age, they recognize expectations their parents place on them, ranging from chores to roles as a family member. For adults, the speaker/listener technique gives parents the skills to incorporate their children into family decisions by talking about issues and respecting their responses.

"A parent working two jobs doesn't have time to talk to their children, just to command them – 'get in the car,' 'clean your room,' – so we give parents the tools to have more dialogue and less monologue," said Antoinette Ball, the healthy marriage coordinator.