School dept. offers parents pointers  
Tuesday, 07 October 2008

By Jessica Selby This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

COVENTRY The Coventry School Department says it wants to provide a little “on-the-job training” to help improve relationships between parents and children.

Beginning tomorrow, the school district is offering the S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) program to interested parents.

S.T.E.P. is intended to offer parents an “understanding of their child’s behaviors, what motivates behavior and misbehavior and also provide them the skills they need to enhance their relationship with their child,” says Felix Sarubbi, one of the social workers in the Coventry School District who coordinates the program.


“This program is not a therapy session, Sarubbi says. “It is a skill-based study and there does not have to be a broken relationship between the parent and the child in order to sign on with the program. Even if you and your child have a good relationship, this program is intended to improve it. Our goal is to make that relationship as good as it can be.”

The program pamphlet says “the goal of the program is to teach parents a practical and down-to-earth philosophy that helps them understand the motivations of their children and adolescents.”

This is not a program created by the Coventry School System, Sarubbi says. It is one the school district has adopted from a national level. 

In accordance with the national program, Coventry offers S.T.E.P to parents over the course of seven weeks, he says. During the seven weeks, school social workers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, student assistance counselors and others work together with parents to provide various parenting skills, Sarubbi says.

“Over the course of the seven week program, we talk about parental decision-making skills, conflict-management skills and we discuss how and what do you say to your child so they will talk to you,” Sarubbi says. “It is a skill-based program that parents will either come away from with enhanced skills or new skills to use in their work as a parent.

“Let’s be honest, being a parent is a job and an important job,” he said. “It is a relationship too, but there is a serious task involved and we offer approaches to that task that will help to make that relationship the best that it can be.”

The program is offered at three different levels: preschool elementary and teen.  Sarubbi says the parenting concepts are pretty much the same at all three levels; it is just the developmental aspects that change from one age bracket program to the next.

“The communication that you would have with your preschooler is not the same as you would have with your teen, but you would use the same skill,” he says.

“Let me use reflective listening,” Sarubbi says. “That is a good example of a skill that goes across the three areas that we teach about.

“We teach parents that if they ask their child about the feeling under the statement it usually elicits more conversation,” he says. “We discuss various topics about what a typical parental response might be versus what a different approach might be.”

The school district has been running the program for years, Sarubbi says, but participation varies greatly from year to year. 

“Parents that come and stick it out almost always say that they learn something from it,” he says. 

What sometimes happens, Sarubbi says, is that not all parents continue to come for the entire seven weeks. Some parents are turned off by the fact that it is sometimes suggested that “the parents, too, might need to alter some of their behaviors,” he says.

Child care is offered at no charge for parents who attend the S.T.E.P. program, Sarubbi says. The child care is not just basic baby-sitting services either, he says. The children are engaged in various enrichment programs.

The teens are provided with career building opportunities, the elementary students are offered study skills and the preschoolers are engaged in recreational social skills building programs, according to Sarubbi.

“Child care can be difficult for parents, so it is often helpful for parents to know that there is something going on for the children at the same time that parents are in the program and that it is also included in the fee,” Sarubbi said.

The program begins tomorrow and runs every Thursday through Nov. 20.  The meetings will be held at Tiogue Elementary School, located on East Shore Drive, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The fee to enroll in the program is $45 per resident family, $135 for non-resident families.

For any questions about the program or to register, contact Dr. Lou Ruffolo at Tiogue Elementary School at 822-9460.