“I was a bit scared to take part because I was worried about what I would have to do, but when we started to learn how to communicate, I saw how the relationship with my son became stronger,” said Francisco. “One of the changes I’ve seen is that now there’s no verbal aggression with my wife or my children. There is more communication and participation. Above all, the biggest change is that I’ve accepted that I was doing things the wrong way and accepting this has opened me up to change,” he added.
For Francisco, it was also important to recognize that his son isn’t his friend, but his son. “We are from a macho culture and the challenge with Rodrigo and his friends is the “If you don’t do X, you’re not a man” stuff. As a father, I need to react when I see things like that happening.”
After participating in Familias Fuertes, the family now prioritizes spending time together and holding family meetings to address any issues that may arise, parenting techniques that Francisco hopes Rodrigo will one day implement with his own children.
“I am so proud of my son. I’ve even started to appreciate his cooking. Not all of his dishes, but some of them,” he added.
Strengthening families in Chiapas
The Familias Fuertes program was originally developed by Iowa State University, in the United States, and then adapted for use in Spanish by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The program aims to address physical and mental health issues and prevent risk-seeking behavior among adolescents and their families through the promotion and strengthening of communication between parents and children.
Familias Fuertes was implemented by the Ministry of Health in Chiapas in 2017 in order to address endemic adolescent health issues in the area such as drug addiction, alcoholism and teenage pregnancy.
“We know that adolescence is a difficult period because of the physical and psychological changes that take place. A lot of young people feel pretty lost and are trying to find their way in the world,” said Jose Manuel Cruz Castellanos, Health Secretary of Chiapas. “This is when we start getting issues like adolescent pregnancy, which happens a lot here, young people with addictions, and sexually transmitted diseases.” he added.
“We need to support families and ensure that the focus is on looking after and accompanying young people.”
For Carolina Sohle Gomez, local Councillor from Tutxla Gutierres, Chiapas, the program is an important part of addressing delinquency, early pregnancy and abuse. “We often rely on the education system or the health system to do something but this should really start in the home. This type of program aims to strengthen the family unit and improve family values,” she said.