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American families have always shown remarkable resiliency, or flexible adjustment to natural, economic, and social challenges. Their strengths resemble the elasticity of a spider web, a gull's skillful flow with the wind, the regenerating power of perennial grasses, the cooperation of an ant colony, and the persistence of a stream carving canyon rocks. These are not the strengths of fixed monuments but living organisms. This resilience is not measured by wealth, muscle, or efficiency but by creativity, unity, and hope. Cultivating these family strengths is critical to a thriving human community.

- Ben Silliman, Family Life Specialist with the University of Wyoming's Cooperative Extension Service

In this session, participants focus on family function and feelings. The role of emotions, context, time, and constraints are explored as participants come to new understandings about family function.

This session provides an opportunity for participants to reflect upon the ways culture manifests itself in families. You will need to be sensitive to how these discussions are handled. Watch for answers that might indicate stereotyping. Your response to any such remarks should not be defensive or accusatory, but should lovingly guide participants to broaden their perspective. If you believe such discussions might not be handled by the group in a mature way, if you are uncomfortable leading such discussions, or if your group has only one or two members of an ethnic minority who you fear might feel put on the spot, simply omit any references to ethnic or racial identities.


Participants will:

  • Broaden and deepen their understandings and definitions of families, including the roles and functions of families
  • Explore the meaning of healthy families in a diversity of forms
  • Value each individual's perspective as an interpreter of our world and as a teller of our stories
  • Understand that conflict can sometimes be a part of family life
  • Understand and appreciate the emotional, affective, and spiritual dimensions of family
  • Grow and deepen their naturally compassionate souls

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Explore families as functioning units
  • Consider the emotional life of families and of the individuals that comprise families
  • Explore how life events shape families
  • Learn about communication in families through drama and discussion
  • Share ideas about healthy family functioning

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