Incredible Years® Program Expands In Northern Missouri

Lesson from the Incredible Years® program

More parents in eight northern Missouri counties can participate in Great Circle’s Incredible Years® program, thanks to a $30,335 grant received from the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund. The program helps parents and caretakers use their family’s strengths to build positive relationships with their children and learn how to interact with teachers and classmates.

Great Circle has been providing Incredible Years to parents in Adair County for free for four years, and with the grant support, is now including parents in nearby Knox, Macon, Putnam, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby and Sullivan counties.

Early childhood is a critical time for emotional and social development in children, and for honing skills needed for success in school and life. Yet many parents struggle, in varying degrees and for various reasons, with delivering these important lessons.

Enter Incredible Years, a 10-week, evidence-based program that proactively works to address instances where a child may be at risk of abuse or conduct problems, ultimately threatening to destabilize the family structure.

“Everyone in our family is now better at listening and understanding each other and our different areas of need,” says a parent who recently completed the program.

About half of the participants are referred to Great Circle’s program by the state’s Children’s Division, school districts, doctors or counselors; the rest are referred by parents who’ve completed the program.

There are four class cycles each year, serving up to 12 adults each. While the numbers are small, the results are clear. “He has come a long way already with the parenting classes,” wrote a Children’s Division worker of a father enrolled in the program. “Please keep up the good work. You’re doing these parents a great service.”

Lynn VanDolah, who oversees the Great Circle program, agrees. “That father came in ‘knowing’ everything about parenting and wasn’t sure why it was even suggested he attend such a class. He left one of our best students!” She adds that she often hears participants wish their own parents had taken the class, recognizing that they were replicating behaviors, good and bad, they’d seen demonstrated in childhood.

The whole family can participate in the program. For the adults, it’s group discussion, DVD examples, role rehearsal and home activities. Topics include fostering positive relationships, increasing a child’s empathy and social skills, using praise and rewards to motivate, effective limit setting, and other forms of behavior management. Their children, ages 3-10, can attend Incredible Year’s “Dina Program”® classes, which focus on how to better understand and communicate feelings, use effective problem-solving strategies, manage anger, practice friendship and conversational skills, and develop other appropriate behaviors.

VanDolah believes the program has a long-lasting impact, citing an evaluation from one parent who recently completed the class: “Thank you for helping change me and my kids to live in a positive way. I will be using (what I learned) for the rest of my parenting life.”

Learn more about Great Circle's Incredible Years® program.