|Betty Torres and her son Peter at |
Sepulveda Elementary School in Santa Ana
So was the case with Betty Torres and her family. After school her children would come home, plop down on the couch and waste the evening in front of the TV. Any attempts by her to encourage them to play outside or read were met with hostility and usually resulted in arguments and chaos. Then one day her children brought home a flier for THINK Together’s educational programs. The difference has been profound.
“Before it was come home, do homework and then watch TV and play video games all night. Now, instead of just sitting on the couch they have learned to be more active and do other things,” explains Betty.
The biggest difference can be seen in Peter, her three year old. The school they attend does not have a preschool program so THINK Together worked with the school to establish a Raising a Reader early literacy program. By participating in the program he learns the basic tools he will need to be more successful in the years to come. He is learning the alphabet and his numbers, plants and animals, shapes and colors, and a myriad of other things about the world around him. He is also learning that books are fun and that school can be exciting. Most importantly he is learning how to interact with other children in a social environment and establishing his self-confidence. These were opportunities her two older children never had and Betty is grateful.
Betty continues, “It’s exciting to hear him ask, ‘Oh mom, do I get to go to school today?’ He is really excited about going to school and learning and playing with the other children. He is always asking questions now and it’s because the program encourages this and helps him be sure of himself.”
Her other two children are now enrolled in the THINK Together after school program and she can see a difference in them as well. Now, instead of TV, they think of creative ways to entertain themselves or go outside to play. Now they are far more interested in learning about the world around them.
THINK Together has made a tremendous difference in Betty as well. Before she started attending THINK Together’s parent education program her life was a swirl of chaos that seemed to be spiraling out of control. Her marriage was on the rocks, her children were defiant, there was a lot of fighting and she was constantly under stress. When she tried to fix things she became controlling and demanding which only served to make things worse. She was not sure how much longer things would last the way they were going.
“I was at the point where I was ready to throw my marriage away,” explains Betty. “I was really depressed and full of anger and could blow up over the littlest things. I didn’t know what crazy thing I might do.”
But when she signed Peter up for the Raising a Reader program she was told about the parent education component of the program. She had no idea that free parenting help was available and she had always felt embarrassed at the idea of asking for help. But when she realized it was only for three hours one day a week, she thought why not? The decision has changed her life.
“My husband and I are young and we aren’t that experienced as far as how to properly raise them (their kids) without the hitting and screaming that we grew up with,” says Betty.
The program teaches parents how to handle the stresses of parenting and marital relations. It has taught her healthy ways to deal with conflict and how to manage her stress. Whether it is something as simple as screaming into a pillow or learning advanced breathing techniques, what she has been taught has made a huge impact in her life.
Not only that, but her children appreciate it too. Betty has learned ways to discipline her children without creating more chaos. With a three year old boy, a very independent six year old girl, and another ten year old boy with Attention Deficit Disorder her home situation is almost the perfect storm. So how has THINK Together helped her?
“The THINK Together program that we have is teaching us techniques on how to control our anger and stress so we don’t take it out on the kids,” continues Betty. “They teach you to dedicate your time to your children and give them attention because if you don’t do it now they will turn around and get that attention somewhere else. Be it gangs, drugs or other bad influences.”
Perhaps the person who has noticed the changes the most is her husband Isaac. Before her involvement in THINK Together he had not been around much and was vehemently against going to any kind therapy or help. Now he sees how the parent education program has made a difference for Betty and is working on implementing the strategies she brings home with her.
“My husband has noticed a big change in me,” she says with a smile. “I’m not nagging him as much and we don’t fight nearly as much as we did, especially not in front of the kids.”
Without THINK Together she does not know where she would be now but she knows it would not be in a good place. She certainly could not imagine life going on the way it was before. Now she knows she can manage her family, keep her patience and most importantly, love her children and be there for them. Now she has the sense of peace and calm she lacked before. Now, for the first time in a long time, her complicated life seems livable.
Even though we offer our services freely of course, they are not truly free. Donors make up a vital part of the resources that allow THINK Together to bring the highest quality care to families. We rely on the support of individuals like you to serve the needs of families throughout the state. Your donation plays a critical role in helping us serve families just like Betty’s, so that students like Peter can reach their full potential.
To reach even more families, we need your help.
Note: The THINK Together early literacy program at Sepulveda Elementary School is in partnership with the Santa Ana Unified School District with support from the Children and Families Commission of Orange County.