Building Strong Families

E-Learning Courses, Videos, & Resources helping you build the strongest family possible.

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Marriage Benefits Children

In a recent article published by the Brookings Institute, Richard Reeves talked about the fact that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton became a father on Christmas Eve. So what’s the big deal you ask? Cam is not married. He and his girlfriend, along with many others, did not think it was important to tie the…

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The Importance of Play

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How Children Succeed

What exactly does it take for a child to succeed in life? Is it good grades? High test scores? Tenacity? According to Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character and Whatever it Takes, adults have focused on high test scores, pre-admission to preschool and SAT scores as indicators…

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Fathering is Child’s Play

A young girl was touring the social worker through the home she and her father shared. When she came to her bedroom, she proudly showed the woman everything in her room. With big eyes and a smile from ear to ear, the little girl asked, “Would you like to see bombs away?” Hesitantly, the social…

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Don’t Waste Father’s Day

Once a man took the day off to take his son fishing. His son was thrilled that his father would take a day away from important work to spend time with him. The son considered this day as one of the best days of his life. A number of years went by and the father…

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Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related:  Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling “The Thanksgiving from Hell.” It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing…

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Making Visitation Count

Many divorced parents face the reality of divided time with their children. Arrangements vary from weekend visitation to splitting time with each parent right down the middle. This often creates problems between the two homes: sometimes one parent is strict and the other is lenient, one parent may try to fill both parental roles, or…

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Warning Signs in Teens

If you live with a teenager, one thing is certain: their emotions change as often as the weather or their clothes. They ascend to the heights of joy one day, the depths of teenage despair the next. The teen years are a time when they explore new ideas, new attitudes and new feelings. A certain…

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Co-Parenting: Smoother Transitions

When Catherine* and her husband separated, their children were 3, 7 and 9. The couple’s separation and divorce was amicable; they were friendly, worked well together, and would take turns if child care was needed.  Catherine often thought that if they could have gotten along that well when married, they would have never divorced. After about nine months,…

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Nine Ways to Be Your Teen’s Best Friend

There have been many news reports about how celebrities whose mothers have been seen out on the town partying with them. While some teens might think it sounds really cool that a mom would party with them, the majority of young people will be quick to tell you they don’t want their parents acting like…

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Raising Decisive Adults

Joanie Sompayrac has taught college students for more than two decades. She began to notice a change in her students about 10 years ago. “I enjoy teaching and I love my students,” says Sompayrac. “The last 10 years have been really interesting as I have watched students move from being independent thinkers not afraid to…

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What Kids Really Want for Christmas

And so it begins…Halloween is over and store aisles are packed with Christmas everything. Mail catalog numbers have increased and television commercials are promoting things we supposedly can’t and shouldn’t live without. Ikea is one of the stores getting into the Christmas spirit with a commercial called “The Other Letter.” Ikea had children write a…

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College Break and the Holidays

Many families will experience a new normal when college students arrive home for their first extended break. The thought of sleeping in their own beds, eating good food and resting for about a month sounds amazing. But parents and college students alike will wonder about a few things like: Should I spend time with family…

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Relationships are Key to Happiness

If you ask people what’s the secret to living a happy life, many will tell you that money is definitely a big part of the equation. But intrigued with discovering the secrets to a meaningful and happy life, a group of Harvard researchers launched a study in 1938, then followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates ultimately…

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The Economics of Parenting

There are plenty of different perspectives about the best way to raise children. Some believe hovering helps children get ahead; others think less supervision encourages children to figure things out for themselves. Some believe extracurricular activities are vital while others, not so much. The list could continue, but there are bigger issues at hand such…

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How to Move Past Your Past

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Being Content in the Present

Think back to December 31 of last year. What was happening in your life? What were the things consuming your mind? What were you worried about? Now, fast forward to the present. Of all the things you spent time and energy worrying about, how many of them actually happened? So often, people spend time worrying…

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Finding the Best Gifts for Christmas

Anthony Wakim is an unassuming young man. He loves the outdoors and spends a lot of time hunting, fishing and camping with his dad. He plays handbells, knows how to skin a buck and holds a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. Since kindergarten he has not missed a single day of school. While a…

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Holding Out Hope for Marriage

Believe it or not, many couples are just trying to make it through the holidays before filing for divorce. Nothing they have tried is working, so they assume divorce is the answer. Most people believe it takes two dedicated partners to salvage a troubled marriage. Michele Weiner-Davis, internationally-known relationship expert and author of the best-selling…

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Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours

Your child reaches for a candy bar at the checkout counter and you tell him, “No.” He proceeds to throw a tantrum. Do you: A.  Plead with him to stop? B. Step over him and walk away? C. Buy him the candy bar so he will stop embarrassing you in public? Your child looks at…

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Celebrating the Holidays Alone

Christmas is in the air. Pictures of Christmas trees and holiday décor are all over social media. Malls are bustling with holiday shoppers. Recipes are circulating to help you make the best holiday meals, and folks are busy planning their annual holiday gatherings with friends and family. Yet, in spite of the hustle and bustle,…

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What’s the Point of Marriage?

The popularity of television shows about marriage such as Married by America or The Bachelor might lead us to believe that the institution of marriage, which has taken a nosedive for the past 30 years, is making a comeback.  But if you look closely at these shows it appears that they focus on romantic relationships and lavish weddings. Is the…

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Prepare for Marriage, Not Just the Wedding

Attend a premarital education class or premarital counseling.  Eighty-nine percent of married couples who attended premarital education found it to be helpful down the road.  Worthwhile classes will teach you communication skills and tools for managing conflict, along with talking about appropriate expectations. Find a mentor couple – Seek out an older, more experienced, happily married couple to provide…

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Pro-Football Player to Rookie Husband and Dad

Buddy Curry was a professional football player and life was all about him. “I made up my mind to have as much fun as possible,” said Curry, former Falcon inside linebacker and 1980 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Toward the end of my 8-year career, all the things I had been doing didn’t seem fun….

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A Father’s Love

Jeff Harrell worked long hours in the restaurant business when his daughter was born. Alyssa was 3 months old when Harrell realized that she clearly had no interest in being with him. “That’s when I knew things had to change,” Harrell said. “I did not want my child to grow up not knowing me. My…

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Letters from Dad

Greg Vaughn lost his father to Alzheimer’s years ago. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Vaughn. “I know my dad loved me because he made sure our family was taken care of, but he never could say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Son, I am proud of you.’ That void left a hole in…

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Invest in Your Marriage

It isn’t unusual for people to make time to attend training to increase their job productivity, improve their golf swing or even enhance their cooking or gardening skills, but when was the last time you took time away to work on your marriage relationship? Imagine getting away for a week with your spouse and a…

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The Wholehearted Marriage

Greg Smalley first met his bride-to-be during a rather embarrassing moment.  Greg had fallen asleep in class.  Erin, who was seated behind him, decided to have a little fun.  She shook his arm and said, “Stand up.” Greg looked at her with a dazed look, and again she said, “Stand up, the professor asked you to…

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Keys to a Smokin’ Hot Marriage

You found your “soul mate,” dated, fell madly in love, and before long you were fantasizing about what your wedding and wedding night would be like.  The wedding night came and it was wonderful, and so were the weeks and months that followed. As you slowly get down to the business of being married, tasks,…

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Keeping the “Honey” in Honeymoon

“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Most people will recognize this as part of the marriage vows. Starry-eyed in love couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to keeping these vows to the one they married. “Many people believe that if they…

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Celebrating Your Anniversary

There have been all kinds of crazy marriage proposals that have hit the airwaves lately. One guy put together a movie and crafted a plan to get his girlfriend to the theater so she would see it, and at just the right time he appeared in person asking her to marry him. There are other…

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Jazz Up Your Marriage

David and Claudia Arp, authors of numerous books on marriage, including the Ten Great Dates series, believe that fun in marriage is serious business. “In our 30-plus years of marriage, we have learned important things like, if you don’t say what is on your mind when it is on your mind, it may not be…

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Adventures in Marriage

During the Yamadas’ adventurous marriage, there haven’t been many dull moments. “I wouldn’t describe either of us as risk takers, but we are definitely not afraid to try new things,” said Mrs. Yamada. “We enjoy ballroom dancing, mountain biking and scuba diving, but I couldn’t see either of us bungee jumping.” Several years ago, the…

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Stoking the Fire of Passion in Marriage

Mark Chestnut, in his song Too Cold at Home sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage. Over time many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right…

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Date Night is a Relationship Booster

A lot of people try to figure out how to romance their mate for special holidays like Valentine’s Day or birthdays, but some couples have a head start on the celebration. Why? They have figured out that making time for each other on a regular basis is linked to lots of relationship benefits. According to…

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Couples Who Play Together

When was the last time you and your mate played together? Seriously…can you remember the last time you did something crazy fun together? In far too many marriages, play has been thrown out the window and replaced with serious adult responsibilities like careers, raising children, taking care of elderly parents, household chores and community commitments. Research…

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What’s Up With Dating Your Mate?

Believe it or not, research shows that couples who manage to devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are significantly more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates, compared to couples who do not devote as much couple time to one another. Couples who spend time together at least…

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Facebook and Divorce

From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, “Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces.” “When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” said Jason Krafsky, co-author with his wife Kelli of Facebook and Your Marriage.  “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release…

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Affair-Proofing Your Marriage

Eric* was married with two children.  Life at home was good.  He considered his relationship with his wife to be healthy. They frequently spent time together and intimacy between the two of them was good. He never considered having an affair when he found himself face to face with a potentially compromising situation with a…

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Marriage and Divorce in the South

Most people have seen the Holiday Inn Express commercials where the main characters pilot a helicopter, prevent a nuclear meltdown, or give smart advice simply because they “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” These commercials are funny because it would be outrageous for someone to do any of these things without training. Oddly enough, many couples enter into…

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Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage

The top 10 resolutions for each new year are often to: lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others in their dreams, fall in love, and spend more time with family. Most would agree these are great goals, but research…

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There is Hope for Your Marriage

Margery D. Rosen, author of Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, a book based on her Ladies’ Home Journal column, Can this Marriage be Saved?, interviewed hundreds of couples whose marriages were in distress and appeared hopeless. “The book is a compilation of columns over the years as well as information from social scientists to…

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Eight Ways to Refresh Your Marriage

1.  Do something physical together every day. Physical exercise generates new brain cells and that feels good. When you do this with your partner, your brain associates these times with pleasure. 2.  Have fun together. Do something that is fun for both you and your spouse on a regular basis. 3.  Train your mind to see…

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Benefits of Marriage

Better physical health and substantially lower risk of early death and debilitating illness. Better emotional health (in a survey of 14,000 people, “marital status was one of the most important predictors of happiness,” with the married reporting the highest level of happiness, and separated and divorced reporting the lowest levels of happiness). Financial health and…

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Keys to Effective Communication in Marriage

Research on what makes marriage work indicates that happy and healthy couples demonstrate a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative behaviors in their relationship. This means there are five times as many positive interactions between happy couples (i.e. listening, validating the other person, using soft words, expressing appreciation, affirmation, physical affection, compliments, etc.) as there…

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Tips for Cutting the Apron Strings

When you marry, your mother is no longer your first priority; your wife now assumes that position. Avoid entertaining criticism of your wife by your mother. When you and your wife make decisions, present your decisions as a united front. You need to tell your mother about the decision and avoid making it sound like it…

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Bride or Bridezilla?

When you dreamed about your wedding, did you ever think so many people would be involved in the process?  Your mother is hurt because you won’t be wearing her wedding dress. Your maid of honor has forgotten it is your wedding–not hers.  Your fiance’s family thinks the wedding plans are looking too formal. How will…

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10 Great Dates Before You Say I Do

David and Claudia Arp and Curt and Natelle Brown found that many seriously dating and engaged couples were wondering the same thing. “In many of our seminars, couples told us they were in love and wanted to feel confident that they could make their relationship work,” said David and Claudia Arp, co-authors of the marriage…

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Irreconcilable Differences

The University of Washington has more than 35 years of marital research by Dr. John Gottman that determines with greater than a 90 percent accuracy rate what’s going to happen to a relationship over a three-year period. In a national telephone survey, there were two issues that couples were most likely to report arguing about.  What would you guess those two…

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A Father’s Wisdom

In the movie Overboard, a woman with amnesia is tricked into being the mother of four and wife of one. Annie (the mother) gets fed up with the father for not spending time with his children. His response to her is that he ‘brings home the paycheck, which is what the man of the house…

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Dads and Moms Parent Differently

A dad looks, smells, sounds and acts differently than a mom. Understanding these differences are a child’s first experiences with diversity! Dads don’t “mother,” they “father,” and according to the Yale Child Study Center, there are beneficial differences between moms and dads. Here are some examples: When moms play with their children, they are more…

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20 Reasons Your Child Needs You

Your presence: 1.   Lets your child know that you love him/her. 2.   Provides your child with greater financial resources. 3.   Gives your child a positive role model. 4.   Provides your child with emotional support. 5.   Enhances your child’s self-esteem. 6.   Provides your child with guidance and discipline. 7.   Enhances your child’s intellectual development. 8.   Gives…

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Always Daddy’s Girl

Joe Kelly knew that his life would change when his twin daughters were born. He understood that he was stepping into a very important role as their father, but he didn’t count on the dramatic impact these girls would have on him as a man and their father. “The uniqueness of the father-daughter relationship can…

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Fathering From a Distance

Many men find themselves trying to father from a distance due to work, divorce or military deployment.  Fathering from a distance can be especially trying with celebrations, plays and concerts often occurring during the week.  How can dads stay connected while they are away and not feel like a third wheel upon their return? Brian Vander…

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Dad’s Impact on Teens

For more decades, research has indicated a strong correlation between engaged fathers and child well-being.  A 2009 study published in the journal, Child Development, specifically continues this trend in the area of preventing risky sexual behavior. Researchers led by Rebekah Levine Coley, an associate professor at Boston College, surveyed 3,206 teens, ages 13-18, annually for four years. …

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How Fathers Can Engage With Their Daughters

How can fathers engage in the lives of their daughters? The following are some excellent tips from the National Center for Fathering: 1.  Involvement – Children need active participation in their lives. Time is more valuable to them than money. Schedule a time to meet regularly with your child, and spend time doing something children…

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Ways for Dad to Connect with Kids

Plan a regular time for Daddy/Child date to do something fun and adventurous. Write a short message to them on a stick-it note and hide it in their lunch. Let your child help you wash the car or fix something. Play a game with them – one that they want to play. If you like…

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Dad Ready

Don McKenna attended a First Things First fatherhood class when he and his wife, Missy, were expecting. “I saw a billboard about it and thought it looked interesting,” said McKenna. “I convinced a friend who was also expecting his first child to go with me. It totally was not what I was expecting. Hands down, it was…

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Quantity vs. Quality

How much time do you spend on average with your children each week? How much time do your children think you spend with them? For years we have heard that the quality of the time spent with children, not the quantity, is what really matters; but a study published in the Youth and Society journal calls that line of thinking…

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Father-Daughter Relationships

Beth is a 26-year-old church secretary. Recently, a friend noticed that Beth was in a particularly good mood. The friend commented that she was glowing and asked if her boyfriend had asked her to marry him. “Her response took me by surprise,” said Ken Canfield, speaker and author of Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers andThe Heart of a…

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Fathers: What Research Says

Teenage girls who are close to their fathers are far less likely to become sexually active. Teenage girls are twice as likely to stay in school if their fathers are involved in their lives. “Fathers dramatically underestimate the importance of themselves in their daughters’ lives. They withdraw much too quickly, doubt their significance and influence,…

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Myths About Marriage

Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher explore five myths about marriage in The Case for Marriage: Myth 1 Divorce is usually the best answer for kids when a marriage becomes unhappy. The authors discovered that the vast majority of “bad marriages” that don’t end up in divorce eventually become good marriages. In a study of people…

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Toxic Subjects for Couples

We have all had a spirited discussion with our spouse about money, sex, jealousy over time spent outside the marriage, in-laws, child rearing or spirituality/faith. “Based on research, we have learned that these are six of the most common toxic subjects for couples,” said Beverly Rodgers, marriage and family therapist and co-author of Soul Healing…

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Common Myths About Anger

“Anger is a complex emotion. One of the major reasons why the emotion of anger has gained a primarily negative reputation is that there is so much misinformation about what anger is and can be, and we only tend to hear and read about unhealthy expressions of anger. It’s tragic that the mostly incorrect and…

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Boundaries in Marriage

Have you “friended” an old flame on Facebook without telling your spouse? Once you marry, is it okay to have close friends of the opposite sex? If you had to choose between going out with your friends or staying home with your spouse, which would you choose? Do you discuss details about your marriage relationship…

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Getting Your Marriage Off to Great Start

What makes a marriage really work? Is there any way to guarantee that love can last forever? It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Although many people are in love with the idea of marriage, many couples fail to prepare for inevitable bumps in the road ahead, and are…

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Potential Boundary Issues

Before you take that walk down the aisle, sit down with each set of in-laws and talk about boundaries within your relationship. For example, when a couple was considering purchasing a house close to his mother, the mother-in-law said, “I am okay with you living close to me, but you will call before you come…

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Healthy Holiday Boundaries

Set a specific time to talk about how you want to spend the holidays. Remember that you are on the same team and your spouse is your first priority…..not your family. As negotiations proceed, keep in mind that it isn’t your job to please everybody. You may make some decisions that disappoint one family or…

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Top 10 Strengths of Happy Marriages

Top 10 Strengths of Happy Marriages 1.   Partners are satisfied with communication. 2.   Partners handle their differences creatively. 3.   They feel very close to each other. 4.   Spouses are not controlling. 5.   Partners discuss their problems well. 6.   They are satisfied with the affection they show and receive in the marriage. 7.   There is a…

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Messages for Parents

Teens want to know what adults think, even if they don’t act like it. Adults are powerful figures in the lives of young people and hold the key to preventing teen pregnancy. An MTV poll found teens ranked their parents as their #1 heroes. Forget about “The Talk.” It is an 18-year conversation about love,…

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Top 10 Potential Marriage Pitfalls

1.    Problems sharing leadership 2.    One partner is too stubborn 3.    Stress created by child-rearing differences 4.    One partner is too negative or critical 5.    One partner wishes the other had more time 6.    One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings 7.    Feeling responsible for issues 8.    Avoiding conflict with…

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10 Tips for Parents: Teen Pregnancy Prevention

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has reviewed research about parental influences on children’s sexual behavior and talked to many experts in the field, as well as to teens and parents themselves. From these sources, it is clear that there is much parents and adults can do to reduce the risk of children becoming…

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Setting Dating Standards for Teens

It is vital for young people to set and stick to dating standards as they build relationships. The role of a parent is that of teacher and encourager, not dictator. Before your child gets to the level of maturity where he or she is ready to date, you should decide upon your dating standards. Determine…

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Myths About Living Together

MYTH: Living together is an easy way to “try out” the relationship before committing to marriage. Truth: While the idea of “test driving” a car before you buy it is a good idea, it doesn’t apply to marriage. Living together is basically a “pretend marriage” and nothing like the real thing. Couples who live together…

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Getting Engaged During the Holidays

Christie and Jim celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with both of their families. Just before the meal, Jim began to tell Christie how thankful he was for her and what he appreciated about her. A bit embarrassed, she asked him if he realized he was talking to her in front of their entire family. With a smile…

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Daddy’s Princess and Her Husband

Sometimes the closeness of a father/daughter relationship can interfere with the couple relationship. For example, one couple was arguing over purchasing a $600 set of dishes. The husband said they could not afford them. The wife was furious. When she told her father that her husband would not purchase the dishes, her father purchased them…

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Kids Need Their Daddy

The pressures of fatherhood are great. On any given day, balancing work and family, finances and discipline are usually three issues that rank at the top of the list. Our culture has been telling men that being a good provider equates to being a good dad. However, research is now sending a newsflash to men,…

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Don’t Wait to Say Thanks

It was a tough week as many mourned the senseless loss of life in Paris and asked, “Why did this have to happen?” Others realized that if this could happen in Paris, it could happen in America and elsewhere. Isobel Bowdery recounted how she pretended to be dead at the Bataclan concert hall, surrounded by…

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Mad About Us, Part 2

On a daily basis we hear some example of the devastation caused by unhealthy anger, from child abuse and domestic violence to road rage, to children methodically preparing to do harm to their teacher. But the emotion of anger in and of itself isn’t the problem. It’s when people allow themselves to be controlled by…

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Fun Daddy-Daughter Dates

Date ideas your daughter will love: Have a tea party. Wash the car together. Go on a picnic in the park. Visit the zoo. Draw each other’s portrait in chalk on the sidewalk. Go roller skating. Go out for ice cream – OR make homemade ice cream. Watch a movie together. Go bowling. Attend a…

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Mad About Us, Part 1

Over the past 30 years, Gary and Carrie Oliver have worked with literally thousands of couples. Some were preparing for marriage while others were married and trying to figure out how to make the relationship work. “Every couple we have worked with began their marriage with a proclamation of their love and commitment to stay…

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Communication Killers, Part 2: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen are hostile forms of communication that put couples at high risk for divorce when these patterns take up permanent residence in the relationship. 1.  Criticism is defined as blaming, faultfinding, or using global and negative labels to attack your spouse’s character. For example, “How would you know? You’re never home,” or “My…

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Communication Killers, Part 1

Within the first three minutes of a couple’s conversation, Dr. John Gottman can predict with 96 percent accuracy whether the relationship will survive over the long-haul or not. He bases his predictions on four potentially destructive communication styles and coping mechanisms: (1) harsh startup, (2) the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, (3) flooding, and (4)…

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Are You a Keeper?

FIVE areas a person should know about another person before marrying them: Make sure you have taken the time to get to know the person you are marrying. Get to know them, their family, what their conscience is like, compatibility potential, relationship skills and previous relationship patterns. How do you know you can trust them?…

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Dealing with Difficult In-Laws

If you have in-laws who seem cross the line every time you turn around, here are some constructive strategies for dealing with them. Don’t assume they are intentionally trying to be difficult. In many instances, people think they are being helpful. They don’t realize that dropping by unannounced or giving unsolicited marital or parenting advice…

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Dealing with In-Laws

How to be a good mother/father-in-law Let your in-law make his/her own decisions without meddling from you. As the relationship between your child and his chosen partner deepens, expect that they will want to spend more and more time alone, together. Make positive comments about your child’s spouse – both in private and in public….

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Wedding Expenses and Marriage Stability

When a friend posted a study on Facebook that said expensive wedding rings lead to more divorce, it caught Randal Olson’s eye. “My girlfriend and I had recently talked about wedding rings,” said Olson. “She said she did not want a big wedding ring. After reading the study, I was thankful we agreed on that…

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For Richer, For Poorer

Does marriage matter? That question has been bantered around for decades. For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America, research by Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of Americans and…

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The Power of Words

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Many will recognize this rhyme as one taught to them when they were a child, but is it true? In recent years, social media posts, along with Letters to the Editor and Rants to American newspapers often spew angry words and hate….

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Social Media and Marriage

Does media use really impact marital quality? This question has been swirling around in the minds of many for more than a decade. Attorneys say they are seeing the use of social media impacting divorce cases now more than ever before, and it is not uncommon at all for couples to argue about media use…

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10 Things to Think About Before “I Do”

“A wedding lasts only a day, but marriage should last a lifetime…” There are many things that a bride and groom need to think about before their wedding day…the dress, the honeymoon, the rings. In the midst of planning for that special day, it’s important not to forget to plan for your marriage, which will…

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Reducing Holiday Stress

She was excited about her boyfriend meeting her family for the first time. Having headed home earlier in the week, she anxiously awaited his arrival. She answered the doorbell–and there he was in his blue jeans and flannel shirt. She never imagined that he would not be dressed for the occasion. Her stress level skyrocketed…

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Holiday Loneliness

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! The air is brisk and malls are bustling with holiday shoppers. Recipes are circulating to help you make the best holiday meals. Pinterest has lots of good gift-giving ideas and folks are busy planning their annual holiday gatherings with friends and family. In spite of the hustle…

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Creative Date Ideas

Going on a date doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful.   Here are a few of our ideas: Go for a hike in the mountains. Watch a funny movie together. Help out in a service organization together. Grab something to eat and take it to the park for a picnic. Go for a walk or…

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Reasons to Save Sex for Marriage

Teens and other singles give many reasons for having sex, but too many times the decision to “go all the way” is influenced by others rather than by a true desire to experience sex. Reasons for having sex often stem from pressures from peers, media or boyfriends and girlfriends. It is important to look at…

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Dating as a Single Parent

Tricia Morris lost the love of her life in 1991 when her husband, Steve, died of cancer. “It was a very difficult time,” said Morris. “I was grieving the loss of my husband in addition to taking care of three toddlers who didn’t really understand what happened to their daddy. One minute we were a…

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Cohabitation: Good or Bad?

Cohabitation has been a hot topic of conversation for many years. In the 60’s and 70’s very few couples lived together before marriage. Today, research indicates that more than 60 percent of couples cohabit before marrying in spite of numerous studies from institutions across the country that found that couples who cohabit prior to marriage are at…

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Online Dating

When Kyle and Kate Jackson were on the dating scene they didn’t want to meet people in bars or by chance. Since both of them were shy, they realized that even if they met someone they wouldn’t have the guts to ask the person out. A study published in 2013 by the University of Chicago…

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Workplace Exits and Relationships

Sara* was sick and tired of the way she was being treated at work. She decided it was time to leave and when she made her exit, she was going to let her boss know how she felt about things. What she could not possibly have known at the time was that three years later…

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Is Date Night Dead?

Date Night may need some serious resuscitation. A survey of Redbook magazine readers found that 45 percent of couples rarely have Date Night, while only 18 percent said they go out once a month. This is sad news, since marriage experts consistently say one of the best ways to keep your marriage strong, healthy and…

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Teens, Technology and Romance

Today’s teens have always had technology as a part of their world, from learning colors and counting, to playing games, watching movies on their iPads and Skyping with their grandparents. As digital natives, it would certainly seem logical that technology would play a role in relationships, especially romantic ones. The Pew Research Center recently released…

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An Olympic-Worthy Marriage

Stories abound about winter 2014 Olympic athletes and what it took for them to have the opportunity to participate in the winter games. Katie Summerhayes, Sage Kotsenburg, Bode Miller and others trained for thousands of hours to become the best in their sport – whether they actually won a medal or not. Isn’t it interesting…

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A Story of Impact

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Holidays

When it comes to relationships, there’s often more to the holidays than meets the eye. But wherever you are on your journey, you can intentionally navigate the season well.  Here are some resources to help you along the way. Best wishes for happy and healthy relationships during this holiday season. Take Time to Give Thanks Give Thanks: It’s…

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Mission and Strategy

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Can We Talk?

Several young men and a young woman have been in the news recently because of a highly publicized, alleged rape at Vanderbilt University. The woman remembers being at a bar with one of the men, who bought her several drinks. After the last drink, the young woman says she has no memory of anything until…

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Are Opposite-Sex Friends Okay?

As people marry later in life, many are bringing long-term opposite-sex friendships into their marriage relationship. While the friendships were great during singlehood, in marriage, these relationships may prove problematic. “I think it is okay for married people to have opposite-sex friends,” says Lisa Stewart. “However, I believe out of respect for your spouse that…

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Every Day is a Gift

In the movie Elf, Buddy and the other elves in his class recite the Code of the Elves, which says: Treat every day like Christmas. There is room for everyone on the nice list. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, what…

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Choosing a Christmas Gift for Your Wife

‘Twas four days before Christmas when all through the house, no one was stirring, not even your spouse. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. What should you get her? Buyer beware! Your wife all nestled snug in your bed while visions of diamonds danced in her head. The dog had his bone in…

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Holiday Gift-Giving

Bryan and Melissa Laseter have two children. Early on in their marriage, they agreed to Christmas gift-giving limits for each other, and every year they blew it. Each year, Christmas Day arrived and both of them had gone above and beyond the limit. “Clearly our intentions were not working when it came to gift-giving,” says…

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Grief and the Holidays

In June of 2010, Cathy Brown unexpectedly lost her mother. While she was in the midst of grieving and anticipating the holidays without her mom, Brown’s son passed away. “Up to this point in my life, I had never lost anybody close to me,” says Brown. “When I lost my mom and son within six…

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Making Holiday Memories from Disaster

Do you remember any holiday disasters from your life?  Although they may have seemed like an epic failure at the time, they’re now hopefully the source of belly laughter and fond memories. Here are a few holiday disaster-turned-memory stories for when you’re tempted to take life too seriously. “John and I got married during the holidays…

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Give Thanks: It’s Good for You

Each year, it seems like stores decorate earlier in an attempt to get the jump on holiday sales. In October, you can actually look at Halloween costumes, then stroll over to the next aisle to check out the latest in Christmas decorations, candy and gifts. What happened to Thanksgiving – the holiday between Halloween and…

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Adult Children and the Holidays

“It won’t be the holidays without you,” says many a parent to their grown adult child. “It’s already started,” says the father of three young children. “The competition between the in-laws for how much time they will get with us over Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is why I hate the holidays.” “Some of our most…

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Christmas Magic and Wonder

We have all experienced a tragic event, and its ripple effect impacts everyone in some form or fashion. Many are approaching Christmas with heavy hearts–and they’re in no mood to celebrate. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow seemed to be in a similar place when he wrote the carol known as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. On…

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Holiday Traditions: Who Cares?

Believe it or not, most people – young and old – find comfort in traditions. There really is something special about kicking off the holiday season with a ritual you look forward to each year, like running as a family in Families on the Run, the smell of gingerbread baking in the oven, going to…

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Take Time to Give Thanks

Many around the Thanksgiving table will barely have time to give thanks and finish dessert before rushing to shop for the best Christmas deals. However, despite the lure of making more money, one store will not be in that mix. For years, Nordstrom has notified customers that they won’t be decking their halls until Friday….

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Co-Parenting and the Holidays

Holidays are such an exciting time! Most families look forward to family traditions like picking out the tree, putting up the lights, drinking hot chocolate and watching Miracle on 34th Street.  Or decorating gingerbread men and putting together the annual holiday puzzle. Just thinking about these things can make us feel warm inside. But for many parents and…

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Can Your Marriage Survive the Holidays?

Jayne Griffin looked at her calendar and realized she doesn’t have a free weekend until after January 1st. She’s hosting the family Thanksgiving meal and taking her grandbaby to see Santa.  Then there’s the staff party at her house, her husband’s office party and the church Christmas gathering.  Plus, she’s taking a trip to see…

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Holiday Expectations

When the holidays draw near, many people play tapes in their mind about how the holidays will go. Uncle Ralph may have a bit too much to drink and insist on starting something with someone over nothing.  Then the celebration will be over. Maybe you don’t get along with your in-laws and you dread spending…

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Making Connections Count

When you think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? Do you think of family gatherings, watching football or serving others? You might picture gathering around the kitchen table for the annual board game competition or think of taking time to be thankful for the people and blessings in your life. Usually, Thanksgiving is a time for us think…

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Holiday Stress and Family Divorce

The holidays will be different for many children who are adjusting to their parents’ divorce. What once was, is no more. In the midst of their “new normal,” now they must learn how to deal with dividing the holidays between two parents. And, it isn’t just the kids who will be experiencing stress. “I think…

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Holiday Transitions for Children

Scott (not his real name) will get his fill of turkey this Christmas at three different homes with different sets of parents and relatives.  He’s not happy about moving from place to place, but he really doesn’t have a say. “It is not unusual for children of divorced parents to celebrate holidays multiple times,” says Rev. Dick Dunn,…

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Holidays, In-Laws and Boundaries

The first holiday season for newlyweds can be really tricky if the in-laws expect the celebration to stay the same.  While this may seem like no big deal to some couples, deciding where to spend the holidays can create marital and family conflict. Early on in their marriage, Ryan and Meghann committed to waking up Christmas…

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Holiday Traditions

When you think about celebrating the holidays, what comes to mind? Baking gingerbread men with your children? Taking the entire family to cut down the family tree the day after Thanksgiving? Or maybe, it’s the extended family progressive dinner that takes place every Christmas Eve. “Traditions are often what make the holidays meaningful,” says Dr….

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Helping with Holiday Grief

Lisa Henson had no reason to believe that this particular year would be any different than all the others. She had been through the usual life struggles, but overall things were going well. Then the unthinkable happened. In the spring of 1999, her brother Mike died in a terrible fishing accident one week before his…

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It’s the Thought that Counts?

Hard economic times might cause a lot more people to think “it’s the thought that counts.” Somehow through the years it seems like people’s definition of a meaningful gift has changed. For some, a gift isn’t considered meaningful unless it is new and/or expensive. Have you ever caught yourself wondering what to give those on…

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New Year, New You

In the movie Spanglish, the mother, played by Tea Leoni, is clearly obsessed with exercise and her looks. Her daughter, played by Sarah Steele, is not overweight, but clearly not thin enough to meet her mom’s standards. Leoni tries to motivate her daughter to lose weight by going on shopping sprees and buying her beautiful…

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Anger and the Holidays

Have you ever been to a family holiday celebration where everyone’s expected to be there, yet not all the family members really enjoy being together? Over the years, differing opinions about raising children, politics, faith, sibling rivalry and career competition/expectations wreak havoc on relationships. Instead of enjoying each other, people walk on eggshells and make small talk until…

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Kindergarten and Your Child’s Future

Who knew that kindergartners who share, cooperate and help are more likely to be successful later in life? That is exactly what researchers from Pennsylvania State University found after analyzing 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania. The kindergartners were evaluated on a range of social behaviors including their ability to resolve…

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Retirement and Marriage

Neal and Pat Smith have been married for more than 50 years. For 38 of those years, the Smiths had a pretty consistent routine. Mr. Smith went to work and Mrs. Smith took care of the household chores and the children. Twelve years ago, Mr. Smith asked his wife what she thought about him retiring….

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Why Dads Parent Differently

Learn how dads parent differently than moms.

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Chronicle of Philanthropy Features FTF

A new class divide is emerging as marriage fades in Middle America.  But Tennessee’s First Things First believes it has an answer. Chattanooga, Tenn. – The courthouse is a century-old grande dame of gray marble and neoclassical lines that speak to her authority over this city in the Appalachian foothills. Each day, from within the…

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Caring for the Caregiver

Julie and her guest discuss the importance of caring for the caregiver.

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Developing a Workforce

Stowers Machinery, in partnership with Caterpillar, has a scholarship program called “Think Big.” The scholarship pays recipients about $13 an hour to apprentice in the shop and reimburses tuition and other school-related costs if the student maintains a B average. Workers alternate between working eight weeks at Stowers and going to school for eight weeks…

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Things I Wish I Had Known Before We Got Married

More than two million marriages take place annually in America. “Almost all couples anticipate ‘living happily ever after,’” according to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. “No one gets married hoping to be miserable or to make their spouse miserable, yet the highest percentage of divorce…

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The Single Journey

Tabi Upton describes her life as footloose and fancy free when she was in her 20s. “I loved not being tied down to anyone or anything,” Upton said. “I lived in California for a while, worked for the Peace Corps in West Africa and went to graduate school in Colorado.” Upton had a plan. She…

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The Importance of Play for Adults

Imagine walking down the street and hearing laughter and hollering coming from around the corner.  Assuming it is a group of kids playing, you turn the corner and see adults, some of whom are blindfolded and being led around by other adults.  Balls are flying through the air as the blindfolded people are trying to tag other blindfolded…

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The New Stigma for Adult Children of Divorce

“When I go out with a woman I can always tell on the first date if she’s from a divorced family,” says a young man. “The women from divorced families are over-anxious, eager to please. They’re exhausting.” (The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce) “My parents have been married thirty-five years and I want a long marriage…

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The Hook Up Culture

Prior to her current position as non-resident research associate at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, Donna Freitas was a professor. While teaching a dating and spirituality class she became intrigued with the hook up culture on college campuses. Her students often talked about how great…

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Why Fathers Matter

Intrigued with why children who have contact with their fathers do so well, Warren Farrell, psychologist and author of Father Child Reunion, spent more than a decade conducting a meta-analysis of worldwide research to better understand this phenomenon. “I knew when I started this research that dads were important, but I had no idea how…

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Helping Women Succeed in the Workplace

Susan Packard was 25 and working in a sales position at Home Box Office when she saw an opportunity to advance in the organization. “I went to my boss, Bill Grumbles, and told him I thought I was the right person for the position,” says Packard, co-founder of HGTV and author of Rules of the…

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Technology and Relationships

Have you ever thought about how today’s amazing technological advances affect relationships? There are very few places where you can’t be technologically connected in some way, shape or form. Calls can be taken whenever and wherever. It’s fairly inexpensive and there are no long distance fees. In real time, you can be in touch with…

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At-Risk for Divorce

Engaged couples spend endless amounts of time planning for their special day. In the excitement of wedding showers, choosing the flowers and the cake, and finding the perfect dress, some wonder if they can make it work. It isn’t that they necessarily question their love for each other, although some actually do, it’s more about…

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Infidelity and Forgiveness

Popular talk shows imply that everybody intentionally cheats in marriage. “In reality, most people don’t cheat,” says Kristina Coop Gordon, co-author of Getting Past the Affair. “Based on research, approximately 40 percent of married people cheat on their spouse. Studies indicate the person most likely to cheat is someone who is dissatisfied with their relationship…

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Parenting and Adolescence

Anybody with children has probably thought to themselves, “I can’t wait until they are older and the parenting gets easier.” However, those currently parenting tweens and teens might have a few words to say about the idea of things being easier as the tribe gets older. “I have three sons, two of whom are teens…

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Avoiding Empty Nest Divorce

Why do some couples embrace the empty nest while others end up in divorce court? “There are lots of sides to the empty nest that are complicated,” said psychologist, Dr. Susan Hickman. “Many experience depression, feelings of sadness, anxiety, identity crisis and significant grief. I remember when our daughter loaded up the van and headed…

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Building Good Fences in Life

Just say the word boundaries and watch what happens to people’s faces. Some immediately become suspicious and negative while others believe they are a good thing. Why does this word elicit such opposing responses? “Many people view boundaries as a way to restrain them,” said relationship coach, Dr. David Banks. “They say they want to…

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Addiction and Marriage, Part 1

When David and Ellen (names changed to protect privacy) married, Ellen never suspected David might be an alcoholic. “We had a large time with friends and family,” Ellen says. “I knew he drank a lot, but it didn’t cause issues for us. I never felt unsafe. My life looked very normal to everyone around us….

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Addiction and Marriage, Part 2

Addiction and Marriage, Part 1 told of a married couple’s struggle with alcohol and its impact on their marriage. The story ended with Ellen resolving to find David (names changed to protect their privacy), who was drinking heavily, had quit his job and left town. She was going to bring him home and move forward…

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Warning Signs

Fighting the New Drug: Pornography, warned about some of the dangers of porn addiction. There is no question that pornography impacts the brain. Research says it’s more addictive than cocaine and a habit harder to break than heroin. The U.S. Justice Department believes that nine out of 10 children between 8 and 16 years old…

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Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

What percentage of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser?  Where might you find a person who sexually abuses children?  What percentage of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse?  What percentage of child sexual abuse reports by children are fabricated? This is certainly not a topic most people want…

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Fighting the New Drug: Pornography

This is the first in a series on pornography and its impact on marriages, families and communities. Numerous studies indicate that porn is a very significant problem in U.S. homes. The Justice Department estimates that nine out of 10 children between 8 and 16 years old have been exposed to porn online. At an American…

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Resources for Dealing with Porn Addiction

Perhaps you believe that you or someone you love is addicted to pornography. While the temptation may be great to keep it quiet, there are resources available to help with recovery. In her book, An Affair of the Mind, Laurie Hall says that, from her experience and research, there is no easy answer. As the…

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Does Truth Really Matter?

Trusted news anchor Brian Williams shared an amazing story about being in a helicopter when it was shot down during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The only problem with the story was the crew on the helicopter that was shot down had no recollection of Williams being on their helicopter or the others flying…

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How to Talk to Your Children When Bad Things Happen

One of the biggest challenges of parenthood is explaining to your children about bad things that happen in our world. How do you talk with children about violence, death and other issues that are often difficult for even adults to handle? Examine your own feelings first. It is difficult to talk with your children if…

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Is Creating a Will Important?

Most people live as if tomorrow will come for sure. But what if something tragic happened and you were no longer here? Who would inherit your house, your collectibles that have been handed down from one generation to the next or your pictures? “Most people assume that if they are married and don’t have a…

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Tragedy and Change

July 16, 2015 is a day people in Chattanooga and beyond are not likely forget. It’s the day a single gunman opened fire on unarmed military personnel at two different locations; five died. Many of us were glued to televisions and social media for hours, unable to pull ourselves away from the unfolding story. One…

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Help Children Thrive During Transitions

The second week of August means there are many transitions in the making. Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year’s fifth-graders are headed to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are moving on to high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big…

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Helping Women Understand Men

Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-educated analyst who wants to enable men and women to have healthy, long-lasting marriages. “I travel a lot,” says Feldhahn. “People frequently ask me what I do, and my usual response is: ‘I help women understand men.’ The men usually laugh and say, ‘You know, we really aren’t that complicated.’” Feldhahn’s…

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“I Do” is Complicated

A focus group of millennial women who were currently living with their boyfriends were recently interviewed regarding their relationship, their thoughts about marriage and how cohabitation differs from marriage. Only one of the six women had been previously married. Some had children with their current boyfriend; others brought children into the relationship. They discussed questions…

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Attention, Parents: It’s Just a Game

Many young people get excited about the beginning of the sports season. Youth sports can be a wonderful thing. Learning how to take instruction, be a team player, build basic motor skills, win and lose with grace and have fun in the process are a valuable part of a child’s growth and development. Any participant in…

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Parenting 101

When David and Victoria Beckham were recently criticized by parenting experts for allowing their 4-year-old daughter to have a pacifier, David took to social media to set the record straight. “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows…

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Trust: A Most Precious Commodity

What can destroy a relationship, cause a company to lose customers and make athletes sacrifice millions in endorsements? If you’ve ever regretted giving your heart to someone or done business with a company that didn’t deliver on its promises, you know that trust is a BIG DEAL. “The single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations…

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ScreamFree Parenting

Hal Runkel and his family went to the Waffle House for breakfast one Saturday morning.  Upon arrival they were given coloring books and paper hats just like the cook wears. “Shortly after ordering, Brandon, our 2-year-old became restless,” says Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting.  “Nothing made him happy.  The waitress…

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The Importance of Positive Male Role Models

Many boys today do not know what it means to be a man because they don’t have a man in their lives. Sadly, children will go to bed tonight without saying goodnight to their father because he just isn’t there. Nearly one-fourth of America’s children live in mother-only families. Out of the families living in Hamilton…

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Real Boys Don’t Cry?

The male gender has always dominated society when it comes to strength and courage.  Therefore, some might be shocked to learn that boys are having a hard time growing up and understanding what it really means to be a man. Research indicates that boys are in real trouble. They receive lower grades than girls.  Two-thirds…

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What Happens in Vegas…

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas when it comes to premarital experiences and future marital quality among today’s young adults. The relationship sequence these days goes something like – sex, cohabitation and sometimes children before marriage.  With 80 percent of young adults reporting that marriage is an important part of their life…

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Can Marriage Survive an Affair?

Sally, an outdoor enthusiast, is happily married to her husband, Sam, who is into computers.* Instead of nagging Sam about not being outside with her, Sally joined a weekly hiking club to meet her need to experience the great outdoors. Sally made lots of new friends. On hikes they would talk about kids, spouses, etc. While Sally loves Sam,…

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Seasons of a Marriage

Marriage expert and creator of divorcebusting.com, Michele Weiner-Davis, and her husband Jim have been married for more than 30 years.  Since Weiner-Davis is an expert, one might assume being married for almost four decades would be easy. “Expert or not, marriage is hard work,” said Weiner-Davis.  “At times you consider quitting.  Creating a lasting marriage is a…

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How Marriage Affects the Economy

Research conducted by Gallup from January to September 2013 tracking 130,000 adults reveals that married Americans tend to have an above average income, which leads to more spending, which in turn stimulates the economy. In fact, married Americans spend more than those in any other marital status category across age groups. Americans who have never…

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