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 Feel the joy of healthy relationships.

Find relationship resources for teens, couples, parents, co-workers & all combinations.

Who We Are

First Things First (FTF) is a non-profit organization that provides healthy relationship skills through classes, events and multimedia outlets. 

We aim to be a community resource for the Chattanooga area and beyond by providing the most up-to-date research, content and educational experiences to all.

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Classes & Events

First Things First holds a number of events and classes throughout the year on topics ranging from dating to marriage to co-workers and everything in-between. Check back frequently for newly added classes and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Stories

Providing real tools for real relationships means we hear a ton of really amazing stories. Here are a few people who chose to connect with First Things First and feel the joy of healthy relationships.

  • Justin Washington, Work Smart, Live Well and OH Baby! Participant

    - Justin Washington, Work Smart, Live Well and OH Baby! Participant

    "I am a HUGE fan of First Things First because when I first moved to Chattanooga in 2014, I had a lot of struggles, but First Things First helped me get on the right track. I attended a Work Smart, Live Well workshop and learned a lot of skills that helped me have confidence and better communication on the job.

    I also gained a deeper knowledge of how your personal life can affect your work life and vice versa. If you’re in toxic relationships with friends or loved ones, they can take a toll on your overall mood, attitude and focus which will inevitably interfere with your motivation and performance on the job.

    Also, when my wife and I found out we were pregnant a few months ago, we realized we needed to work out a few things to keep our marriage prioritized and our careers focused in order to bring our baby into a healthy, thriving home. We went to the First Things First website and signed up for OH, Baby! It was a great date night for us and it was great insight for what to expect when we bring home our first child.

    First Things First gives the community hope. When someone wants to make a change in their life, but they don’t know what they don’t know, First Things First is there to help."

  • Tiffany Cantrell, Teacher at Ridgeland High School

    - Tiffany Cantrell, Teacher at Ridgeland High School

    "I have been an educator at Ridgeland High School for two years and in that short time I have seen tremendous, positive changes in my students as a result of their participation in the First Things First’s healthy relationship skills classes.

    The students of Ridgeland are exposed to a number of wonderful programs in our community but none of those programs reaches our students the way First Things First does.

    My students get so much more out of the classes than healthy relationship skills and helpful tips for being successful after high school. They learn about themselves and gain an appreciation for the unique characteristics that make them who they are. I have seen a huge boost in their confidence and self-esteem, which is evident in both their school and personal lives.

    First Things First has not only helped to foster relationships among classmates, it has brought me closer to my students. I have had special opportunities to get to know each of them on a more personal level which has helped me to more effectively teach them. First Things First has made a huge impact on Ridgeland and the students, and I look forward to their visits each year. I hope that they can continue to develop and offer these beneficial classes for teens for many years to come."

  • Felicia and Eundra Porter, Maximize Your Marriage Participants

    - Felicia and Eundra Porter, Maximize Your Marriage Participants

    "My husband and I were having major problems. Our marriage was in crisis. I saw an advertisement for a First Things First class on a bus, so I encouraged him to call and see what we could do.

    We went to Maximize Your Marriage, and it was eye-opening to me. Or really, for both of us. There were some things in my mind that I thought were happening in our marriage, but after attending that class I realized our problems were all about a lack of communication. Until that point, I didn’t know if I was really going to stay or walk away.

    Without First Things First, I believe, we honestly would not be married today. Or, at the very least, not as happily married."

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First Things First Presents a Short Film About the Importance of Family

Latest Posts

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    40,000 to an Audience of One

    Anger, hurt and fear are some of the emotions Ben Petrick felt when it was confirmed in 2000 that at age 22 he had early-onset Parkinson’s disease. He went from being a very gifted catcher with an incredible future with the Colorado Rockies to not knowing what tomorrow would bring.  

    “My entire identity was in baseball,” said Petrick. “I spent most of my adult life with 25 guys in a clubhouse or on the field. I had only wished for two things in life, to play pro baseball and to be a father. Now, one of those had been stripped from me and I had no clue how I would do the other with my physical limitations. I was very down. The disease progressed over five years to the point that there were many times I was not able to help care for our daughter.”

    In an effort to improve his quality of life, Petrick underwent risky surgery. Initially, the surgery seemed to be successful, but a short time later he developed an infection which landed him back in the hospital and unable to move. At this point, he told his father he thought that his family might be better off if they didn’t have to worry about him.

    “My dad looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you ever say that. You have a daughter at home who is counting on you. Quit thinking about yourself and think about your daughter.’ Not a surprising response from the man who had pushed me my entire life to be a better person,” he recalled.

    A few months later, Petrick underwent a successful second surgery. With medication, his physical ability was back to almost 100 percent. While his wife taught, he was able to help with their two daughters, Makena and Madison. He also gave private lessons and helped coach a local high school baseball team.

    “When the disease robbed me of the thing I loved, I was bitter and had no clue who I was anymore,” Petrick said. “Looking back, my baseball career seems like a million years ago. I am happy that I had the opportunity to play. I didn’t finish my career the way I wanted, but I am okay with that. My focus has turned to caring for my wife and girls. My oldest daughter could care less that I am not playing ball anymore. She just wants me to get on the floor and play princess. I figured out that my little girls gave me something that 40,000 fans in the stands couldn’t give me, a love that made me want to live.”

    It was only through adversity that Petrick figured out his real purpose in life.

    “When you marry and have children, you give your wife and kids a ‘Forever card,’” he said. “It signifies that I’ll be there for them yesterday, today and always. I had definitely been thrown a curveball, but in the darkest time, my purpose became clear: My job was to focus on the needs of those I love.”

    “I used to think that being a champion depended on what I did when nobody else was watching,” Petrick said. “Now I know it is about what I do before the eyes of two precious little girls.”

    To learn more about Petrick, you can check out his full story on ESPN 360 or read a collection of short stories from his life in the book, 40,000 to One.

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    Where Have All the Fathers Gone?

    Several years ago a company donated Mother’s Day cards for prisoners to send to their mothers, and they actually ran out of cards. The company also donated cards for Father’s Day, but guess what? This time, inmates only used a handful of cards. This shocked the company.

    A Pew research piece may offer some insight into why this happened. After analyzing the 2011 American Community Survey, Pew asserted that a record 40 percent of all households with children under 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.

    On the surface this sounds like a victory for women, but the report's details tell a very different story. It shows that two very different groups make up these "breadwinner moms." Actually, 5.1 million are married mothers who earn more than their husbands, and 8.6 million are single mothers.

    “You would never guess from the triumphant headlines in the media that almost two-thirds of the family breadwinners are single mothers,” says Kay Hymowitz, William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Manning Up and Marriage and Caste in America. “These mothers are not ‘top earners,’ they are the only earners. Only 37 percent of the ‘breadwinning women’ are married mothers who are making more than their husbands, and in many instances, this is because the husband lost his job.”

    A whopping 63 percent (8.6 million) of these moms are single mothers, 29 percent of whom are not working at all. More than half of the children in homes with single moms are growing up poor. According to the report, a growing number of these women never married. Other studies have shown that never-married mothers tend to get less financial assistance from their children’s fathers than previously-married mothers.

    The Atlantic responded to the Pew research by saying, ‘Employment and gender roles in the United States continue to shift away from the Leave it to Beaver model. Murphy Brown is winning,’” Hymowitz says. “It speaks volumes that the article’s vision of a single mother is a make-believe character who is a television news star.”

    Research still consistently shows that children do better in every way when their two parents are present in the home. So what exactly are we celebrating? It isn’t about who makes more – it’s about helping families thrive.

    On Father's Day, perhaps prisoners took so few cards for a reason. Maybe it's because so many fathers have walked away from caring for and engaging with their children, although others want to be there. Oftentimes, a father's seemingly irreconcilable differences with the other parent keeps them from engaging with their kids.

    Whatever the case, guess who loses? The children.

    An analysis of 100 studies on parent-child relationships shows that having a loving and nurturing father is very important. It's as crucial for a child’s happiness, well-being, social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother.

    Dad, your kids need you.

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    Embracing the Second Half of Life

    A few years ago my mom attended the Wednesday night program at her church. Afterward, she called me and shared the speaker’s topic: “Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” Then she asked me the dreaded question: “You really don’t want all these treasures I have accumulated through the years?”

    While I appreciate the sentimental significance of some of her things, I honestly appreciated the speaker’s point. This is just one of the complicated moments the second half of life often brings.

    Our daughter surprised us with a visit a few days ago and as we were talking with friends, someone commented to her, “I can’t believe you’re 25!” She responded, “I know, I realize I’m halfway to 50!” 

    It occurred to me that if she’s halfway to 50, I’m halfway to 114. Whoa. This second half of life does have a way of sneaking up on us. Growing old is hard, especially when you still feel young and vibrant, but your body is screaming, “Not!”

    Recently, my mom shared that her best friend was really struggling with giving up driving. She was trying to help her understand that it really was a loving gesture from her kids. I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like when I have to have that same conversation with her or our daughter has to make that decision for one of us.

    Plenty of us are independent folks, and the idea of losing that independence is really scary. In fact, many of us are unwilling to think about it, much less have some of the difficult conversations we need to have with our loved ones. When it comes to living life well to the end, what will your legacy be where relationships are concerned? 

    Many of us can look in the rearview mirror and think about situations or relationships we wish we had handled differently, perhaps with our children, our own parents or a close friend. Sometimes we believe it’s too late to do anything about it. If you’re reading this, you still have time.

    While working on my Master’s in counseling, I completed an internship on one of the cancer floors at UTK Medical Center. I will never forget the many times I walked into a room where the patient was literally ready to die but held on because there was unfinished business with the people standing around the bedside.

    Do you have unfinished business to take care of with the people who mean the most to you? It is abundantly clear that people take their relationship with their parents to the grave. And, I can tell you based on research, a parent’s words and actions matter.

    I recently heard a very successful man share that his parents have never told him they loved him, and he become very emotional. There was this big, burly, manly-man in his 60s who still longs/wants/needs/wishes to hear his parents say I love you. 

    What is your relationship like with your children? Do they know you love them and believe in them? If that’s a hard place for you, remember that you can’t control their response, but you can control what you do.

    When our daughter was growing up, I used to tell her that I loved her but I didn’t like her behavior. Over time I transitioned to telling her there is nothing she can do to make me love her more or less. That doesn’t mean I will agree with all of her decisions, but I want her to know I believe in her and I love her, period. If I unexpectedly died in my sleep, I don’t want her to wonder how I feel about her. 

    A young man in his 30s with a brain tumor was talking with his father after a medical appointment, and he reminded his dad that our life on this earth is “terminal.” There is some serious wisdom. A lot of us hate talking about dying, yet it’s inevitable. So here’s another question: How do you want to live until you die? That’s a huge part of your legacy, and you are teaching those around you.

    There is no super-secret formula for this. We are all different. Whether it’s driving, turning over the reins of the company, moving out of the house you have lived in forever or getting rid of your stuff, what do you want to pass on to the next generation?

    If you don’t already have a plan, there’s no time like the present to create one and share it with your loved ones. Make sure there are no surprises, because it’s often the surprises after someone is gone that create huge rifts in families. Talking about it might be hard, but it’s healthy. It really is important for us to model, even for adult children, how to live and die well.

    Finally, perhaps life hasn’t gone as you planned it and anger and bitterness have taken up residence in your heart and mind. Instead of talking about it, perhaps you behave badly and take it out on the ones you love the most. Growing old sometimes stinks, but there are lots of shifts and decisions to make, and things to talk about. Seeking help in this area isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and health. 

    Moving forward, how will you go about creating a meaningful life with your family and friends?