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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

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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. Susan Hickman, clinical psychologist. “They are like the support beams for a building, communicating to children that in all the rush and seemingly randomness of our lives, there are still some things we hold sacred which remain relatively unchanged over the years.”

    These annual celebrations create memories and bring generations together. They give families a structure around which to organize time and events since people are much more likely to take family photos and “rehearse” what transpired as they look back on the photographs and videos.

    In an informal survey, we asked about meaningful traditions. Here are a few of the responses.

    Many years ago, Betty Bergin began collecting antique crystal candlesticks - one for each of her four children. As children have started their own families, the Bergins have loved finding the crystal treasure that best represents each new addition to the family. Every Christmas Day, the candlesticks fill the center of their Christmas table. When their oldest son found his life mate, he announced it by giving them a crystal candlestick.

    “What a precious memory that is to me, that at 31, he saw value in our tradition,” says Bergin.

    "My favorite holiday tradition as a child was getting to open one present on Christmas Eve,” says Anne Hooser. “It was the same gift every year - a brand new nightgown. I remember when I was in my late twenties and had not been home for Christmas in many years, my mother sent me a present to be 'opened Christmas Eve.' It was a brand new nightgown! When I opened it up I just felt loved."

    For more than 50 years, Lorena Garza Gonzalez’s family has re-enacted the journey of Joseph and Mary in the traditional Mexican “Posada.” Now their children and friends of all ethnic backgrounds and ages help and share to celebrate the birth of Christ. Singing and praying is concluded with tamales, menudo, frijoles borachos, and many sweet-pleasers.

    “Traditions are so important in family,” says Gonzalez. “This is one I hope my children will continue for years to come.”

    Special celebrations give families the time and place to discuss what is important to them.

    “We often hear people talk about wanting to avoid getting into any discussions that might create conflict at these types of gatherings,” Hickman says. “Some of the best family discussions I can recall occurred during our holiday traditional celebrations. Sometimes there was conflict, but conflict isn’t always bad. Just because people disagree doesn’t mean it has to escalate into a fight or that you don’t love each other. In fact, when children see family members handle conflict appropriately, it is a great lesson for them.”

    Consider ways you can incorporate holiday traditions, whether old or new, into your celebrations. It just might keep you focused on the things that really matter. For every family the traditions are different, but they all allow for a greater sense of shared identity and meaning. There is something very comforting about being able to think ahead and anticipate participating in a longstanding family tradition.

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    How to Prepare for 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 or catch up with old friends?

    • What rules do we play by now?

    • And, are curfew and other details really necessary?

    While parents and students both look forward to this time, “It’s complicated” could definitely describe how things will go without conversations ahead of time. If you want to lay the foundation for a great visit, don't wait until the last minute to prepare. Here are some helpful suggestions for both parents and students.

    For Parents:

    • Re-think the rules. It is hard to be treated like an adult at school and like a kid at home.

    • Be interested in their new friends and their happenings at school.

    • Remember that it is an adjustment for everybody, not just you.

    • Recognize that college students feel a lot of pressure when they come home. They want to spend time with their family and their friends.

    • Be creative. Instead of complaining about the time they spend visiting friends, throw a party and invite everybody to your house. That way you can catch up on the latest, too!

    • Anticipate that your student will need some rest. They have just completed exams. Try to be understanding if they are a little grouchy the first couple of days.

    • Warn younger siblings that things will probably be different and be aware of their feelings, as they too are dealing with change.

    For Students:

    • Even though you have had your freedom, be respectful to your parents. If they ask you where you are going and when you will be back, tell them because it is the right thing to do. If you want to be treated like an adult, act like one.

    • Ask your parents if they are open to rethinking some of the house rules. If they are, offer constructive suggestions and don’t push the edge of the envelope.

    • Remember, your parents have been away from you. Be open to spending time with them. Answer their questions about school and your new friends.

    • Make the most of your visit with your parents. Don’t take them for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

    • Many parents will still have to get up early and go to work. Consider how your actions could impact their ability to get good rest and do their job.

    • Try to balance your time at home and with your friends. (Sleeping in your own bed doesn’t count as time spent with your family).

    Be encouraged. Although it can happen, heading home during the holidays doesn’t have to cause tension. A few conversations, along with some compromise on both sides, could set the stage for some great memories this holiday season.

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    How to Choose 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 front of the fire while you shopped online before you retired. So many choices. What do you see? "A blender, a vacuum or something for me!"

    On Christmas morn, you’ll awake to a clatter and spring from your bed to see what’s the matter. When what to your wondering eyes will appear, your wife with a look that is very clear...

    We’ve all heard horror stories of gift-giving gone bad. One newlywed, recalling the look on her mother’s face when she received an appliance for Christmas, told her husband if she could use it in the kitchen or for cleaning the house, it did not qualify as a Christmas present.

    Believe it or not, she is not alone. Most women say if it’s practical, it isn’t something that should be given as a gift.

    December 25 will be here before you know it, but it’s not too late for you to find a great gift.

    Remember, men and women think differently.

    When choosing a gift for your mate, consider how she will interpret the meaning behind your gift. When in doubt, ask one of her friends or don’t run the risk. What men often don’t understand about gift buying is this: Women see the creativity, effort and gift itself as a direct reflection of how much her husband loves her. Men see a gift as a gift.

    Whether you think it makes sense or not, there is a lot riding on gifts in general. So if you aren’t planning on taking up residence on the family room couch, you might want to take your gift buying seriously.

    Be a good understudy to your wife. Listen carefully to what she says. Pay attention to the things she enjoys and the way she spends her time. Does she like to cook, garden, sew, read, run, knit, go to the movies or ride bikes? You might even ask her for a list of things she would like for Christmas. With a little investigative work, you can uncover some helpful hints to guide you in your gift-buying.

    When some women were asked what they would like for Christmas from their husbands, here's what they said:

    • Buy a gift certificate for a massage, manicure or pedicure.

    • Make plans to take the children out for the evening, allowing your wife to stay at home in peace and quiet.

    • Purchase a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant for a date night.

    • Plan a romantic getaway and take care of all the details. Give her hints about where she will be going and what she needs to bring for your getaway.

    In case you are still struggling a bit, here are some more helpful hints:

    • Purchase some of her favorite “go-to” items like special lotion, fragrance, candles, books, tea, and/or coffee.

    • Plan a surprise date night to see a play or concert. (Don’t forget to line up the babysitter. It’s not a real date if the person receiving the gift has to do the work to make it happen.)

    • Do you have a crafty skill like woodworking or making stained glass? She might enjoy something you made specifically with her in mind.

    • If finances are an issue, believe it or not, a handwritten letter expressing your love for her and how she makes your life rich is a priceless gift.

    • Throw practical out the window. This is the time you give something that you know your wife would never purchase for herself.

    • Take her on a window shopping date and pay attention to what catches her eye.

    • If all else fails and you are still at a loss, ask her to accompany you on a shopping spree to find the perfect gift.

    If you already have her gift, you could start having a little fun now and leave clues in unusual places where you know she will find them. Creating anticipation can make the gift seem even more special.

    So...with a gleam in your eye and a plan in your head, you know that you have nothing to dread. Your wife will proclaim with a smile shining bright, "Merry Christmas, honey. You got it just right!"