By Devin Fisher, Fort Carson MountaineerMay 20, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo.---Taking a look in the mirror and learning to stay calm are the keys to enhancing relationships, according to a program launched April 27 by Army Community Service.
More than 250 community members attended the ScreamFree Parenting and Marriage seminars April 27 at the Elkhorn Conference Center. About 20 relationship professionals from Fort Carson attended The ScreamFree Institute's train-the-trainer classes April 28-29 so they can facilitate future seminars on post.
"The greatest thing that we can do for our relationships is to focus more on ourselves and our own behaviors and, first and foremost, just learn to stay calm," said Hal Runkel, president, The ScreamFree Institute.
While this thinking contradicts how most people are brought up, the licensed marriage and family therapist said the problem when people focus on somebody else is they can't help but try to change that person in some way. The behavior ultimately comes across as controlling, trying to get someone to behave in a certain way.
"We think this is the selfless thing to do, but trying to change somebody else is incredibly selfish because what we are saying is, 'I want you to change to be more like me or (do things) the way I do things ... I don't want you to be yourself, I want you to be somebody different, that is better for me,'" he said.
The ScreamFree program - kicked off in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month - is another tool to help make Families successful, said Jill Nugin, ACS Family Advocacy Program coordinator.
"Our post is in such transition and we know Families can use anything we can give them that helps them be stronger to deal with all the ... stress they are feeling," she said.
Nugin said the ACS staff members, social workers, chaplains, Military Family Life counselors, chaplains and Child, Youth and School Services workers attended the train-the-trainer sessions will be ready to facilitate the seminars to units and Family readiness groups in the near future.
The seminars are "clinically proven, laugh out loud" coaching sessions, said John Kaplan, vice president, The ScreamFree Institute.
"Laugh at yourself it's OK," he said. "So you screwed up, you get another chance 20 minutes from now when your kids test you again or your spouse doesn't give you the response you are looking for."
Runkel said participants receive workbooks that guide them through material with exercises that provides a stigma-free environment to interact with other folks, "because once we open our mouths and start talking about struggles we have in our families, we realize that we are all in this together."
ScreamFree provides the curriculum, as Runkel leads via a DVD and the local leaders take the group through printed material and then facilitate the discussion.
"Parenting is not easy, marriage is not easy," Kaplan said. "It's supposed to be hard, so let's all come together and help each other in a nonclinical way, in just a way that says ... 'I need some help.'"
ScreamFree ultimately is about creating a pause between stimuli - a child whining or getting bad grades in school or a spouse not listening or screaming - and the response.
"In that pause is where you can choose to respond the way you want rather than that knee-jerk emotional reaction that we are all so used to that doesn't just make things worse, it always causes the exact opposite reaction that we are looking for," Kaplan said.
The pause allows people to think, begin to make a decision and evaluate the situation, the same components that make Soldiers a success on the battlefield, Runkel said.
"We naturally gravitate toward leaders that are in control," he said. "Well, that's what our kids, and our Families, need so much."
Another key element to the program is getting people to understand the need to voice their concerns.
"Just speak who you are and what you really feel," he said. "You got in this relationship for life. If that person is not able to handle hearing the truth, then there's an innate problem that needs to be worked out in the relationship, because ... you got married so you have someone you can share those innermost thoughts with."
Fort Carson Family member Sherri Kunkel said each of the April 27 seminars provided insight into how she could better handle her relationships at home. The parenting seminar taught Kunkel that she no longer has to participate in the power struggle with her children.
"I can take a stand, do it in a kind way, and just not have to feel stressed all the time about how they are going to react to what I say," she said. "I think it will take a lot of the guilt and the weight I carry around that I'm not doing it right, because I am putting the ball in their court."
Kunkel said her children can make the decision about what they are going to do, and she just has to follow through with the consequences.
The marriage seminar assured Kunkel that she and her husband are heading in the right direction, but could tweak a few things.
"(My husband is) deployed right now and ... I don't know what kind of person is coming home," she said. "Instead of reacting to a situation, I can come up with a process to work through the situation ... express what I feel and tell him, 'you are not the only one, this affects all of us, and I really don't like that you are doing that.'"
With this new understanding, Kunkel said she is sure that her "good" marriage will get even better.