Skittles, Skills Help Family Scuttle Obstacles to Stability Wednesday, Apr 5, 2017 Page Image Page ContentSavannah and Petr, and their two boys, Wyatt and Ellis, each picked eight Skittles out of the bag. The fruit-flavored candies weren't exactly a treat for the family; it was more like a test.The color of each piece of candy – red, yellow, orange, green and purple – corresponded to color-coded notecards scrawled with questions for family members to answer. Questions like, "What is the best thing about the person sitting to your right?" and "What is your happiest family memory?" At the end of the Q-and-A session, they all were asked to recall at least one new thing they learned about each of their other family members. "It was a bonding exercise aimed at improving their listening skills," explained Boys Town Central Florida Family Consultant Justin Stephens. "I like to play a lot of games and activities with families that teach skills but also help them open up and feel more comfortable." Being comfortable around Justin wasn't a problem for Savannah, who was already familiar with Boys Town Central Florida. She had previously attended Common Sense Parenting® classes, where she learned about the site's In-Home Family Services. At the time, she and her husband Petr were struggling to keep Wyatt and Ellis from constantly fighting with each other. Savannah hoped Justin's intervention would help bring some much-needed peace and calm to their household. Not everyone felt so at ease with having a "stranger" in the home. Petr refused to even talk with Justin during the family's first in-home meeting, fearing his past indiscretions would color the Family Consultant's opinion of him.Unfortunately, Savannah and Petr were also dealing with a strained relationship. The couple had tried counseling, but it was derailed when Petr accused the therapist of twisting his words. The experience made him angry and suspicious of any outsider's help. Getting Petr to open up was Justin's top priority. The games and activities were one strategy Justin used to establish trust and enhance understanding. He also listened but never judged. While it didn't happen overnight, Petr gradually lowered his defenses. "Once I connected with Petr, he felt more comfortable. He even started calling me to talk," Justin said. The more involved Petr got, the easier it became for the whole family to deal with their underlying issues. Petr was depressed and anxious about the family's finances. He had a seasonal, low-paying job and a limited education. To address his fragile emotional state, Justin connected him to counseling services and devised a staying-calm plan Petr could use whenever he felt overwhelmed. He also encouraged Petr to enroll in a local community college to improve his job skills.Justin taught both parents healthy ways to communicate, including how to be more affectionate and patient with their children by praising their good behaviors and effectively correcting their misbehaviors. This combination of skill teaching, counseling and encouragement ultimately helped the family turn a corner and grow closer."The family achieved all of their goals," Justin said. "They're not perfect, but now they have the skills they need to be successful." Today, Petr continues his studies and has a new, better job. He and Savannah also have returned to couples therapy in order to strengthen their marriage. To the delight of their boys, both are more loving parents, and everyone is committed to creating a healthier, happier home.