As the father of three teenagers, this author understands the private side of how families work during this period of life.

A new book entitled Strong Families, Successful Students: Helping Teenagers Reach their Full Academic Potential has been written by Dr. Stephen M. Gavazzi, a professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University.

Professor Gavazzi, who also is the lead director of the university's Center for Family Research, has been involved in research over the past 25 years that focuses on how families influence the healthy development of teenagers.

Also a trained family therapist, Dr. Gavazzi has developed and evaluated a number of family-based programs that inform this book. As the father of three teenagers, this author also understands the private side of how families work during this period of life and uses these personal insights throughout the book.


Family empowerment

The Strong Families, Successful Students book offers new hope to parents who wonder whether or not what they are doing is "good enough" when it comes to helping their teenage sons and daughters experience success in school. Being a "good enough" parent is a common worry, and there are hundreds of books that promise to help people become "better parents." This book represents a very different approach, in that parents are seen as being their own best experts when it comes to raising their teenage sons and daughters.

This perspective, based on research evidence and the results of work with families in prevention and intervention programs, holds that the best outcomes usually happen when family members understood that they know more about their family than anyone else. Even further, the more that family members pay attention to their strengths, the better equipped they will be to deal with all of the challenges that life is presenting to them at any given time. In short, the book is meant to empower families.


Thinking and doing
The book is divided into two sections: a thinking part and a doing part. The first section is labeled the Science of Families, and involves the thinking part of the book. The chapters in this section are designed to help parents understand what we know about families from research literature. In essence, you will be given an overview of the accepted wisdom about parents and teenagers. This first section ends with a chapter that discusses five facts about strong families, which provides an important connecting point to the second section of this book.

The second section is labeled Steps to Becoming a Strength-Based Family, and concerns the action-oriented portion of the book. There are five chapters that are connected to each of the five facts about strong families, and each chapter is built around an exercise that you can do with your family. While these exercises are geared specifically toward helping your teenager experience greater success in school, you may come to realize that the things you learn from the activities can be transferred to other parts of your lives together.


Five facts
Russian writer Leo Tolstoy begins his novel Anna Karenina by stating that, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Much can be said about the strengths inside of these happy families. There are some very common themes that make families resilient. These five facts about strong families include:

Strong families have a shared positive identity about themselves Strong families understand their members' talents and abilities Strong families are patient and kind Strong families are able to find and use resources Strong families can work together
The Strong Families, Successful Students book helps families directly apply these five facts in ways that can help teenagers reach their full academic potential. Based on the first fact, parents and teens can create their own family's unique definition of what it means to be a successful student. The second fact is used to identify things that already are going right in school for the teenager, as well as what the parents already are doing to support their son or daughter's academic achievements.

The third fact lays the groundwork for parents and teens to identify actions to be taken by all family members that could support further educational gains. The fourth fact recognizes that it takes both a family and a village to raise a teenager successfully, and therefore underscores the need to identify present and new resources to encourage greater school success. Finally, the fifth fact helps families to use a solution-making "tool kit" when family members become stuck on some school issue, concern, or event.


Strong Families, Successful Students: Helping Teenagers Reach their Full Academic Potential is available at http://www.amazon.com.

To contact Dr. Gavazzi, e-mail gavazzi.1@osu.edu, or call (614) 292-5620.