Four Corners Mental Health is providing a seven-week program to increase communication between parents and youth, while decreasing substance abuse, aggression and depression. The Strengthening Families Program is available to families with children ages 10 to 14.

The first session is Sept. 19 to Oct. 30. The program is limited to twelve families and is free of charge. Childcare is provided and a meal is served.

Approximately 10 percent of 9-to 10-year-olds have started drinking, and nearly one-third of youth begin drinking before age 13. Forty percent of kids who begin drinking before age 15 will become addicted to alcohol, as compared to 7 percent of kids who start at age 21, according to Parents Empowered.

Recently the World Health Organization funded a British study to assess six thousand substance abuse prevention programs world wide.

“The one with the best track record is the US Strengthening Families Program approach,” said David Foxcroft, the leading researcher on the study.

Children of families who participate in Strengthening Families Program are 49 percent less likely to use alcohol in eighth grade and 32 percent less likely to use alcohol in tenth grade. The study also found that children are 50 percent less likely to use cigarettes and marijuana than the control group, when surveyed four years after taking the class.

The program provides guidance to parents in effectively setting limits, communicating without anger, developing empathy for youth, and giving nurturing support. The format includes video, discussion, skills practice, learning games, and family projects.

Sarah Heffron, program coordinator, envisions that a few years from now, all families with a child nearing middle school will participate in Strengthening Families.

“As a busy parent, I can’t imagine a better way to spend 14 hours,” Heffron said. “What a radically better future we can offer our kids and what a radically more fun and sane life we can enjoy with our kids.”