● By Style
Photos by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
Reflecting a now sadly familiar story, Franny and her older sister, Alex, suffered extreme emotional distress from living in a violent household.
Later they endured the fallout of their parents’ fractious divorce – one involving the criminal and family court system, Child Protective Services and various government non-profit agencies. Despite well-intentioned attention from all parties, the girls continued to bear severe anxiety resulting from their experience – the brunt of its toll painfully obvious to their deeply concerned, and extremely determined mother, Jennifer Rodriguez.
Helping Franny and Alex – now joyful, well-adjusted 9- and 12-year-olds – better deal with their highly-charged emotional challenges led Rodriguez to establish the Orangevale-based nonprofit, Franny’s House, which provides kids with healthy coping strategies to handle situational anxieties and emotional pressures, and their parents with techniques to better manage the stress, establish structure, reset boundaries and rebuild the parent-child trust bond.
Unique to Franny’s House is the nonprofit’s approach to care crisis. There a child’s underlying issues – such as attention seeking behavior in an effort to gain power – and stress-causing triggers are rooted out and dealt with using age-appropriate tactics. Why stress? Because, Rodriguez recently explained on Blog Talk Radio’s Army of Angels, the organization has identified stress as “…the first barrier to accessing a healthier emotional mindset.” “Therefore,” she elaborates, “We work with our children, and empower them to manage their stress first and then begin to rebuild some of those broken relationships and personal boundaries.”
This happens methodically, initially by tapping into a child’s natural physicality. Children are offered a platform that encourages them to positively express their stress (important because young kids posses a limited vocabulary and therefore are unable to verbally describe the subtleties of complex emotions they feel). At Franny’s House kids might be encouraged to “stomp” on their “icky” feelings or pinpoint them through other forms of active moving. Then, “soothing” activities are introduced. Supplementary support comes from a full slate of programs and services.
Mrs. Chim’s Class – entertaining yet informative Web-based puppet shows – tackles hot-button social issues like racism and intolerance, while Project Me – a peer-run project by teens for teens – generates a positive social culture that helps to temper the power of common negative influences. The volunteer Youth Advisory Committee, led by youth directors and comprised of middle- and high-school students, was formed to help participants develop leadership skills while serving their community. Parents, meanwhile, have access to a 24-hour support hotline as well as to
Sacramento County Court-approved parenting and co-parenting courses.
And everyone benefits from the organization’s interactive bullying education and advocacy program. Its strong network of resources includes Bully Busters, which teaches kids to identify harassing behaviors in order for them to sidestep a potential situation in which they might be targeted and tormented. Related seminars discussing social hierarchies, structures and power struggles are also conducted. When necessary, a bullying advocate is assigned to discuss a bullying situation with parents and children, while serving as a liaison for both at the school level.
Visit frannyshouse.org for more information.