She used to be called “Grandma.”
Now she’s called “Lovie.”
That’s so her grandchildren know that every time they talk to her they are talking to someone who loves them.
Lycia’s love binds her household together. She credits Triple P and the BRIDGES at Boynton Beach with helping her family through what had been a turbulent time.
Lycia, a department store employee, and her husband had been raising their two youngest children, now ages 12 and 14, when one of her older sons got arrested in New York. His arrest meant that his children were in jeopardy of ending up in the child welfare system. She knew she had to act.
So in December 2012, Lycia went up to New York. When she returned, she came back with four of her grandchildren, all under 5 years old. She also took in the grandchildren’s 7-year-old half-sister. Lycia went from raising two children to seven children.
“I was home. I couldn’t work. My bills were piling up on me. I was exhausted,” Lycia said. “I was pulling my hair out…I needed help paying my light bill.”
A friend suggested she go to BRIDGES at Boynton Beach to see if someone there might be able to help her with her electric bill. BRIDGES is a network of 10 neighborhood hubs in Palm Beach County that help parents raise children to be healthy, safe and strong. BRIDGES offer parent workshops, free family events and help connect families to services they may need like child care, housing and medical care.
When Lycia and her friend went to BRIDGES at Boynton Beach, she refused to go inside.
“(My friend) brought me to the parking lot and I said, ‘You go in and tell them a little bit about it,’” Lycia said. “I was so embarrassed. I’m not used to asking for stuff. My friend went in and came back and said, ‘Come in, they want to talk to you.’”
That’s when Lycia told BRIDGES staff about her situation. She had a job, but couldn’t work because she had nowhere for the children to go. She didn’t have enough car seats. She was stuck at home and didn’t know what to do.
BRIDGES helped her pay her electric bill and organize her home life. Then a staffer told her about Triple P, an evidence-based program that teaches parents strategies in dealing with children’s behavioral problems and improving parent-child communication. The program is designed to raise parents’ confidence level, while reducing stress and chaos within the home.
Lycia began to work with Nayeli Martinez, a parenting coach at BRIDGES at Boynton Beach.
“The household before Triple P was, ‘Shut up!’ ‘Go to your room!’ ‘I don’t want!’ ‘No!’” Lycia said. “It was non-stop. It was a big transition for the kids, myself and my kids who had now had to share their mom. There were a lot of emotions…It was crazy.”
Lycia learned from Nayeli that to change her grandchildren’s behavior she needed to change how she interacted with them. She realized she needed to make sure each child had their own time with her and felt she was listening to them.
“It’s about taking a moment to really turn around, face them and listen to what they are saying,” Lycia said. “It works because they know someone cares and there is someone who is going to listen. It makes a world of difference.”
One of the first things she did with Triple P was to start asking the children to call her “Lovie.”
“I told them, ‘I’m Lovie because I love you guys so much,’” Lycia said.
Lycia also began using a chart to document the children’s behavior, awarding them stickers for good days. The chart was especially helpful in curbing her 7-year-old grandson Christopher’s behavioral issues.
“The chart was the best thing ever,” she said. “It’s there as a positive thing that they can watch.”
The chart has become a fixture on the kitchen refrigerator and when friends and family come by the house they ask about the chart. Lycia said her niece now has started using a chart for her children.
Lycia, who had eight children of her own, said Triple P has transformed her parenting style. She came to realize the power of framing her interactions with the children in a positive, encouraging light.
Lycia said she talks so much about the impact that Triple P can have on families that some people have asked her if she works at BRIDGES at Boynton Beach.
“It does change lives,” she said. “It changes families. It change communities. When you have positive people, positive things come out of the community.”