Psychologist explaining healing process

“Our whole mission is to strengthen families and to keep families together. To do that, you got to go to the head of the family: father and mother,”

A three-week series of anger management classes in Mesa aims to create positive change in families by teaching parents how to properly handle their anger and maintain a safe and happy environment. 

The free classes are sponsored by the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association and are open to parents, grandparents, and foster parents of all backgrounds.

“Our whole mission is to strengthen families and to keep families together. To do that, you got to go to the head of the family: father and mother,” said Albert Pooley, founder and president of NAFFA. 

A two-year grant from the Gila River Indian Community State Shared Revenue Program for allowed for the creation of the Strengthening All Families Effectively Parent Resource Center, where the classes will be held. 

The classes will help attendees look at defense mechanisms, conflicts at home and healthy ways to handle their anger. 

The basic philosophies of NAFFA will be taught, with the main focus on the association’s belief that fatherhood and motherhood are sacred.

Each class will be led by Neil Tift, NAFFA’s training coordinator. Tift has worked as a parent educator for the past 35 years and has worked specifically with fathers for the past 29 years. 

He will be co-teaching the classes with his wife Denise, a family and marriage therapist. 

“We’re focusing on anger issues around children and protecting their children, and finding ways to model emotional regulation in healthy ways,” Tift said. 

In 1979, Tift became a single father while living in Minneapolis, and he began looking for resources for fathers. Unable to find any available resources or programs, he expressed his frustration to one of his friends. 

“She challenged me and said, ‘Do you want to complain about it, or do you want to do something about the fact that there’s no resources for dads?’” he recalled.

In 1990, Tift said he and another father quit their jobs and opened a fathers resource center a week in Minnesota. Tift has worked with fathers ever since and has been with NAFFA for the past six years. 

Although these classes are open to both mothers and fathers, Pooley, along with Tift, also got his start working specifically with fathers. 

Pooley previously worked as a counselor, and in 2002 began a program for fathers on the Salt River Indian Reservation, which would become NAFFA. NAFFA has since grown to help over 200 tribes across the United States and Canada. 

“The heart of Native American people is family. It is not the language, it is not the food, it is not the customs, not the traditions. All those are wonderful things, but the heart of who we are as Native people is family,” Pooley said. 

The anger management classes are just one of the many programs NAFFA offers across the country. Like this program, they are not specifically reserved for Native Americans, and parents of all backgrounds can attend.

 “You are worth more than the worst mistake you’ve ever, ever made in your life, and that is the truth. My job is to help you understand it,” said Pooley. 

Each class will run from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 10, 17 and 24 at 460 N. Mesa Drive, Mesa. Free childcare will be provided, but parents must register online.

Information: 480-833-5007 or  nativeamericanfathers.org/safe-parent-resource-center.

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