The Power of Parent Education

PCRG_winterspring2016_croppedSo much of what we do at SCAN is about prevention, before child abuse or neglect begins in a family.  As child welfare professionals, we know that education  and support of parents is key to empowering caregivers to ask for help, improve their skills and nurture children in the healthiest ways. But connecting parents with the resources they deserve and need–especially in a large, transient area like Northern Virginia–is not always easy.

Publishing the Parent Connection Resource Guide (PCRG) is one way SCAN helps. Twice a year, we curate an easily-downloadable directory of classes, workshops, support groups and more for parents in our region. Read the latest version here

The PCRG includes opportunities from more than two dozen agencies and organizations and organizes them by five regions: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax/Falls Church, Loudoun and Greater Prince William. It also includes SCAN’s own programs for parents, which currently include:

  • ABCs of Parenting Class (in English) | Alexandria, VA
    THURSDAYS, MARCH 31 – MAY 19 (registration begins February 15)
    The program covers topics such as child development, praise and empathy, building your child’s self-esteem, family rules, age-appropriate discipline, alternatives to spanking, and family stress management. No eligibility requirements. Registration is required. Class includes a family meal, childcare for children ages 0 to 4, a children’s program with yoga component for children ages 5 and older, weekly raffles and educational materials.
    > Download a Flyer
  • Parent Café: Taller Para Padres e Hijos (in Spanish) | Sterling, VA
    Starting February 4, a four week Spanish-language parent workshop will cover topics ranging from creating family rules to Hispanic parents raising American children. The workshop includes a program for children 10 and older that complements parents’ sessions.  Sessions will take place in Sterling, VA from Mondays from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
    > Download a Flyer

Learn more about SCAN’s Parent Education Program here.

Lessons – and Laughs – from Parenting Class

parentingclasslaughsSCAN kicked off its first parenting class of the year on February 5th using The ABCs of Parenting from the evidence-based Nurturing Parenting Program®. This 8-week program is designed to empower parents by providing them with effective parenting skills and techniques. The length of the program provides the group enough time to delve into the core curriculum lessons while also allowing relationship-building among parents and their facilitator.

During this first series of 2015, we have had the privilege to meet and work with nineteen Spanish-speaking parents and their families. We can’t believe how quickly we have reached our half-way point. As we do for all programs, we evaluate and–if necessary–re-tool our activities throughout the series. With that in mind, we asked our Parent Education Team to take a moment and share tips and lessons learned from this and past parenting classes. With over 40+ years of combined experience, they had plenty to share!

Whether you are new to program implementation or an experienced facilitator or program coordinator, here are some tips you can consider as you implement similar programs.

  1. Know your audience. Being familiar with participants’ cultural backgrounds, genders and language differences is something we all know as critical for a facilitator to be aware of before walking into a class. However, there are other nuances to consider. For example, some individuals may have been placed in a class unwillingly by the court. They can bring a negative attitude and influence to the group. The challenge is finding a way to engage those parents and help them focus on the positive things they will gain from participating, instead of who or what brought them to the group.

    Our team recommends acknowledging their feelings. For example, “For some of you it may feel hard to fit this commitment into your schedules each week. I promise we are going to have some interesting conversations and a few laughs and before the end of this class you will likely look forward to these evenings we have together.” It is also helpful to express value in their presence. For example, you could say “In my experience, everyone brings value to these conversations and I encourage you to participate in discussions openly and honestly. Your wisdom and experience may be what helps another parent get through a challenging time.”

  1. Set expectations for the group. Each person, including the facilitator, will have their own expectations about the class. As the leader of the group, set the expectations early on. This can be done during pre-registration and during the first session when ground rules are established.
  1. Integrate relevant news. If you are working with an evidence-based curriculum you may be hesitant to integrate outside sources of materials such as news articles, quotes from well-known individuals or community members. Our team believes doing so provides an interesting and fresh take to each class. Integrating real-world situations and discussion enhances your message and supports the idea that there are others outside of the group talking about the issue.
  1. Have conversations, not lectures. Build structured conversations and activities into the sessions, rather than just lecturing. Create opportunities for the participants to contribute their relevant life experiences to the class. Enjoy and value their participation and let them know it.
  1. Set a chain of communication and check-in regularly with your team. When running any sort of program, the team needs to be on the same page. Establish clear roles for your volunteers and staff. Then designate a chain of communication. Ideally this should be set up days prior to the first class. A short debriefing at the end of each class allows staff and volunteers to bring up any challenges they are encountering and as a group find a way to address it before the next class.
  1. Working with children?
    • Say it with enthusiasm! When you are leading a children’s program, act with the poise and enthusiasm that you want to see reflected in the children and childcare volunteers. For example, if you are introducing a new game to kids and you show your excitement about how you have the coolest game in the world to share with them, then the kids will also be excited about it.  Really, if you sell it right, you can get kids to do any sort of game or activity!
    • Be flexible. Kids’ moods, likes and desires can all change in a flash and you need to be able to change with them. Don’t be upset if things don’t go the way you planned. Always have a backup game, activity or craft ready to go at all times.
  1. Have a sense of humor. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Weather delays/cancellations, unexpected logistics challenges, and volunteer cancellations have all caused havoc at some point in the life of a program. There are times we just need to take a breath, have a laugh and realize that when the program is supported by great staff, volunteer, and partners who have a common goal and belief in a mission, it will all eventually work out. (And if we can’t model flexibility, patience and humor for parents, then who can!?)

Have you worked with children and parents before? What are your best practices for connecting with families and making a lasting impact? We’d love to hear in the comments below!

– Marisol Morales, SCAN Parent Education Program Manager

SCANStar: This is what hope looks like.

“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Kaylyn Pennock is certainly not waiting.

You know those people you can always count on to do a good job? The people who make everyone’s eyes light up? Now let me ask – are they teenagers?

In the eyes of SCAN, 16-year-old Kaylyn is one of those stellar people. She makes the SCAN team feel happy and very hopeful for the future.

A childcare volunteer at SCAN’s ABCs of Parenting Class and Parent Support Groups, Kaylyn has been through it all—from toddler tantrums to rambunctious young boys to older youth struggling with schoolwork—and in the midst of every challenging situation, Kaylyn has maintained a loving and compassionate demeanor with ALL the children around her.

So last month, when SCAN’s Parent Education Coordinator Sam Poyta nominated Kaylyn for the Connect with Kids Champion Award, we were ecstatic to hear that she was chosen out of dozens of other Northern Virginia high school students for this well-deserved honor!

Kaylyn is a junior at West Potomac High School studying Early Childhood Development. When asked to describe Kaylyn, her Childhood Development Teacher Ava Bergan said this:

“Kaylyn’s gentle, soft spoken demeanor encompasses her kindness, compassion and commitment to everyone she meets and everything she does”. WOW! We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

On April 23, Sam and AIPC Member Mary Ann Moran from the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families presented Kaylyn with her Connect with Kids Champion Award during her Childhood Development class.

Along with certain bragging rights that come with being a Connect with Kids Award Recipient, all of the spring 2012 Champions will be announced at future Arlington County Board and School Board meetings.

Congratulations just doesn’t say enough, Kaylyn. SCAN is honored to have you as a volunteer and supports you in all of the wonderful things that lie ahead for you (and the people lucky enough to be around you)!

p.s. We hope that Kaylyn’s commitment and impact inspires YOU to volunteer for SCAN! Check out all of our great volunteer opportunities here.

SCANSnapshot: Cooking up fun for families

(She’s pictured above at our ABCs of Parenting Class, center, with high school volunteer Kaylyn and parent participant Kathy.)

Local small business owner? Check.

SCAN volunteer? Check.
Globe-trotting cooking class teacher? Check.

Wait…what!? That’s right – this week Beth (owner of The Regal Fig Food Co.) is in Africa teaching local resort chefs about Western cooking techniques. (You can see her photos and updates at The Regal Fig Facebook page here.)

We never cease to be amazed by the volunteers who make our programs possible. And not just because they’re committed to helping SCAN build hope for local families, but because they are living proof that we ALL can make time to make a difference. When Beth is home, she volunteers at our ABCs of Parenting classes, teaching parents about nutrition and meal planning while cooking healthy meals for dozens of children and caregivers in class. While Beth’s away, we’ll rely on other volunteers to provide meals for the families. Who will step up and help? Stay tuned…we promise to post another SCANSnapshot next week!

p.s. And don’t worry – you don’t have to be a professional chef to have an impact at Parenting Classes (or any of SCAN’s programs)! We depend on dinner volunteers as well as childcare volunteers, logistical volunteers and so much more…we’ll find a way for you to get involved too! Click here to learn more.)