From the Parent Education Desk: Positive Communication IS Possible!

“Positive communication with your kids IS possible!” SCAN’s Parent Education team members often find themselves giving these words of encouragement to parents in our classes, support groups and workshops. Thanks to a great monthly email they send to parents, we’re sharing their thoughts here on the blog, too:

Positive communication can reinforce good behavior, and help you understand and eliminate bad behavior. It can build your child’s confidence and self-esteem. But positive communication is not always easy. With parents’ busy schedules these days, it can be hard to find the time to just talk with your children.

We recommend taking advantage of downtime and talking with your child while riding in the car, walking to or from the bus stop or waiting for a sibling. What should you talk about? We like using open-ended questions like, “What was the best part of your day? The worst?” or, “Who did you spend time with today?” and allowing your child to finish talking and really listen to what they are saying, without judgment.

For more tips on positive communication with your children, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, click here. For on-the-go-access to Positive Communication resources (and more!) download SCAN’s free app for parents here.

(Learn more about SCAN’s Parent Education Program here.)

New Video: Using SCAN’s Free App for Parents + Caregivers

Did you know that SCAN offers a free mobile app that allows parents on-the-go access to all of the information on our online Parent Resource Center? Now we also have a short, 1-minute video you can share with parents that explains how simple it is to download and use the app:

Our goal is to make it easy for parents to learn more about child development, parenting challenges and other family topics. Using the app, they can download fact sheets in English and Spanish, listen to our Parenting Today radio shows produced with iHeart Radio, and search dozens of parenting topics for more resources.

You can download the app for free on the AppStore and GooglePlay. (Or access direct links via our online Parent Resource Center here.) Do you already use the app? Please rate us so that more people learn about SCAN and more parents find this free resource!

Holiday Reminders for Parents: A Helpful List

Lots of parents are especially stressed in the final weeks of December. How can we help? Sometimes a simple suggestion is all it takes to give a parent the permission to hit the reset button on the holiday season:

  1. Simplify. Reduce the number of gifts you give. Don’t worry about sending cards this year. Cut out a few of the tasks you find stressful so you can focus on things that actually bring you (and your family) joy.
  2. Give experiences, not things. Crowds, traffic and time constraints can make it anything but enjoyable to be shopping for last-minute items this week. Consider buying tickets to an event or passes for a local museum that you can enjoy together in the new year.
  3. Remember it’s okay to say no. If a quiet evening at home wrapping gifts and watching a movie is what your family needs, say NO to the party you were supposed to attend. Protect your time (and sanity) by scheduling downtime this week when you and your children need it most.
  4. Offer the gift of creativity (and time with you!) Let kids take the lead for a last-minute task this week, like decorating cookies, wrapping gifts or signing cards.  The point is not perfection, but traditions that focus on time together and being kind and generous to those you love.
  5. Take care of yourself. Are you staying active, getting fresh air and eating healthy? Have you taken a few moments to read, talk with a friend, pray or meditate?

We invite you to download and share our Holiday Stress fact sheet in ENGLISH or SPANISH to share with the parents you know. Words of encouragement and understanding can be a wonderful gift this time of year!

It’s Report Card Season! How Can We Help Parents Deal with the Drama?

Report card season can be stressful for children and parents. Kids often want to please their parents, while parents might equate academic success with future well-being and happiness. When grades differ from expectations, it can be easy to respond in anger, disappointment or frustration. But parents should work to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children–not one focused on judgment, punishment or negativity. Share these four easy suggestions to help parents focus on making their child feel loved and supported during what can be a challenging time.

1. Focus on the good. Try to point out the positive aspects of your child’s report card. You can highlight an improved grade, or acknowledge the amount of effort that your child put forth in a subject. It’s important to focus more on EFFORT and less on the ACHIEVEMENT. Try this:

“This grade is a real improvement over last quarter’s grade in the same subject. I can see that you tried hard to improve in this area!”

2. Remind your child that no one is perfect. Report card season is an ideal time to discuss a time that you struggled to get a good grade, or didn’t meet expectations at a job. Let your child know that you have felt scared, frustrated, self-conscious, and disappointed about your own performance. It’s a normal part of life and the important thing is what you choose to do next. Try this:

“When I was your age, I worked hard on my science fair project and I thought I would receive a first-place ribbon, so imagine how disappointment I was when I didn’t place at all!”

3. Listen. There is usually an underlying reason for a child’s less-than-stellar academic performance. Give your child an opportunity to discuss their thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding school. As a parent, listen without judgement and ask open-ended questions. Try this:

“What part of the class is the most difficult for you? Which subject do you really enjoy?”

4. Devise a plan. Work with your child to help them succeed. Being supportive doesn’t mean not caring about grades, it means helping them set goals and improve their habits and understanding. Develop a plan–together–that includes a quiet place for your child to study, sets frequency and length of study sessions, and makes you or another caregiver available to provide help. If further assistance is necessary, consider tutoring or extra time after school with the teacher. Try this:

“Let’s write down some homework and study rules for our house. What will help you? I’d like to make sure you have a quiet place to focus, a snack, and…”

Parents sometimes need a gentle reminder that their child’s grades are NOT a reflection of their parenting skills. They are an opportunity to teach your child how to build resiliency, explore goal-setting and interests, and learn how to ask for help. We love these quick “Report Card Tips” we developed with the Child Protection Partnership a few years ago. Share with a parent you know this report card season!

October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month – Here are 5 things you can do TODAY to protect the infants in your community

Providing a safe sleep environment for a baby is one of the first things you can do to protect and nurture a child. October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month (#safesleepawareness) — and there is no better time to share 5 simple things you can do today to make sure the parents you know have the information and resources that can help them make the best parenting decisions when it comes to safe sleep!

  1. Take the Safe Sleep pledge from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Then share it with every parent, caregiver, babysitter and grandparent you know!
  2. Speaking of grandparents, use these Safe Sleep FAQs for Grandparents (here in English or Spanish) to educate older adults in a baby’s life. Guidelines have changed drastically, and this tool helps explain why.
  3. Download our Parent Resource Center App for direct access to resources like fact sheets and radio shows on Safe Sleep, Soothing a Crying Baby and Understanding Baby Blues/Post-Partum Depression.
  4. Learn more about SCAN’s Operation Safe Babies program, including our free Pack-n-Play distribution and our NEW work as a Baby Box distribution site.
  5. Read about the latest guidelines on safe sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics. We also produced a Parenting Today segment on this topic. Listen here.

(And here’s one extra thing you can do — follow @scanofnova and our Safe Sleep partners @cribsforkids, @VDSS, and @babyboxcompany on Twitter for updates, research and more on safe sleep! @NICHD_NIH also has excellent resources.)



October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

FACT: More than 3 million children in the U.S. witness domestic violence every year. Even if they are not directly abused, living in a violent home can have devastating effects on children. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important opportunity to update your tools and resources for families experiencing violence:

1. Download these fact sheets:

2. Listen to this MP3:

3. Keep this contact information on hand:

  • Alexandria Domestic Violence Program (703) 838-4911
  • Arlington Violence Intervention 8am-5pm (703) 228-1550 / 24 hour Crisis Line (703) 228-4848
  • Fairfax County Victim Assistance Network (703) 360-7273
  • Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS) (703) 777-6552
  • Prince William (ACTS/Turning Points) (703) 221-4951
  • Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 838-8238

For more information, please visit the Children and Domestic Violence page on our Parent Resource Center here.

Advocacy + Empathy + Connection: Serving Families with Special Needs

Since the launch of the Parenting Can Be Tough campaign, we continue to consider this theme through the eyes of different parents in our communities. The challenges of parenting can be universal—consider topics like discipline, behavior, stress management—but they can also be unique for different groups of families. This month, we invited a panel of experts to our Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting to help us consider the distinct challenges and needs of parents and children with special needs.

The group included Cheryl Johnson from NAMI, as well as Erin Croyle, Amel Ibrahim and Irene Schmalz from the Center for Family Involvement Partnership for People with Disabilities. They shared both personal and professional experiences from a wide range of parenting perspectives–including having or raising children with autism, hearing loss, refugee status, mental health diagnoses, and many more circumstances that might fall under “special needs”. And yet, there was a common refrain for all instances when it came to best serving these parents:

1. ADVOCATE FOR THESE FAMILIES. And help parents learn how to advocate for themselves. It can be challenging for parents to understand how their family will fit into an existing system, noted Amel. “How will I get social services for my son with autism?,” she asked herself when they first came to the U.S. There was no simple answer. The same goes for school systems, medical systems, and anywhere else a family will engage with established procedures organizations. (Facing language, communication and knowledge barriers can exacerbate this problem.) Often, parents need to know they even have rights or the opportunity to ask questions.“Press the systems you interact with,” encouraged Erin. “Tell parents to push. Help them advocate for their kids and themselves.”

2. CONSIDER THE IMPACT ON PARENTS. Practice empathy—ask a parent to share how their family’s specific needs have affected them, on a personal level.“It’s easy to make assumptions about a parent,” cautioned Irene, “but that’s not always the whole truth.” Parents need someone whom they can talk to openly about raw emotions (anger, jealousy, fear, exhaustion) associated with their situation. It’s critical that they learn how to process negative emotions associated with their children and family.“As a parent of a child with a disability, it can feel like being hit by a bus,” shared Erin. “It’s good to be honest about the emotions that come with it. It’s always hard. Any sense of normalcy is gone…It affects every single part of your life. Marriage. Family. School. It even affects having a coffee.”While all parents may have struggles navigating systems, special needs can make navigation much more complicated. Panelists noted that having other adults to talk to—who can truly relate to their circumstances—can be invaluable. Which brings us to…

3. BUILD CONNECTIONS FOR PARENTS. When trusting relationships are built, it can open up doors for families. While you can provide empathy and some support depending on your role in a family’s life, help them find other sources of information and support. Panelists and AIPC members mentioned the following helpful resources as a great place to start:

“The only label a kid should have is their name,” noted Irene. And yet, we know that is not always the case in the systems we navigate. But it can be helpful to offer a gentle reminder to parents from time to time. A diagnosis—or even just a label—living with some special set of circumstances—can certainly change a family’s life. But parents should always be guided and encouraged in simply enjoying their child.

“Sometimes,” shared Erin, “the best thing a child can have is a parent who is happy and enjoying them.”




[As you share resources, we also encourage you to check out SCAN’s Parent Resource Center for a series of topics related to special needs including: Creating Resilient Families for Children with Special NeedsSibling Relationships for Children with Special Needs; Preventing Child Sexual Abuse of Children with Special Needs; and Choosing Caregivers for Children with Special Needs.]










Tools You Need Now: Trauma Resources for Children

In recent weeks, children and parents across the country have faced hurricanes and wildfires. Families in some cities have seen racially-motivated violence on their streets. Just this week, a school in Washington state was the site of another mass shooting. When a child is affected by events like these, what can we do to help? Knowing how to define trauma is an important first step.  We define trauma as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that may overwhelm a child’s ability to cope, and it’s important to note that there is a wide continuum of experiences that might qualify, from sexual abuse to natural disaster to food insecurity.
By understanding what trauma is, we can begin to understand trauma’s impact as well as how we can respond to trauma experienced by our community’s children. We’ve published a series of new tools and collected a few other excellent resources to support you in this work:
  • Listen to our recent Parenting Today show with iHeartRadio and Voices for Virginia’s Children on Trauma, Toxic Stress and Children HERE.
  • Read and share Fact Sheets (in English and Spanish) on Trauma Informed Care HERE.
  • Explore Tips for Helping Youth Cope After Disasters or Traumatic Events from SAMHSA HERE.
  • Read about Coping with Disasters and Traumatic Events from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE.
For additional perspectives, explore SCAN’s other recent posts related to trauma:

Back to School: How making friends makes a difference

As children head back to school, some of their biggest concerns often involve making friends, “fitting in” and navigating relationships. But when a child has good, healthy friendships, the benefits can include increased self-esteem and appropriate emotional growth.

So how can parents better understand social development and its impact on their children? There’s a fact sheet for that! Our “Making Friends” and “Formando Amistades” fact sheets are a great tool to share as students return to the classroom. They include 4 simple questions to ask kids as they begin to build new friendships this year:

  1. “Who do you know that likes to do the same things you do?”
  2. “What makes someone a good friend? How do they make you feel?”
  3. “What is one kind thing you did for someone today?”
  4. When something negative happens with a friend, ask your child, “What can you do differently next time? How do you think your friend is feeling?”

Working with parents and children on making connections and building good relationships? You might also be interested in our Parent Resource Center fact sheets on:

(Remember, you can download our FREE Parent Resource Center app HERE and access these resources on-the-go!)

It’s Summer: What Are Your Go-To Resources for Parents?

For those of us who work with children and families, summer can bring fun — but also a lot of season-specific challenges. Families are on unusual schedules, parents are juggling the demands of new childcare arrangements and children are spending more time alone / on-screen or online / with new adults / outdoors and in pools. This week, we’ve gathered some of the questions we hear from parents and the resources we share most during the summer:


  1. Is it okay to leave my child home alone? There is no easy answer, so we’ve compiled some good questions for parents and linked to all of the local jurisdictions in Northern Virginia for their “official” supervision guidelines and information.
  2. Can I leave my child in the car if I’m just running a quick errand? We all know this answer – NO! Give parents our 5 Tips “Keep Kids Safe in Cars” fact sheet, which includes helpful reminders and simple steps parents can take when they’re in the car to prevent a tragic mistake. We also recommend the resources from Kids and Cars.
  3. My child is around water and outside a lot this summer — what should I know? Check out the Summer Safety page on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center for helpful reminders on everything from sunscreen and water safety to reading and monitoring your teens’ summer activities. Share the fact sheets for parents to post and refer to all season long.
  4. There are a lot of new adults (like camp counselors and coaches) around my child this summer — what can I do to make sure my child is safe and not at risk for sexual abuse? Parents (as well as everyone working with children!) should educate themselves about how to recognize, react and respond to the threat of child sexual abuse. Through its partnership with Darkness to Light, SCAN works with many local agencies and organizations to train groups of adults in its Stewards of Children curriculum. A good place for parents to start is the Learn about Child Sexual Abuse page on our website, and then explore the Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Take Action pages as well. (If you’re a child welfare professional, be sure to download our Northern Virginia Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Resource List in English and Spanish, too.)

Do you have more summer questions from parents in your community? How can we help?

(And don’t forget to download the FREE Parent Resource Center app from SCAN! It gives parents on-the-go access to every topic on SCAN’s Parent Resource Center from your Apple or Android device.)