It’s the last day of Child Abuse Prevention Month, but the resources we unveiled in April are tools you can use all year long with the children and families you serve. Have you explored our Parenting Can Be Tough campaign page, where you can download most materials for free? Here are some of our favorite new tools and how you can use them:
April 6, 2018 — SCAN celebrated the winners of its 2018 Ally in Prevention Awards at a luncheon today with help from NBC4’s Leon Harris, a SCAN Honorary Board Member, and Keynote Speaker Carine McCandless, New York Times bestselling author of the book, The Wild Truth.
To kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month, SCAN is launching the second year of its 4-year Parenting Can Be Tough public education campaign in Northern Virginia. Year 1 focused on resources for parents of infants; Year 2 focuses on parents of toddlers. But many resources — including things like parent support cards and various fact sheets — are tools that can help all parents. (Year 3 and 4 will focus on school-aged children and teenagers.)
We encourage all community members to explore the newest resources, including:
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.”
Earlier this month, we launched our new public education campaign: Parenting Can Be Tough. The campaign is based on the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study done in the 1990s by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC which involved over 17,000 adults. ACEs are traumatic events that children experience such as abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence, and they are “the most important determinant of the health and well-being of our nation”.
As service providers and healthcare providers, we can make a big difference by sharing this message with parents.
Healthcare providers and others who work with families can help parents and caregivers see the “whole child”, including their social/emotional, relationship needs and the effects of trauma on child development. Parents need to learn about ACEs and trauma so that they can keep their children safe and help children heal from negative and traumatic experiences.
This new campaign is based on key messaging SCAN has found effective in our Operation Safe Babies program, which serves expecting and new parents in need. The conversation about ACEs should be happening as early as possible—particularly with parents of infants. Providing materials that focus on safe sleep and abusive head trauma are strong ways to help equip healthcare providers to initiate conversations with parents around positive parenting practices.
New materials will be added to the campaign during each of the next four years to align with key themes in child development covering infants, toddlers, school-aged children and tween/teen years. Our messaging—as well as materials—will evolve over those four years. There are materials that will be free for our Allies in Prevention members to use with their clients and communities to begin this discussion with families, but there will also be materials available at a minimal cost to serve the needs of healthcare providers and their patients.
At the end of four years, our goals are to:
Normalize parenting struggles
Provide continued support to parents in multiple forms
Educate our communities about ACEs and trauma
Disseminate tools that equip providers in supporting the parents they work with to create resilient children and families
We hope you will explore the Year 1 resources here, and spread the word about this exciting new campaign in your communities!