“When a child misbehaves, remember—kids are havinga problem, they’re not beinga problem.”
At this week’s Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting, SCAN hosted 30 local child welfare professionals to hear from parenting expert Rachel Bailey as she shared insight from her work coaching parents in hundreds of local families. Why do children throw tantrums, hit a sibling, refuse to do chores, and so many more things that challenge parents? And how can parents respond in healthy ways? The group discussed these questions and more—leaving the meeting with some excellent tools and ideas to share with the parents in their communities, including:
WHY? “Many behaviors are the result of kids’ missing tools,” shared Rachel. This includes missing tools like impulse control, handling monotony, transitioning effectively, and problem solving. Negative behaviors can also be caused by a child’s “level of yuck,” as Rachel calls it. If a child is tired, hungry, sick, scared, or in any other form of discomfort (afraid or frustrated or overwhelmed) the brain interprets it as a threat. This fight-or-flight response is meant to protect us, but it can make kids (and adults) impulsive, self-centered, and narrowly focused. A prime opportunity for “bad” or unwanted behavior to happen!
WHEN? Bad behaviors often happen when a child’s needs aren’t being met. This includes biological needs like sleep, food, and a safe environment as well as emotional needs. Children long for connection, they want to know they matter, they want to have the tools they need to be successful, they want to have a voice, and they want to know that they are safe. Rachel reminded the group that reasons for behavior are not excuses—in fact, they are crucial to helping parents understand a particular behavior and help their child change their behavior.
HOW? A child’s bad behavior presents in three ways: They might “turn the ‘yuck’ out” on others (being aggressive, disrespectful or defiant); they might turn it in on themselves (feeling anxious, lacking self-esteem or low motivation); or they try to “numb the yuck” with things like electronics, food, etc. Thinking of these three categories of unhealthy behavior is a great way to better understand the specific behavior in question and how parents can best respond.
WHAT NEXT? Parenting is not about making kids feel good all the time—that’s not realistic! Instead, Rachel encourages parents to “make deposits” in their kids as a response to the many withdrawals taken from them each day. Parents can deposit into their children’s “toolboxes,” teaching them skills to do things like clean up their toys, focus on homework, etc. Or they can deposit into their needs—mentioned earlier—by doing things like making sure their children are getting enough sleep (biological) or asking for their opinion on an important decision (emotional).
“Yes, we’ll make withdrawals from our children,” acknowledged Rachel, like navigating a conflict with a sibling or telling them to finish their homework or manage a busy schedule, “but they’ll have this reserve to pull from when bad things happens—this is the core of resilience.”
For SCAN’s new fact sheets on Children’s Behavior, click here. You can also download an image of our Parenting Can Be Tough “diaper bag tags” that remind parents about some of the biological and emotional causes of behavior and help younger children communicate their feelings.
July 10, 2018–The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has awarded a three-year, $150,000 grant to SCAN of Northern Virginia to support parent education and engagement that facilitates youth tobacco use prevention in the city. SCAN of Northern Virginia, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) will work together over the next three years to provide a series of Strengthening Familiestrainings in ACPS schools, Healthy Conversation forums for parents, and a variety of other public education and outreach events.
“We are thrilled that VFHY is continuing to support our work educating families about more effective parenting and the role it plays in reducing risk factors, as well as directly educating students about the dangers of tobacco and drug use,” said Marisol Morales, Parent Education Program Manager at SCAN of Northern Virginia. SCAN received a similar grant from VFHY in 2015 to launch the program. During the first three years of the grant, SCAN reached 205 youth and 152 families with 12 series in both elementary and secondary schools throughout ACPS.
The Family and Community Engagement Center (FACE) at Alexandria City Public Schools will once again provide access to schools and outreach to parents in the district, as well as staff support during trainings. Alexandria DCHS will be responsible for implementing community awareness initiatives that build a school environment against youth tobacco use.
“Working with community partners like ACPS and DCHS, we have seen how our coordinated work can have an even greater impact on families in our community,” said Morales. “This grant is a valuable opportunity to reach students—where they are—as well as parents and other adults in the community who can connect with kids to make a difference.”
About SCAN of Northern Virginia Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect. Our vision is that every child in Northern Virginia will grow up in a safe, stable, nurturing family, with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow. We EDUCATE the community about the scope, nature and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the importance of positive, nurturing parenting; PROVIDE direct parent education; and ADVOCATE for children in the community, the legislature and the courts. Learn more about SCAN at www.scanva.org @scanofnova
About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth is responsible for statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, childhood obesity and substance use. Since the Foundation began its work in 2001, youth smoking in Virginia has been cut more than 75 percent! VFHY directly reaches about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, daycares and other youth centers across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaign delivers prevention messages to more than 450,000 children annually. For more information about the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, please visit https://www.vfhy.org/.
Children of parents who talk to their children regularly about drugs are 42% LESS LIKELY to use drugs than those who won’t; yet, only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.
On October 24, Red Ribbon Week begins. An annual alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention awareness campaign, it’s the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the nation. And this year—with the theme YOLO: Be Drug Free—it’s providing SCAN, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and other partners in Alexandria with an exciting new way to spark conversations in families:
SCAN and ACPS’ Family and Community Engagement (FACE) are providing Strengthening FamiliesParenting Classes, a series that helps build and strengthen the parent-child relationships and support families as they begin conversations around substance abuse prevention.
FACE has distributed original posters designed by ACPS’ very own students in Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Alexandria. (The poster creators are the winners of last years’ Red Ribbon Week poster contest.) Look for the posters in your schools or get a sneak peek of a winning poster here!
Our partners will also offer a series of parent/child forums in the fall and spring for ACPS families. Stay tuned!
So, what does Red Ribbon Week mean for the children and families in YOUR network? We hope you will:
Empower families to discuss this message at home, at the dinner table, at family outings, and with friends and extended family. Explore the resources at healthieralexandria.org and redribbon.org to get started.
If you’re in Alexandria, encourage kids and teens to enter the poster and video contests being sponsored by FACE, SCAN and its partners. Learn more about details and deadlines on FACE Center’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/acpsface/.
Twice a year, SCAN publishes the Parent Connection Resource Guide (PCRG), a catalog of parenting resources available in the Northern Virginia area. SCAN has just published its newest guide covering August through December of 2016.
Our goal in preparing and distributing the PCRG to child welfare professionals is to spread the word about the plethora of excellent programs and events offered in our community so that we can get parents—especially those most at-risk—connected with the resources they need and deserve. Our hope is that you will refer to this guide when you come across a parent or family who would benefit from some type of parenting help—whether it be a class, support group, or one-time seminar.
We organize the PCRG by type of resource: parenting class, parenting support group, playgroups, and other parenting resources; and then each section is further organized by jurisdiction: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William.
The PCRG can be accessed online here, or, for the first time, on SCAN’s FREE Parent Resource Center app via your mobile device! (You can download the app here.)
Included in the guide are a couple of SCAN entries we are especially excited to offer this fall:
The ABCs of Parenting 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.
No. of weeks: 8 weeks
Date: Thursdays, October 11 – December 8
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: First Assembly of God Church, 700 W. Braddock Rd, Alexandria, VA 22302
Contact: Alice Clark at 703-820-9001
Strengthening Families Program (ages 10-14) SCAN of Northern Virginia partners with ACPS’ Family And Community Engagement (FACE) Office and the Alexandria Department of Community & Human Services, Center for Children and Families to offer a facilitator-led parent education class for parents with children in middle school (ages 10 – 14).
No. of weeks: 7 weeks
Contact: Alice Clark at 703-820-9001
Cora Kelly Elementary School (with Casa Chirilagua) Date: Thursdays, September 22 – November 3
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: 3600 Commonwealth Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305
FC Hammond Middle School Date: Tuesdays, October 11 – December 13
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: 4646 Seminary Rd, Alexandria, VA 22304
Language(s): ENGLISH & SPANISH
You can learn more about SCAN’s Parent Education Program on our website here.
We hope you’ll share the PCRG in your community this fall! Know of programs that we should include in the next issue? Please let me know!
– Alice Clark, Public Education Coordinator
We were thrilled to hear about Lainie Morgan’s experiences during her first volunteer experience with SCAN. Enjoy her story — we hope it inspires you to volunteer, too!
As someone who used to teach children and families in Baltimore but now supports educators from a national office and misses being in the classroom, I sought out the opportunity to work directly with my new community through www.volunteermatch.org. SCAN’s mission and activities seemed to align well with what I’d learned supporting family resiliency strengthening for 15 years, so I signed up after attending one of SCAN’s monthly volunteer orientations.
Paired with the class of children five years and older, I assumed that the kids would come begrudgingly, antsy after a day of school, and be completely uninterested in the curriculum. Instead, students asked if they could come more than once a week, ran to the door each evening excited to start, greeted me with a big smile and stories of their week, and for the most part, engaged fully with our class. I was truly taken aback by how much the kids opened up and shared their talents and enthusiasms. From computer coding, patiently helping younger students and balancing with closed eyes to reading eagerly during snack, inventing new ways to explain an idea and really witty humor, these students have a ton to offer and build upon.
One week, our lone second grader gave me a card she’d made to celebrate her graduation from ESOL. I felt so special after she’d thought about me at school and wrote this beautiful note that I decided to write all the kids individual cards for the next class so they could enjoy that same feeling. During the volunteer debriefing that same evening, a parent educator asked if I’d share my observation about how well one of the kids was doing with her parent the following week. It can be hard for parents to recognize all the gifts children have when they spend a lot of time with them while managing the frustrations and annoyances of everyday life, so I was happy to reflect back what I was experiencing with the kids.
The next week each student got a letter describing what I’d noticed them doing especially well and how their presence in class specifically contributed to what we were all getting out of it. I also made a copy for each family, so that parents and caregivers could see how their kids were thriving. Parents and students alike were more excited than I expected; families talked about how grateful they were to hear such a glowing report and kids were surprised they’d achieved so much. One student gave me a big hug, another recited back to me one of the talents I’d mentioned in a later class, and a third made his own thank you card for me.
Strong self-esteem and consistent connections with a supportive adult greatly impact a child’s development. I feel extremely privileged to get to contribute even a tiny bit to that by working with the children touched by SCAN’s Parent Education Program. I would strongly encourage others to get involved as well; matching your talents with SCAN’s various needs ultimately puts you in a place to serve the needs of children and parents right here in our community.
– Lainie Morgan, SCAN Volunteer
p.s. SCAN’s next Volunteer Orientations this summer will be held on July 14 and August 6. Register here.
SCAN 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
We love sharing SCANSnapshot posts here on the blog. Giving you a glimpse of our programs – the parents, children and volunteers who make it all happen – is a great way for us to show you the things we could never fully explain with words alone, including…
The quiet interest and uncertainty of parents as facilitators begin to share knowledge the first night of Parenting Class…
The giggles and joy in the Children’s Program as the kids jump into their first yoga class…
The sense of security when parents sit with others who will not judge, but understand their struggles…
The excitement that comes with opportunities to reach new communities of families, like the Spanish-speaking parents at two local schools who will be a part of our brand new Parent Cafe series launching next month.
Interest. Joy. Security. Excitement. Want to learn more about our Parent Education Program and its impact on local families? Click here.
In our blog post last week we promised to let you know how we’d manage without our amazing volunteer Beth Donnelly (owner of The Regal Fig Food Co. and weekly creator of healthy meals for our Parenting Class families) while she’s out of the country for a couple of weeks. Well, we think this picture is worth a thousand words. Or perhaps worth 24 volunteers:
The moral of this 2-week story? EVERY person can make an impact. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gourmet chef or a bank employee. A high school student or a retiree. A bilingual child advocate or a yoga instructor. We’ve seen every volunteer (all 200+ over the last year alone) make a real difference for the children, parents and families touched by our programs. They’re all helping us prevent child abuse and neglect in our community.
MEET BETH DONNELLY.
(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.)