4 Questions to Help Parents Understand (and Respond) to Children’s Behavior

“When a child misbehaves, remember—kids are having a problem, they’re not being a 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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 


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!)

SCAN Staff Book Picks: Winter 2017

Ready to read in 2017? SCAN staff members are!

We’ve come up with a fresh list of books to recommend for child welfare professionals, advocates and parents you know. What are you reading this winter? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!


  • “The Resilient Parent” by Mantu Joshi is a collection of essays meant to provide emotional, spiritual and practical guidance for parents of differently-abled children. Using his own experience as a parent of children with special needs, Joshi offers short chapters that can be read in under 5 minutes, each ending with reflectiosn for parents to think about in their own life and family.
  • “Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure” by Nefertiti Bruce and Karen B. Cairone, was published in 2011 but is worth a permanent spot on your bookshelf! It provides 50 activities to help kids age 3-8 build resiliency, and is useful for professionals and parents alike.
  • “A Volcano in My Tummy” by Eliane Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney, offers excellent, easy-to-understand skills for adults when helping children (age 6-13) deal with anger management. From teaching them how to communicate their anger to addressing violent behaviors, it can help build awareness, creativity and hands-on tools for kids to manage anger issues.
  • “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel explores the experience of Jazz Jennings, a real-life transgender child. We talk a lot at SCAN about books that build resiliency for children, and what a great tool this book can be for kids and adults a like, exploring a challenging subject in a way that builds understanding and connection.

New Workshops with SCAN!

It’s a new school year and we’re excited to launch a new menu of workshops for the community! We encourage ALL groups of people to consider a workshop — from nonprofits, schools and government agencies to parenting groups, employers and faith groups. Our workshops are based on SCAN’s existing child abuse prevention and advocacy programs as well as the expertise of SCAN staff. We can often customize workshops for the specific needs of a group, and most topics are available in English and Spanish, too!


So, how does your group want to be empowered this year?


  • Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children2 hours, $25 per person (minimum 10, maximum 25 people)
  • Talking with Children about Safety from Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Healthy Touch for Children & Youth, 45 minutes, $150
  • Bystanders Protecting Children from Boundary Violations & Sexual Abuse, 45 minutes, $150
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, 1 hour, $200
  • Child Sexual Abuse for Parents, 1 hour, $150

We want to support PARENT EDUCATION:

  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today, 1 hour, $200
  • How to Connect with Your Child and Build a Resilient Family (Managing Family Stress), 1 hour, $200
  • Wait, My Kid Has a Date?, 1 hour, $200
  • Positive Discipline: Raising Children with Self Control, 1 hour, $200
  • Tech Savvy Parenting/Internet Seguro, 1 hour, $200
  • Families Reunite (Immigrant Family Reunification, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500
  • Made in America: Padres Hispanos Criando Hijos Americanos (Immigrant parents raising children in the US, 4 weeks, 1.5 hours per night), $1500

We want to engage our community in prevention through PUBLIC EDUCATION:

We want to GET TO KNOW SCAN:

  • All About SCAN, @ SCAN
  • How YOU Can Help Prevent Child Abuse in Your Community
  • SCAN Volunteer Orientation, monthly – click link for more information and upcoming dates

We want to host a BROWN BAG SERIES for our employees:

  • Strategies for the Working Parent: Customize a parenting topic to compliment your human resource efforts in your office and offer support to your employees.

Don’t see a topic here you would like? SCAN can customize and deliver a 1-hour workshop for $400. In most cases we can add concurrent children’s programming for an additional fee. (Download the full SCAN Workshop Menu here.)

How can we support your organization in its work this year to build stronger families, support parents and protect children? Contact us and let’s get something on the calendar!


5 Tips for Parents to Help with Holiday Stress

christmas-cookies-553457Here they are — our 5 favorite tips from around the web to help parents manage stress this holiday season:

  1. Pay close attention once per day.

“Parents find themselves scattered over the holidays. Sometimes we forget that children need our time more than ever when things become hectic. We can give the gift of attention every day, without paying a penny to a toy store. Parents will find joy in the way a child’s eyes light-up during the 15 to 30 minutes set aside to read together or play a simple board game. Those few minutes lay the foundation of connection to children, and show love more than any Lego set or teddy bear.”

> Read Dr. Kevin Arnold’s article “Tips for Holidays & Parenting: Letting Joy Win Over Stress” in Psychology Today.

  1. Remember your stress can become your children’s stress.

“It’s a stressful time for many people. And even though we love our kids and they are lots of fun, they often magnify that stress. Even worse, our stress can trickle down to them, turning a happy holiday into a Noel nightmare.”

> Get some great tips (and laughs!) from Washington Post OnParenting reporter Amy Joyce’s article “Tips to Get Your Kids Through the Holidays Graciously and Gratefully.”

  1. Take the focus off of gifts.

“We’ve always done three gifts per person for Christmas, and no more. Our kids know to expect this, which means they know there’s a finite amount to the spoils they can expect. Many other families do a “want, need, wear, read” tradition, and I dig that, too. Whatever the route you take, I find that setting—and then communicating about—a firm limit on quantity helps keep expectations realistic.”

> Check out The Art of Simple’s “How we help curb the ‘I want that!’s during the holidays” post.

  1. Don’t try to please everyone.

“Someone — a parent, grandparent or in-law –will be unhappy. But, as a rule, the children will not be — and it’s the little things that they will remember, like time spent playing a board game or teaching you to operate their toys.”

> Read this helpful Parenting Tips for the Holidays article on WebMD.

  1. Find support and take care of yourself.

“Negative memories of past seasons sometimes resurface during the holidays, often adding more stress…Surround yourself and your children with safe, supportive people. Being with others can provide strength and nurturing during a difficult time.”

> Get the Holiday Stress & Solutions for Parents Fact Sheet (in English and Spanish) from SCAN’s Parent Resource Center.

We hope you’ll share these tips and resources with parents in your community. We’d love to hear your favorite tips, too!

And don’t forget to check out the fantastic #25days25ways campaign from Prevention Child Abuse Virginia this month. They’re sharing daily reminders to help us stay focused on children and support prevention during the holiday season.



Emergency Preparedness for Families

National Preparedness Month 2009We recently taped a Parenting Today radio show on how families can be prepared for emergencies. (Stay tuned for the show to appear on iHeart Media stations soon!) From severe weather to active shooter situations, parents can take steps now that can make a difference if/when those traumatic moments arrive. Officially known as “Emergency Preparedness,” it means planning ahead, having supplies on hand, and being ready when an emergency occurs. The goal is to stay safe and connected during a disaster, as well as be better able to recover after an emergency.

If you work with families — or have a family of your own — we encourage you to go through this basic list, check out the resources mentioned below and proactively plan for the worst to keep your children as safe and calm as possible in the event of an unexpected emergency:

  1. Create a family emergency plan. Know safe places to go as well as how you plan to communicate with one another, and develop a list of important information for every member to carry at all times (cell phone numbers, doctor numbers, etc.) Talk about the plan with your children every year, and adjust as they get older. If you have pets, be sure to consider their wellbeing as well. Ready.gov offers great Family Emergency Plan templates here.
  2. Check with your childcare center, school and workplace about the emergency plans they have in place. Request a copy and adjust your family plan to reflect their procedures and guidelines.
  3. Practice emergency drills. It can be as simple as walking down the block to a neighbor’s home that’s been designated as a safe meeting spot, or drawing a map together of your house with exits marked in case of a fire. Actively work with your kids to go through simple steps that will give them the knowledge to stay calm and make the best choices in case of emergency.
  4. Build a “Go Kit” together. This should include basic items to keep your family safe and connected in case of emergency (loss of power, stranded, etc.) Examples of items to include are water, non-perishable food, radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, fuel for vehicle, etc. Be sure to consider special needs for families such as diapers, formula and medications. Volunteer Alexandria, the lead agency in Alexandria for the recruitment and management of unaffiliated volunteers during an emergency, has a great list here. So does FEMA. Keep in mind, every family’s kit could be different according to medical issues, special needs, mobility, etc.
  5. Know how to communicate with one another. Have a radio and extra chargers for devices; download the Ready Virginia Mobile App for alerts and updates. Experts suggest that you text or email instead of calling when possible – this is more likely to work if phone lines are overwhelmed or down. Be sure to program “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) contacts into everyone’s devices so emergency personnel can contact those people for you if you are unable to use your phone.

Of course, the hope is that disaster won’t happen – but if it does, you can work now to make sure your family is as safe and prepared as possible. In addition to the links we’ve mentioned, there are many more great resources for families online at www.ready.gov and at local agencies like Volunteer Alexandria.

New Numbers: A review of (and response to) Virginia’s Annual Child Fatality Report

baby-376531_1920In October 2014, the Virginia Department of Social Services put out their Annual Report on Child Fatalities which reviews child and infant deaths in the previous year. Child fatality review teams set out to research and understand what is causing infant death in Virginia and if any of these deaths were preventable. This year, they continued to find some really interesting research in Virginia’s 109 child fatalities. 48 percent of the cases that they reviewed were sleep-related infant deaths. They also found that 95 percent of those deaths were preventable and were most likely correlated to an unsafe sleep environment. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome played a part in many of the infant deaths and could have been prevented with proper safe sleep techniques.

Listed below are helpful resources to get more information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and how to create safe sleep environments:

Abusive Head Trauma was another common cause of death in the state of Virginia. Abusive Head Trauma, also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome, can lead to many serious injuries, such as blindness and mental retardation as well as death. The most common cause of death that the reviewers found in the Child Fatality Study was from an external cause or injury and that was 50 percent of children. Men were identified as causing the death in 58 percent of these external injury cases. Because the report found that men were more likely to actively cause an infant’s death, one of their recommendations was continuing efforts toward strong fatherhood initiatives and programs.

Listed below are helpful resources and tips about Shaken Baby Syndrome and information about how to cope with a crying child:

The timing could not be better for Operation Safe Babies, a new initiative set forth by SCAN to promote the safety of infants. It is a program that will educate parents and caregivers on the importance of practicing safe sleep for babies, parenting/caregiving tips that can prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome, and other strategies to help keep infants safe. Through a partnership with Cribs for Kids, Operation Safe Babies will provide Graco Pack ‘n Play portable cribs to families in the coming year who otherwise could not afford a safe place for their babies to sleep. SCAN will also work to educate these families and other Northern Virginia parents about safe sleep and how to soothe a crying baby in order to decrease the risk of SIDS and Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Resources: Virginia Department of Social Services. (2014). Child Fatality Review Teams Annual Report.

Parenting. There’s an app for that?

Are you a parent with a smartphone? This post is for you! Over the summer, one of our interns compiled some of the top-ranked parenting apps available on iTunes. We thought we’d share them here on the blog, and also invite you to browse our online Parent Resource Center whenever you’re searching for tips on how to handle specific parenting challenges.

It can be good to have information available at your fingertips, but we also have to put in a plug for good, old-fashioned human interaction. Every parent should have a real, live network of support: other parents, neighbors, mentors and others who can help you whether you’re struggling or celebrating as a parent.

appsSo have fun checking out the apps, but also consider learning more about our educational parent support groups here. Both could be great sources of information and support on your parenting journey!

Total Baby is touted as the most comprehensive baby logging and tracking application available, and was cited by many of the surveyed parents as a must-have. The app tracks feedings, immunizations, nap length, time nursing (and on what side), growth, allergies and milestones.

Cry Translator claims to be able to identify the reason for a child’s cry with 96 percent accuracy and within 10 seconds. Whether it’s boredom, hunger, stress or downright exhaustion, the app also provides tips on handling the child’s needs.

WebMD is free, and provides a wide variety of physical and mental health information. The app also includes a symptom checker and a drug & treatments guide.

iHomeopathy is an “at your fingertips” guide to treating first-aid emergencies, childhood ailments and common illnesses.

Easy Parenting is an app that covers many of the challenges of parenting today, including those “from pregnancy to teenage years to leaving the nest for university or work” with tips for meeting challenges along the way.

The Family Matters app is designed to help engage family members in virtual discussion. Some of the questions and activities are simple, while others go a bit deeper. You can choose from hundreds of location-driven activities as well, which makes it ideal for family vacations and travel.

Surf Balance Safe Browser combines a fun, full-screen mobile browser with unique parental control features that go beyond simple website filtering. You can guide, limit and verify your child’s web usage from your mobile device.

Do you use other apps as a parent? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Keeping Kids Safe in Cars

Today’s guest post is from SCAN’s Summer Intern Iliana Panameño, who recently graduated from Union College and hopes to empower the Latino community through advocacy work and policy analysis. Her work at SCAN this summer focuses on public education and advocacy issues.

blogblock_kidsandcarsOur community has experienced two tragic deaths this month due to children being left alone in a hot car. Let’s help one another, and let’s get involved in tackling this important summer safety issue.

Mikey was the most loved and adored baby on earth.  He was our miracle baby, the last survivor of 14 embryos conceived through in-vitro fertilization.  We loved Mikey like the air we breathed…”

Mikey Warschauer’s story – from KidsandCars.org – is worth reading in full. Ten years ago, Mikey was one of the 38 children (on average) who die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths. Many have wondered, “How can a parent completely forget that their child has been left alone in the car?” The answer is that even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave their baby sleeping in the car. According to Parents Central, most deaths due to heat exhaustion occur when there is a change in a daily routine, and your partner or caregiver who will take care of the child for a few hours, forgets that your child is in the back seat.

It is important to remember that disasters happen quickly. Here are 6 tips on how you can keep your child safe from heat exhaustion this summer:

  1. Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
  2. Do not let your child play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  3. Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are open. The inside temperature of a vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes!
  4. Keep a large teddy bear or other stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s empty. Move the teddy bear in front of the seat when you place your child in the car seat as a visual reminder, or…
  5. Put your purse/briefcase, etc. (something you will need when you get to your final destination) in the backseat next to the baby which will force you to check the backseat when you arrive so that you see the baby is there.
  6. Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
  7. If you’re dropping your child off at childcare, and normally it’s your spouse or partner who drops them off, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure the drop-off went according to plan.

“I cannot bring Mikey back…but at least I pray that the story of his death may help prevent other similar tragedies,” writes Mikey’s father in his story here. For more information on how to protect your child and others from heat exhaustion (as well as other car safety tips) click on the following links:

Reflections on Mother’s Day, My CASA Work and Having a Choice

We invited guest blogger Leana Katz to share her thoughts with us this month after celebrating Mother’s Day with her two young children. Leana is a volunteer with SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA Program, and while raising her own children has also given the precious gift of time and a voice to advocate for five others.

ImageI became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer the same year that I became a mom. In fact, March 2007–the month of my swearing-in ceremony–was also the month I got pregnant with my first child. As I’ve journeyed further into motherhood, I’ve gone from a freshly trained CASA with no experience to having successfully worked four cases through completion in the Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court system. Now on my fifth case, I’ve advocated for children who have been neglected, abandoned and abused.

I got my first case soon after I became pregnant; it involved an infant who was eventually adopted by her foster mother. As my own daughter grew inside me, I was moved by the foster mother’s dedication and love. And, moreover, her trust in a system that ultimately resulted in – but never guaranteed – adoption. When my daughter was born later that year, I was moved thinking back to the patience that foster mother must have had awaiting her daughter’s adoption. I had come to love the baby growing inside me before her birth and I thought about how as a foster mother, she had cared for and loved that baby even before she knew adoption would be a possibility and that she would become her daughter permanently.

As my daughter turned from a baby into a toddler, I was given a case with a child almost the exact same age as my daughter – not yet two-years-old. That child, too, was eventually adopted and once again I marveled at the foster parents’ ability to care for and love a child not knowing how long he would live with them, whether or not he would be returned to his biological parents, or someday be open for adoption.

I gave birth to my second daughter in September 2011 and last summer I began working on my fifth and current case.  Once again, it involves a child just two months younger than my second daughter.

I was drawn to do CASA work because of some experiences in my own childhood, but I continue doing it because I believe each and every child is valuable and precious. Each and every child deserves to grow up in a loving, safe and predictable environment.  My own childhood was often not ideal, and I have worked hard to provide my two daughters (now five and twenty-months) with that positive environment.

Not all children are so fortunate.

I am dedicated to helping these children because no child can choose whom they are born to, or in what kind of environment they grow up. However, as an adult and as a mother, I’m in a special position to understand just how important these things are for a child. I can choose to help these children and the adults that care for them. I can choose to take steps to help ensure that their future is brighter and their lives happier. I am so grateful for that choice, and for an organization like SCAN where I can put my beliefs into action.

– Leana