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!

Supporting—and understanding—the immigrant parent

blogblock_immigrantparentsImagine you’re a parent. Raising a child is one of the hardest jobs you have EVER had. Now imagine you’re suddenly doing it in a new country, where very few people can speak your native language. Where you know little about the resources available to your family. Where few—if any—of your family and friends are there to support you.

This is the life of an immigrant parent.

More than 24 percent of children in the U.S. – about 17 million kids – have at least one foreign-born parent. Parents raising a first generation in the U.S. face a very special and difficult set of challenges. Obvious issues such as language barriers and lack of access to resources often mix with the more personal stresses of isolation, confusion about cultural identity and legal issues.

Last month, SCAN produced a Parenting Today radio show on the topic, with guest Shirley Jones from HACAN (Hispanics Against Child Abuse and Neglect).

“Parents are isolated because of the language—because of everything, really—and so they’re just trying to cope the best way they can,” explained Shirley. “They need a lot of support, a lot of help, to obtain some degree of safety for their family.” [Listen to the FULL RADIO SHOW here.]

At SCAN, we serve hundreds of immigrant families every year through multiple programs. Many of the parents in these families have shared their fears and frustrations with us, and as an organization we want to be a source of support. Over the last few years we’ve developed a number of fact sheets for our Parent Resource Center covering topics such as:

Resources from organizations for immigrant parents are valuable, but we understand very well that the isolation issue—when parents are feeling like they are on the outside of the very community in which they live—requires action on a person-by-person basis.

“They don’t know who to ask and where to go; that exasperates the isolation,” says Shirley. But by listening and being available, she insists each of us can have an impact.

“Slowly and carefully and lovingly, it can be done,” she says. “Invite an immigrant family that plays with your child to go to a movie, and now that family knows where the movie is and they will invite another immigrant family. Those sorts of things—just a little thinking and a little heart—will do it every time.”

This unique parenting experience is the norm for MILLIONS of parents today; the parents raising nearly a quarter of this country’s future citizens. It’s critical that we support immigrant parents as well as take the time to understand them.

Have you put “a little thinking and a little heart” into connecting with the diverse families in your community? Share with us – we want to know!

Words and images from a week in our Parent Education Program

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.

True love. True story.

blogblock_sarahself2When I first began working at SCAN over ten years ago, I did not have children but was passionate about the work we were doing in the community to prevent child abuse and neglect. As years went by – and my family grew to include three young children – not only did I begin to have a more emotional connection to the things we were working on, but I also started to see a pattern in the messages we shared with parents and community members. Whether we were launching a new parenting class or distributing fact sheets at a community fair, we were often helping families learn how to better express their love. Helping a father see the power of saying, “I love you” every day to his son. Empowering a concerned neighbor to show love and support for a struggling parent next door. Encouraging a mother to believe in and love herself enough to practice self-care and not be afraid to ask for help.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t think of a better time to ask you to share a little bit of that love.

As an employee, I’ve always loved my work at SCAN. But as a mother, I will be forever grateful to have heard those messages of love first-hand and I’m quite certain they got me through some of my most challenging days as a new mom. I used to take my eldest son (now 8!) to one of SCAN’s early playgroups, at first just to learn more about the program, but soon found myself attending for the information on child development, for the voices so similar to mine who were facing daily challenges, for a reminder that I didn’t have to do it all alone or be embarrassed to ask for help.

If only every parent could connect with SCAN’s programs and support in some way – what a difference that could make to the thousands of families in our region!

In the next week, we invite you to share love for a parent you know by telling them you admire their hard work or offering to help in some small way. If you’re a parent, make a special effort to express your love to your child. We’ve collected some fantastic, creative ideas over on Pinterest here and invite you to check them out. Also be sure to visit the Attachment & Bonding page over on our Parent Resource Center this month.

Love is certainly in the air. Let’s make sure every family possible gets to take a nice long, deep breath this month.

~ Sarah Self, Public Education Coordinator at SCAN of Northern Virginia

p.s. Have any special ideas for sharing love with a child or parent? I hope you’ll share in the comments section below!

2013: Time to share our favorites!

It’s a new year! As we plan for 2013 here on BuildingBlocks, we thought it was the perfect time to share a little love and highlight some of the other blogs WE follow. Know another great blog we should add to our “favorites” list? Don’t forget to suggest it in the comments section below!

  • The National CASA Blog: Written by National CASA CEO Michael Piraino, this blog provides fantastic news and insight into the national child welfare system, foster care and child advocacy issues. You might recognize some of his posts from Huffington Post, where he has a regular column covering foster care. (Check out his most recent piece here.)
  • Changing the Way We Think About Prevention: A weekly blog from Prevent Child Abuse America, where our favorite posts are often written in response to national events. In the past year this has included everything from the Jerry Sandusky trial to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. A helpful national perspective, often with resources from organizations such as the Child Welfare League of America and the National Movement for America’s Children.
  • Darkness to Light Blog: SCAN partners with Darkness to Light to bring the Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention trainings to communities here in Northern Virginia. Their blog is a fantastic source of commentary on child sexual abuse issues across the nation, as well as success stories from other local  affiliates. (They’ve even posted some of SCAN’s very own D2L-related blog posts in the past year! Check them out here and here.)

What about you? What are your favorite blogs covering children & families, parenting issues and child abuse prevention? Please share in the comments section below!

After the Storm: Helping families move forward

It’s been a whirlwind of a week for millions of families on the East Coast who faced the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Here at SCAN, our offices were closed for two days as we dealt with power outages and school closings. In many places, the recovery will last much, much longer.

So what can we do to help children and families in times like these? Today we’re sharing three quick (and very different) ideas:

1. Get involved in the recovery effort. Contact the Red Cross for information on where to make donations, collect supplies or help with hands-on volunteering. Get your children involved in the effort, too!

2. Talk to your kids about the event. Even if they’re not living with it, children will continue to hear about the storm and its often devestating impact at school and in the news. Some stories are scary, some photos are traumatic. Be sure to explain how your family is prepared for a natural disaster like this. Check out our tips and fact sheet (in English and Spanish) on Helping Children Deal with Trauma via our online Parent Resource Center. Also check out the NASP’s fantastic resource page Helping Children After Natural Disasters.

3. Ask for help if you need it. Whether you’re dealing with a flooded basement or just struggling with kids being home from school, reach out for support! Natural disasters and other disruptions to everyday life can be very stressful for parents. If you need time to re-group, manage extra household chores or just vent about the challenges, try to find other parents and adults who might be able to help. You could swap babysitting hours, schedule a group playdate to get the kids out of the house or just chat to share concerns and ideas.

To those families experiencing loss & hardships in the wake of Sandy, everyone at SCAN is thinking of you and wishing you the best.

Do you have a great resource for parents after a natural disaster or other traumatic event?  Please share!

Tech-savvy parenting: Can you keep up with your kids online?

Growing up, we simply didn’t have the same access to technology and the online world as kids do now.  Some sites (like Facebook) have rules disallowing anyone under 13 to use their site. But many parents allow their children to sign up to keep in touch with family members and close friends. This is usually under the pretense of knowing their child’s password and having access to the account at any time. But what happens after a few years when their sense of independence is stronger?

For some parents, it can mean turning from actively to passively monitoring their child’s online accounts.  Instead of logging on to your child’s Facebook page to check his or her messages and posts, view their page as a friend in their network. If your child doesn’t want to add you to their list of friends, do not be put off, but continue having conversations about internet safety. If you continue to have concerns about your child’s online activity, ask another family member or friend to keep an eye on their profile and let you know if they see something alarming. No matter how old your child might be, it’s critical that you keep talking with them about the Internet. Instead of just telling them the web can be dangerous, talk with them about some risks (strangers, bullying, etc.) and welcome them to ask you questions as they come across different online tools and experiences.  Try starting a conversation by using yourself as an example, like this:

“Someone I don’t know asked to friend me on Facebook, do you think I should add them?”

If your child says no, ask them why. If they respond in a way that suggests they understand the implications of talking to strangers online or sharing private information, tell them you will take their suggestion and you appreciate their input.

If your child says yes, ask them why. Their answer may be innocent – that you know this person but don’t remember them, for example.  You may want to ask a follow-up question about whether you need to be friends with someone online if you don’t even remember who they are.  However your child answers, make sure to keep the conversation going. This means listening to their thoughts without judgement. By keeping them engaged, they will be more interested in what you have to say and feel safe coming to you when they’re unsure or concerned about something they’ve experienced online.

Other tools for staying tech-savvy:

  • Family checklist and conversation starters on SCAN’s Tech-Savvy Parenting page on the Parent Resource Center, as well as a recent radio show with special guest Laurie Nathan from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • Reminders to NOT reveal too much from On a site like Facebook, names are required to sign up, but birth year, address, and phone number are not. Make sure your kids know not to put that information on any online profile, and not to give it to someone unless they already know the person offline (such as friends who want to come over).  As always, if you serve as an example for your kids, they will be more likely to understand and follow your family’s rules for Internet use.
  • Age-appropriate sites on Internet safety from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: (younger children) (tweens) (teens) (parents)

SCANning the Web: Healthy Relationships 101

Whenever we’re developing a new page for our Parent Resource Center (PRC), or chatting about an upcoming segment for our Parenting Today radio show, or considering a topic for discussion at a quarterly Allies in Prevention Coalition meeting, no matter what subject we’re talking about, it often boils down to this: Healthy Relationships.

Case in point: some of the most popular fact sheets downloaded from our online resource center this year are…

I could go on about the dozens of additional fact sheets on our PRC and how they relate to healthy relationships, but instead I’ll say this: it’s a great place to start when you’re struggling or stressed out or overwhelmed by the job of parenting.

Someone recently asked us to check out a brand new blog called Parenting on Purpose. I was touched by the blogger’s everyday examples of how a tender, nurturing relationship can be developed with a child. From the gift of a “magic rock” to help a child fall asleep, to a night of “fine dining in” cooked up by the author’s children, her ideas are not overpowering or complicated. She offers simple ways to strengthen connections with the children in our lives, which can help them build capacity to do the same with everyone they know.

So today we’re celebrating the power of Healthy Relationships in parenting, and thought we’d share some additional blogs that might help you do the same:

  • To build healthy relationships among mothers (and fathers): Momastery
    Recent thought…”It’s a place to stop making motherhood and marriage harder by pretending they’re not hard.”
  • To reach teenagers with info about healthy relationships:
    Recent thought: “By capitalizing on a moment where [the teenage athletes] knew they would be seen, this team may have reached a person who was in need. A sticker may be simple, but its impact can be large.”
  • To ponder peaceful relationships: SweetSky (formerly Mama Om)
    Recent thought…”I am pondering what a long gig this parenting thing is.”

Here’s to building healthy relationships in your life, and helping your kids do the same!

p.s. Know of any other great parenting blogs out there? Go ahead and share them in our comments section!

The Baby Ban: What are we saying to parents?

Almost all of us have gotten on a plane and breathed a sigh of relief when we find we’re not sitting next to the inconsolable baby a few rows back. Yes, most people love cooing at cute infants. But screaming and crying while you’re trying to watch the in-flight movie is no one’s idea of a peaceful flight.

If you’ve been following the news lately, you may know where we’re going with this. Malaysian Airlines’ decision to ban babies from first class flights has caused an uproar among child advocates, parents and frequent fliers.

You can find plenty of articles and blogs about this issue from fuming parents and rejoicing childless fliers, but a blog from Carrie Kirby of the Parenting Squad a few years ago does a wonderful job of analyzing this topic. Here’s her argument:

“But of course, being a parent, I don’t think parents are wholly to blame for these mile-high hostilities. I blame society. Unlike cultures where multiple generations live together, ours keeps childless adults so separate from small children that, until they get seated next to some on a plane, they scarcely know what children are like.”

Kirby also wrote a wonderfully witty parent-passenger airplane contract, which you can find here. One of our favorite articles: “To catch any and all vomit before it enters your personal space, even if this means taking the hit with my own body.”

On the surface, this issue is all about the occasional annoyance of kids on airplanes. But Kirby brings up an interesting point: What does this ban say about our society’s view of children? And what does it say about how willing we are to support the parents in our community? Other airlines are thinking about instituting similar bans. Plus, other public places, like restaurants and movie theaters, have been discussing child-free days. Does this ban reflect something larger about how we view children? What do you think?

p.s. And for all of our parent readers, we know travel can be very stressful with young children – on a plane or otherwise! If you’re looking for tips on parenting challenges – everything from managing tantrums to dealing with stress to handling the holidays – check out SCAN’s Parent Resource Center.

Fathers + Fancy Free Friday!

Start your weekend off right with a hilarious video about fatherhood.


Stressing fatherhood involvement is more important than ever. The number of children living without fathers has more than doubled in the last 50 years, according to research recently released from the Pew Research Center. Studies show that fathers play a major role in every aspect of their child’s development. From emotional well-being to academic achievement, children with active fathers generally fare better as they grow up.

That’s why fatherhood was the theme of our most recent Allies in Prevention Coalition (AIPC) meeting. Family and child welfare advocates from all over Northern Virginia gathered on June 15thto exchange ideas about the challenges facing dads in our area.

CYEP Director Erick King

The highlight of the meeting was a panel discussion with two dads from the Capital Youth Empowerment Program’s Fathers in Touch. Participants in the program meet to discuss issues facing dads, get advice, and gain support and resources. The two dads both said the support from the program was invaluable. As the dads pointed out, to the laughter of everyone in the room, the AIPC meeting was almost entirely comprised of women. So, getting their take on being a dad in today’s society was really enlightening. One of the main issues that face dads, they said, was the stereotype that moms are nurturers and dads are disciplinarians. Based on the number of AIPC members who asked for more information about CYEP, it was clear that the program is an incredibly useful resource in our community.

From governmental campaigns to blogs, there is a national effort to encourage dads to become more active in their child’s lives and make fatherhood a priority in our communities. To learn more about the importance of dads, visit SCAN’s online parent resource center or check out our recent letter to the editor that appeared in local newspapers. 

Our next AIPC meeting is going to be bigger and better than ever. If you want to learn more about prevention initiatives in Virginia, RSVP to the Northern Virginia Prevention Summit, which will take place on September 15 from 12-2:30pm. For more details, contact

Fancy Free Friday:

If you love photography you’ll be all over this week’s Fancy Free Friday giveaway. We’re giving you the chance to win a $10 gift card to Penn Camera. As usual, all you have to do is leave a comment to get a chance to win. But you can DOUBLE your chances of taking away the gift card by subscribing to BuildingBlocks. If you’re stuck on what to say, here are some things we’d love to know: What do you think about fatherhood involvement? How do you think we can foster more active dads in our community? Or you can just say hi! We’d love to hear from you.

-Jenna Temkin