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[NOTE: We have a fun giveaway this week…2 tickets to ShamrockFest! Comment below for a chance to win…]

For lots of parents, starting a meaningful conversation about their child’s day at school is hard enough. The thought of trying to talk about anything remotely difficult (think bullying, sex or any other taboo subject) can be downright scary for parents and kids alike!

But the thing is, we HAVE to have these conversations with our children. Because if WE don’t do it, then someone else will. And that someone could be a misinformed child. Or – worse yet – an adult taking advantage of a misinformed child. So…

  • What can we do to start the dialogue without making our children (or ourselves) too uncomfortable?
  • How do we turn taboo subjects into safe discussion topics?
  • When is it okay to bring this stuff up?

We’ve got some simple answers: DO YOUR BEST. BE HONEST. NOW!

We’ll admit – simple answers do not translate into a simple task. It’s okay to be nervous when it comes to talking about things like drug use, sex, death or other trauma, etc. These topics aren’t easy for most adults to discuss, and a child entering the discussion brings up entirely new concerns including maturity, communication skills, and social & emotional development.

The first steps for parents should be to find resources, talk with other parents and start talking to their kids immediately no matter how old they are. Here are some great online resources that give tips, sample dialogue and encouragement to start talking today:

  1. TALKING TOUGH TOPICS Fact Sheet (from SCAN’s Parent Resource Center)
  2. 10 Steps to Talk With Your Kids from Children Now and The Kaiser Family Foundation
  3. “Talking about tough topics” web page from PBS
  4. Talking to Your Child About Drugs from Nemours (with a great breakdown by ages)
  5. Talking With Kids Booklet from Nickelodeon

Now it’s your turn–how have YOU started meaningful discussions about tough topics in your family? Share your stories, tips and ideas below for a chance to win 2 TICKETS to ShamrockFest on March 24, 2012 from our friends over at National ShamrockFest! Comment all week…we’ll announce a winner in just a few days!

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It’s volunteers like Meaghan Morris who make our ABCs of Parenting Class a special experience for the whole family. While parents are engaged in lessons with class facilitators, their children spend time with Meaghan and other volunteers who teach lessons on correlating topics, engage in meaningful conversations, have fun and provide a supportive, energetic ear to both kids and their moms and dads. (Did we mention kids also get to enjoy yoga and help prepare a healthy meal thanks to partners YoKid…Stretch Your Limits and The Regal Fig Food Co.!?)

We are so grateful for Meaghan and the other volunteers who truly make these classes so successful. They are changing lives and strengthening families every time they volunteer! Don’t forget to check out past SCANStars to meet more of our dedicated volunteers, program participants, and program facilitators who help us build hope for the children and families in our community.

BuildingBlocks: How long have you volunteered with SCAN, and what have you done as a volunteer?

Meaghan Morris: I have been a SCAN volunteer for almost 2 years as a lead teacher of the kids ages 5 and older at the ABCs parenting classes.

BB: Why did you decide to join SCAN as a volunteer?

Meaghan: After getting a job with the government in DC, I realized my life consisted of only work, gym, and social events. I have always volunteered or taught/tutored in some capacity and realized that was missing. I looked up Spanish-speaking volunteer opportunities on volunteernet.org and came across SCAN. After meeting with several of the SCAN employees, I became aware of what a great organization it is, and promptly signed up!

BB: Describe your favorite SCAN memory.

Meaghan: Choosing just one favorite memory is impossible – there are just too many. I’ll pick two: The first is a memory of a parent of one of the kids in my class. The parent approached me after the final celebration of the last class and, having never spoken to me before, told me that the relationship between the parent and the child had matured and improved so much since the beginning of the eight-week course. The parent thanked me for having worked one-on-one with the child on several occasions, attributing much of the child’s success to our classroom activities. It was a very rewarding and happy conversation.

The second memory is of a conversation we were having in our classroom one night, when one child began describing a difficult home situation. Another child, having little to no experience with any disruptions in his/her home life, expressed concern and confusion at the classmate’s story. Before I could jump in to redirect the conversation, all the students in the class began to open up and tell their own home stories, comforting each other in their own way. It was a safe, open space for conversation, all created by the children themselves.

BB: Why have you continued volunteering with SCAN?

Meaghan: I believe in SCAN’s mission and have seen first-hand over and over again the benefits and positive outcomes of the ABCs of Parenting class. It would be worth it to help out even just one parent or one child, and to know that hundreds are reached each year through the program is just incredible.

BB: Has anything about being a SCAN volunteer surprised you?

Meaghan: What has surprised me on numerous occasions is when a parent or child approaches me to let me know that a conversation or action that we shared really changed their perspective on things and helped them move the relationship with their family forward. I have learned that seemingly standoff-ish parents are often just quiet or shy  are often the ones who get the most out of the class. I have been surprised on numerous occasions by parents that seemed uninterested in the class who then approach me and let me know that SCAN has meant so much to them and their families.

BB: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you do now?

Meaghan: I was always interested in the world, and in global events as I got older. I studied international affairs and now work at USAID – U.S. Agency for International Development – whose mission is to support long-term and equitable growth across the globe through programs in economic growth, agriculture, trade, global health, education, humanitarian assistance and conflict prevention. I am currently a strategy analyst in the Program Office for the Asia and Middle East Bureaus.

BB: What was your favorite movie when you were a child?

Meaghan: Anything Disney! (Not much has changed since then…)

BB: If you were given a free flight anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Meaghan: I would go to Ireland and Italy where my families are from.

BB: If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Meaghan: Pasta or Ice Cream!

BB: What is something most people wouldn’t know by looking at you?

Meaghan: I have a humongous family and am very close with each and every one of them. I also LOVE kids!

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SCAN works to build hope for children and families in Northern Virginia. This blog brings child welfare professionals the current trends and valuable resources that will support their work to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in Northern Virginia and beyond.

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