Helping Children Cope with Tragedy

When tragic events occur, many parents and caregivers struggle with how much they should share with their children. While it’s impossible to shield our kids from the horrific reports of the past few days, we also want to avoid sharing unnecessary information that may further alarm or upset them.  Parents as Teachers has specific advice for parents who are wondering how to address these issues with their children.

Media Exposure

Turn off the television and radio when young children are around. Continually witnessing unrest can be very unsettling for them. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children as young as four-years-old will likely hear about major crisis events. The AAP says it’s best they hear about it from a parent or caregiver, as opposed to another child or in the media. In general, it’s best to share basic and concrete information with young children and avoid graphic or unnecessary details about tragic circumstances. Children aren’t little adults. Answer questions in an age-appropriate way and with only a few details. They should be in an environment that fits their developmental needs.

Keep a Routine and Remain Calm

Children thrive on routine. Try to keep regular mealtimes and bedtime. Spend quiet time reading each night to create calm. What children need to hear most is that the adults around them will take care of them and protect them. It is appropriate for children to see adults showing emotion, but it frightens them when their parents lose control. If you feel emotional, try to remove yourself briefly until you can calm down.

Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself and address your own needs. This allows you to take care of your child.  Do not be afraid to seek help for yourself or your child if reactions or coping become difficult to manage. These are unusual circumstances. It is normal not to have all the answers.

These are just a few suggestions of how to help children cope with tragedy. Each parent or caregiver must decide what approach is best for their family. Again, Parents as Teachers has resources on our website. You can also call the national center at 314-432-4330.

Parents as Teachers Increases Access to Books for Bay Area Youth

By Scott Hippert
President and CEO
Parents as Teachers

Parents as Teachers is playing an integral role in showing the rest of the country how Super Bowl 50 is positively impacting the San Francisco Bay Area, where the championship will be played February 7, 2016 at state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara (

50_FUND_logo_TaglineThat’s because First 5 Monterey County, working in partnership with Parents as Teachers, has been selected to receive a grant from the 50 Fund, the legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, as part of The Re(a)d Zone initiative to give low-income children across the Bay Area access to books, reading programs and early literacy activities. The summer initiative potentially will engage hundreds of children in Monterey County, including many from migrant farm worker families.

To date, the 50 Fund ( has made grants totaling $3.6 million, with the goal of helping to close the opportunity gap for low-income children, youth and young adults in the greater Bay Area, putting Super Bowl 50 well on its way to being the most giving Super Bowl in history.

Focused on strengthening and building the capacity of high-quality, literacy-enhancing programs that increase third grade reading proficiency, The Re(a)d Zone grants have been given to summer book clubs, libraries and community-based efforts to enhance or expand existing reading programs and to provide access to books and digital content and programs that keep kids learning.

Parents as Teachers’ partnership with First 5 Monterey County in providing summer literacy activities for young children and their families is the latest in a growing number of opportunities to expand our reach to more children and families. Other initiatives include a telemedicine partnership with the University of Southern California School of Social Work and a “Pay for Success” collaboration with Salt Lake County, Utah.

But in this sports-crazed country of ours there is nothing that quite matches being involved with the Super Bowl, especially in the game’s 50th iteration, where the action off the field will be just as important – or more – as the plays made on the field.

“We’ve said that Super Bowl 50 is going to set a new standard for giving for the NFL’s marquee game, and now we are seeing that work and effort come to life,” said Keith Bruce, the CEO of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. “Hosting Super Bowl 50 is more than just preparing for The Big Game, it’s also about improving the lives of the people that live and work in the Bay Area.”

To learn more about how the 50 Fund is changing how the Super Bowl can positively impact communities, see this announcement from the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee:

Thanks to the outstanding vision and support of our board and to the dedication and hard work of our team in St. Louis and our partner at First 5 Monterey County, Parents as Teachers is proud to be associated with Super Bowl 50 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Helping Parents & Parent Educators in Times of Trauma

By Scott Hippert
President/CEO, Parents as Teachers National Center

ScottHippert_135x115Just over 30 years ago, Ferguson, Missouri served as fertile ground for the seed that grew into Parents as Teachers. Planted in this peaceful, child-focused community, Parents as Teachers (PAT) has become a model across the U.S. that puts the well-being of children first and foremost, and gives parents the knowledge and tools they need to foster engaged citizens and productive leaders.

Today, the Ferguson community is grappling with the aftermath of a tragedy that has deeply shaken it and sent ripples of unrest throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area and the nation. Clearly, there are serious issues about race that we must confront and find solutions to – across our nation and in the St. Louis area.

But that real work that needs to happen is nearly invisible, blocked out by news footage and pictures of rampant destruction and violence that much of our country now equates with Ferguson. Nearly all of the destruction has come at the hands of outsiders who have used the situation to steal from local businesses and tear apart a community in which they have no stake.

We know situations like this create toxic stress that affects people, especially young children, for life. Our work amid all the unrest is to continue to make sure parents and their children have the best support possible. So our parent educators, the trained early learning professionals who deliver parenting education and support to families through personal visits, are continuing to work with the families in the Ferguson and surrounding communities to keep them strong and centered.

Here are some tips from the PAT curriculum which you can use in your own families to deal with stress and trauma:

  • Children thrive on routine. Try to keep regular mealtimes and bedtime. Spend quiet time reading each night to create calm.
  • Turn off the TV and radio when children are around. Continually witnessing unrest can be very unsettling for children.
  • What they need to hear most is that the adults around them will take care of them and protect them.
  • Children aren’t little adults. Answer questions in an age-appropriate way and with only a few details. They should be in an environment that fits their developmental needs.

The PAT website has more information for parents and caregivers, along with helpful websites and other resources – click here to access it.

It’s time for everyone on all sides of this tragedy to put our families and children first.

The Helping Relationship: A Foundation for Families’ School Readiness

by Amy De La Hunt

As back-to-school season ramps up, parents are busy shopping for supplies, coordinating physicals, figuring out school day schedules – and, squeezed in among all these responsibilities, maybe doing a few more fun summer activities. Meanwhile, teachers are organizing their classrooms, preparing lesson plans, attending orientations and learning who they’ll have as students.

Woman_Girl_Painting_smThese two busy worlds intersect soon (if they haven’t already) as the teacher reaches out to welcome new students and their families. It’s easy to overlook the importance of this little message and parents’ response to it, but research shows that developing positive lines of communication now can set the tone for a successful home-school partnership the rest of the year.

Children’s transition to school is most successful when their parents and teachers are interconnected. In fact, the more information about their child parents share with the school, the more they influence the school’s ability to educate their child.

Parents know many things about their child the teacher doesn’t:

  • Their history, including life-shaping events and special personal relationships.
  • Their temperament, habits, likes and dislikes.
  • The family’s culture and practices, including caregiving routines, communication styles, beliefs about learning, and expectations for the future.
  • The extended family structure.

Teachers, for their part, hold the crystal ball that gives parents a peek into:

  • What the child will be learning during the coming year.
  • What day-to-day classroom life will look like.
  • Which other specialists and educators will impact the child’s learning.
  • How the school’s routines will play out over the weeks and months ahead.

If all of this sounds familiar to parent educators, there’s good reason. The helping relationship parent educators and families develop is based on a mutual sharing of information, observations and goals related to the child – which mirrors the relationship parents will build with their child’s classroom teacher. Within PAT, the child’s path toward school readiness within PAT parallels the family’s growth and development that better prepares them to be effective partners with their child’s school and teachers.

Parents and classroom teachers need not do a huge brain dump right now, when everything feels so frenetic. There’ll be plenty of time to discover each other’s communication preferences, ask questions and set goals once the backpacks are purchased and the bulletin boards are filled. Instead, both sides can star with expressing their sincere desire to partner in the learning process. Thanks to the groundwork laid by parent educators, PAT families can be confident they have the tools needed for this new relationship.

Amy De La Hunt is Curriculum Development Manager for Parents as Teachers.
Some of the material in this post first appeared in the PAT curriculum
We’re Going to School! A Parent Involvement Approach to School Transitions, available from the estore.

Collective Impact and Home Visitation in Georgia

This is a Guest Blog by Andrea Irvin, Director – Education/Community Engagement, United Way of Greater Atlanta

Those who work with children and families know that no single organization or entity can create long-lasting social change alone. The idea of collective impact’ revolves around this premise. It addresses the idea that the many small light bulbs equal big onepurposeful, long-term, cross-sector of committed non-profit, community, business and government organizations working together on a clearly defined goal are far more likely  to create lasting solutions to social problems than they could individually.

Key partners involved in funding Parents as Teachers and other home visitation programs around the Greater Atlanta area recognized that collective impact was needed to align efforts for Home Visitation throughout the state of Georgia.

United Way of Greater Atlanta established system-level partnerships with the Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF), Georgia’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), and Voices for Georgia’s Children to align priorities, technical assistance and funding streams to better serve our most vulnerable families and children.

With an aim to shift from isolated impact to collective impact with continuous communication, a shared vision and engagement in mutually reinforcing activities to promote home visitation, early education and family support, these partners are setting the stage for funding allocations that will support long-term sustainability of home visiting in Georgia.

Examples include:

  • United Way of Greater Atlanta played a central role in advocating for dollars through the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) to be used for increasing access and expanding the quality of home visitation programs.
  • Georgia’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) was authorized by AHCA and provides an opportunity for collaboration and partnership at the federal, state, and community level to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs in Georgia such as Parent as Teachers, SafeCare, and Nurse Family Partnership.
  • The Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) has adopted home visitation as a key strategy in its statewide mission to fund and support community-based projects that develop integrated and comprehensive approaches to improve child and family well-being.
  • Voices for Georgia’s Children, a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization, has established the following priorities to educate the public and elected officials about effective polices in the following areas which are having a positive impact on replicating and sustaining early education and home visitation programs:
    > Expanding and improving Georgia’s Pre-K program and childcare services
    > Effective home visiting initiatives
    > Adequate funding for children’s services, including newborn and young child health and developmental screenings
    > Policies that help children stay in schools and complete their Pre-K through 12 education
  • Great Start Georgia is a result of the statewide leadership team focusing on supporting children and families through a comprehensive approach. Still in its early stages, it’s the state of Georgia’s attempt to streamline services provided for families with children age birth to 5.

Note by the editor: United Way of Greater Atlanta is sponsoring the 2013 Parents as Teachers Conference, a professional development and growth opportunity for home visiting professionals working with families of young children. The conference is being hosted in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 2-4, 2013 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

A Cool Breeze for Washington

It is no doubt going to be a hot summer in Washington, and the political hot air isn’t much help.  A good way for our elected leaders to “chill out” might be to reach agreement on an issue that in the past has had strong bipartisan support.  Support for early learning, particularly the extension and expansion of a current initiative that has proven to have an incredible positive return on investment, might be what is needed to put a welcome chill in the air.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for significant investments in preschool, and expansion of the highly successful federal home visiting initiative, called the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) initiative.  As the President noted, analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis demonstrates a return on investment of up to $18 for every $1 we dedicate to these early learning strategies. 

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is one of the selected evidence based home visiting models that states have adopted to inform and engage parents as the first and most significant teachers of their young children.  In the last year alone, our Parent Educators have made nearly 1.7 million home visits with families across the nation.  A 2007 study by Edward Zigler and Judy Pfannenstiel confirms that high-quality preschool, along with parent education services such as PAT, can virtually eliminate the learning gaps between children from low-income and middle-class families. So we have a strategy that both works, and saves more than it costs. 

PAT was at first adopted by former Missouri Governor Kit Bond, a Republican.  It has since been supported by governors and legislatures of both parties, in states across the nation.  Ask any family who has benefited from PAT, and they will tell you how significant their parent educator was to them in their early years of parenting.  In addition, many of our elected leaders have had personal experience with PAT as young parents. 

The point is that early learning has bipartisan support because it works.  PAT and similar home visiting models are proven to reduce child abuse and malnutrition, identify health and learning problems, and improve the overall physical and mental health of children and mothers. When we deal with these matters early in life, it makes for a healthier nation with more effective parents and higher-achieving children.  It also costs a whole lot less to identify and treat developmental problems early, than to fix them later in life.  

Federal funding for home visiting has benefited hundreds of thousands of families in every state in the nation.  Members of Congress have an opportunity—this year—to extend and expand funding for MIECHV programs that have proven they can make a difference in the lives of children and families. 

Yes, there’s a lot of hot air rising over Washington, and there are clear differences over the budget.  But members of both parties should agree that proven interventions such as home visiting deserve continued and expanded funding.  It is not just the right thing, it is the smart thing to do.

Scott Hippert is President and CEO of Parents as Teachers National Center.


2012 in review

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals!

In 2012, there were 58 new posts, growing the total archive of our blog to 308 posts. The busiest day of the year was September 4: the post popular post that day was “Look who’s talking about Parents as Teachers.”

These posts got the most views in 2012:

The top referring sites in 2012 were: