From the President...
As we head into this long, dark winter, we want to share a bit of optimism in the form of our latest videos in the Managing the Moments series, as well as a few things we’ve been doing in the last month. We’ve met with faith leaders and law enforcement, gathered PTA/PTO/PTSA leaders with our school board member, and learned about the impressive services of the FCPS Parent Resource Center. See below for all the details!

Managing the Moments is a series of short videos for the community featuring the psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers of the SCC’s Mental Health Committee. The segments touch on a wide variety of topics designed to help parents and children in dealing with a range of issues, including managing the holidays during Covid.

Please note we are still in need of board volunteers to manage Sixth Grade Ethics Days and to represent elementary and middle schools students and parents. Please contact us if you are interested!

As always, let us know how the SCC can help in your community, school, and home. As we put to rest 2020, we at the SCC wish you and your family happy holidays, a restful stay-cation, and best wishes for the coming year. It can only go up, can’t it?

Elizabeth Hale, President
SCC in the Community
Too much togetherness cramping your communication style? Too much teenage anxiety taking over the household? Too much frustration with distance or hybrid learning with your kids? When it gets to be “too much,” take a few moments to check out a few new video offerings from the Safe Community Coalition’s Managing the Moments series. 

These short videos are produced by the psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers of the SCC’s Mental Health Committee and supported by generous funding from the New Dominion Women’s Club. Topics selected reflect what they are seeing both in their private practices and on the homefront. 

The new videos include:

  • Coping With the Holidays – how to make the most of an unprecedented holiday season
  • Creating Coping Capacity – body awareness and mindfulness techniques to feel more calm and relaxed
  • Connecting Through Play – strategies for minimizing frustration of younger children
  • Anxiety in School – an honest look at teenage anxiety straight from a teen being interviewed by his mother
  • Your Daily Prescription to Cope with Covid – focusing on ways to nurture yourself 

These new videos join the original six videos: Deescalating Conflict, Effective Communication, How to Talk to Your Parents, Brain Breaks During Distance Learning, Self-Care and Calming Techniques, and How Are You?

All videos and accompanying tip sheets are free and available on the SCC website, mcleanscc.org. Make sure to bookmark the page and watch any time!
Setting the Tone: Habits for a Smooth Virtual Learning Experience

In October we held our annual speaker event virtually. Noted author and speaker Ana Homayoun joined us to talk about setting students up socially, emotionally and academically in the midst of pandemic pivoting and change. She discussed and answered questions about daily and weekly habits that can set the tone for a positive experience. 

Key Concepts:
  • Focus on what we can control: Your physical space, your attitude, your health.
  • Build our emotional tool kits: What you need to stay focused and positive. 
  • Remember stability points that keep us grounded: Nature walks, texting with friends, etc. 
  • Acknowledge losses in our lives and don’t gloss over them: It’s OK to mourn the loss of sports, clubs, social outings, etc. 

What Ana asks her students:
  • What’s something you have time for now that you didn't’ when you were busy with lots of activities? 
  • How can you be of service to your family and your community?
  • What do you need for your mental health?

Kids need these things this year:
  • Autonomy: some sense of control (where they set up studying, how they are going to structure their exercise, etc.)
  • Competence: they need a sense that they are capable of making decisions and of trying new things.
  • Belonging: they need to feel they are part of a group.
  • Connection: they need to feel connected to that group.

How to keep students engaged? We as parents need to help them reframe the problem. Instead of dictating how you would do something or get something done, ask them open ended questions and let them answer without interruption. Offer a sense of grace instead of frustration. Think of this year as a blank slate and let go of expectations of what the year is “supposed” to be like. Be flexible with planning and have a plan A, B, and C. 

Setting up space to learn is key. Kids need some sense of control over this. Getting them outside their bedrooms might be key. Reassess if what you are doing now isn’t working. Collaborate with them to create a learning space. Help them identify outside supporters like friends to help them study. And outsource if you need to by reaching out to older kids in your neighborhood or even grandparents and family members. Help them identify things they want to master or learn this year instead of just “getting through it.”

How to manage the easily distracted student? Get up early enough to get at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise before school begins. Encourage them to get up every 30 minutes to move around (maybe use a kitchen timer or phone timer). Keep fluids like fresh water handy. Use a paper planner instead of just online planners. Create checklists of projects and encourage the physical checking off of completed items and work that is turned in. Create binders for each subject or use one big binder with dividers. Graduating seniors should keep one binder for each college to which they are applying. Teach kids how to use electronic folders to organize school work and emails.

Admit you don’t know all the answers and keep exploring with your student! 
Dranesville Parent Leaders Connect

Several times over the last couple months Dranesville School Board Member Elaine Tholen and SCC members have gathered PTA/PTO/PTSA leaders and SCC school liaisons to meet virtually. The goal was to connect and have parent leaders share how they are managing during the pandemic, especially with ideas for virtual activities and supporting school staff and families, as well as to see how Elaine and the SCC can support parent volunteer leaders. In addition to sharing how the SCC can help parent groups (Managing the Moments videos, providing speakers, etc.), we have had guest speakers from FCPS share their expertise. For the first set of meetings October, we separated elementary parent leaders from middle and high school, and were joined by Douglas Tyson, Region 1 Assistant Superintendent, who shared FCPSs progress on allowing in-person parent group and booster activities on school grounds.

During the second set of sessions in December, divided by morning and evening availability, rather than school level, we were joined by Mary Beth Harrison-Cunningham of the FCPS Parent Resource Center (PRC). The PRC provides information and resources for families, educators, and community members to support the success of all students, including those with learning challenges, special needs and disabilities. See below for for some of the amazing resources available through the PRC.

Parent leaders have shared the wide variety of strategies they have used to engage and support students, families, and school staff in the Dranesville area (Herndon, Langley, and McLean High School pyramids). To be included in future sessions, please contact us.
Faith Connections

The Safe Community Coalition held its annual fall Faith Connections meeting in November with members of the faith community in McLean. Dranesville Supervisor John Foust of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, Officer Chris Lincoln from the McLean Police Precinct, and local psychologist and SCC Mental Health Committee member Dr. Melissa Sporn also spoke at the meeting. Several local faith leaders attended and heard news from Supervisor Foust about downtown McLean revitalization efforts and the latest Covid news. Officer Lincoln reported on crime in McLean at this time and Dr. Sporn discussed ways to manage Covid stress by offering suggestions on habits to adopt – see Dr. Sporn’s Managing the Moments videos (Episode 11, and others) for tips!

The Faith Connections group will meet again in the spring to continue discussing ways to support families and students. If youd like to be included in future sessions, please contact us.
Take a Break

With the days getting shorter and cooler and our need for fresh ideas of building breaks into the day, we’ve gathered this list of 50+ Family Activities to Manage the Moments This Winter. What would add? What would your kids add? Let us know and we’ll keep the list updated.
Upcoming Events
Opportunity for Home Viewing of Angst and Other IndieFlix Documentaries.

From now through the end of the winter holidays, you will be able to watch Angst with your family at a time and place that is convenient for you, via a 48 hour on-demand link. This opportunity is exclusive to those who watched Angst with us in 2020, will expire on January 4th, and is available only to the first 100 respondents.
 
The price is $49, and it comes with an at-home discussion guide, an Angst Q&A Video, a Covid Tips Video and links to online tools and resources. It also includes an entire year’s subscription to our Indieflix streaming service, giving you instant access to more than 4,000 independent films, series and shorts from around the world. Youll be able to access 18 episodes of the Angst: It Gets Better series, dip into Hitchcock and other classics, gripping present-day dramas, quirky shorts and kid-friendly features and animated short films.
 
Sign-up here to receive your custom video-on-demand link to Angst, as well as the Indieflix subscription. The Angst link will be live for 48 hours after purchase; the Indieflix subscription will last for the whole year.

Please note that not all documentaries are appropriate for children.
Pandemic Resources
As a new feature of our newsletter, we are sharing local resources to address the myriad needs surrounding the Covid pandemic.
Parent Resource Center

The FCPS Parent Resource Center (PRC) provides a number of resources year-round for parents, caregivers, school staff, and others around a variety of topics, including academic support, mental health and wellness, parenting, distance learning, and special education. These go well beyond the pandemic, but are especially helpful in this time. It offers the following:

  • A library of hardcopy books to check out or have delivered to your school, including books for children on these issues
  • Online resources from FCPS and the community on a wide variety of topics to help families and educators support student success
  • Free and confidential consultations, which are helpful for parents who need to identify whom in their school or FCPS to contact for assistance
  • Free live webinars, most are recorded and posted on the PRC YouTube channel 
  • A News You Choose newsletter just for the Parent Resource Center
  • A Tutor List with names of current FCPS teachers who want to tutor after their contracted school day

Contact the PRC (703-204-3941) for the tutor list and any other questions.
Reading List
Strategies for Preventing Substance Abuse During the Pandemic

Michelle McDonald, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist with FamilyFirst Psychological Services

The current pandemic has presented a host of social, emotional, and economic difficulties. With a rise in psychological stressors and perceived threat attached to COVID-19, substance use rates have risen. Nielsen statistics regarding alcohol sales reported a 54% increase in the United States for the week ending March 21, 2020 compared with the year prior. Read more.
From Our Fall Speaker Ana Homayoun...

I've been thinking a good deal about the before/after of 2020the school closures, the changes in day-to-day living and all the rest. And, as we head into a two week holiday break that may or may not look different for your family, I wanted to share some ideas on how to support children as they reflect and process 2020.

Here are a few reflective questions and activitiesdepending on your family's personality, they can be put on a sheet of paper on the fridge, asked over dinner or a walk, or discussed while cooking, baking, or playing some sort of game:

Questions:
  • What is one (or more) thing you learned about yourself this year?
  • What is one (or more) thing you learned about [another family member]?
  • What are 1-3 things you look forward to over holiday break?
  • Is there a recipe you'd like to try in these next few weeks?
  • Three words you'd use to describe 2020. [This can turn out heartwarming, sad, serious or somewhere in betweenyou can ask why]

Activities:
  • Write a handwritten letter of gratitude for someone who has been supportive this year.
  • Send an activity – a paint set, a gingerbread house, a craft – to a friend or family member and set up a time to do together over FaceTime.
  • Learn about 3 new local organizations doing great things for those in need during these pandemic times. Spread the word.
  • Choose 1-3 friends to check in with per day or week (whatever cadence feels right). Could be through text, written card, phone call, email.
  • For those with dogs, spend time on a long walk taking a new route.

These are all suggestionstake what works for you and your loved ones and leave the rest. 2020 has been a wave of emotions for so many of us.

Ana also shared the following article links:
The SCC thrives in its 25th year as an all-volunteer organization with funding from community grants and individual donors including the New Dominion Women’s Club, Rotary Club of McLean, McLean Community Foundation, the Zavela Foundation, and through the SCC Mental Health Committee. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and welcome all donations.