Department of Family Services – Children, Youth and Families

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Oriane Eriksen

Family Matters! Giving Children a Sense of Direction, Connection, and Belonging

National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Family Matters

Family Matters

There are all kinds of families, but one thing is universal. Families make the difference in their children’s lives

Even when it seems that kids aren’t listening or they value their friends’ opinions over yours as a parent or caregiver, the loving relationship you have established with your kids sustains them and gives them the values and morals they need to stand firm against any negative influences vying for their time and attention. 

Family matters because it provides the moral compass that will guide a child through life’s tough decisions. Whether you have a biological, kinship, adoptive or another type of family, sharing family stories and traditions is an excellent way to show love and provide your child with a sense of direction, connection, and belonging. 

Give Kids Roots and Wings 

The goal of every parent should be to give their child(ren) roots and wings. Parents and caregivers are responsible for making sure that children know their roots – understanding where they come from and what is important in life, while feeling wholly loved and valued. This enables kids to soar on wings into the adult phase of their lives (rather than falling flat out of the nest). 

The saying goes that, “You aren’t raising children, you are raising adults,” and a big part of that is finding ways to impart your wisdom, morals, and values to your children while they are growing up in a world that all too often provides competing messages that are less than uplifting and positive. 

One way to do this is by establishing clear family rules such as:

  • No hurting. Keep your hands and feet to yourself. Use words respectfully.
  • No interrupting. Wait for your turn to speak.
  • No yelling in the house. Use an inside voice when talking in the house.
  • No lying. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth.

Make sure your child knows and understands the rules. Praise your child(ren) when you catch them obeying the rules. Be clear and consistent with enforcing appropriate consequences when rules are broken. Check out the CDC for more guidance on this.

Being a parent may feel like a thankless job at times but hang in there. The reward comes in small doses. A friendly text, a cuddle on the sofa, or an unexpected hug can fill your cup and help you keep showing up every day with renewed energy.

Here are some ideas for ways your family can keep connected in this busy world and develop those roots and wings.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Family MattersFamily Matters Activities

Food and Culture

  • Cook or bake a "special family recipe" together. Connect to family history and traditions and pass family recipes to the next generation. 
  • Commit to sharing at least one meal together a day.
  • If your child has an ethnic or cultural background that's different than yours, learn to make dishes from their culture.
  • Have a family meal at a restaurant with unfamiliar cuisine. 
  • Try making a new dish together. Try mastering recipes from a different cultural tradition. For instance, it can be an adventure to make different types of pasta from scratch.


  • Color a picture of your favorite part of the day.
  • Look through family photographs and reminisce. 
  • Storytelling - each family member tells a part of the story before passing to the next in a circle.
  • Share your child's adoption story and stay connected to their bio family whenever possible.
  • Tell stories about family history.
  • Ask older family members to share stories about their youth.
  • Discuss “What does family mean to you?”

Family Adventures

  • Go to a free activity like the zoo, museum, or park.
  • Work together as a family to plan a family day trip with something for everyone.
  • Attend festivals or events that celebrate the culture and traditions of all your family members.
  • Ride the Metro to a place you have never been.    
  • Check out our Time Matters Activities for ideas.
  • Share a hobby or pastime with your child that you both enjoy.

Family Values

  • Explore your family’s faith traditions. 
  • Watch a movie or tv show together and then talk about it.
  • Each family member could put words of affirmation in a jar to read together at the end of the week. Use our Words Matter Guide for ideas.
  • Write positive notes to each other.
  • Talk about how to honor your family.                                

Community Involvement

  • Invite neighbors to share time or a meal with your family. 
  • Become a member of a local library and attend family events. 
  • Participate/serve in your child’s school-related events.
  • Join parent educational community groups.
  • Volunteer together in your community.
  • Make thank you cards together.     


Fairfax County is a community that is absolutely dedicated to the safety of children and to providing the appropriate supports to parents to keep families healthy. The Department of Family Services’ signature Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention campaign is focused on Building Stronger Families.

Strong families can provide safe and healthy childhoods and lead to creating a thriving community.


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