Every parent feels overwhelmed at times. When it happens, ask for help! Relatives, friends, religious advisors, your doctor and other professionals will understand. In addition, here are some tips and helpful resources.
- Never shake a baby.
Vigorously shaking a baby by the arms, legs, chest or shoulders can cause brain damage or blindness. These injuries are called "shaken baby syndrome." An estimated 50,000 cases occur in the U.S. each year, and one in four shaken babies dies from this abuse. Read more information from the Virginia Department of Social Services.
- Put healthy babies to sleep on their backs.
Medical experts believe putting healthy babies down to sleep on their backs may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Ask your doctor about the best sleep position for your baby. For more information, call the National SIDS/Infant Death Resource Center at 1-866-866-7437. Read more information from the Virginia Department of Social Services.
- Be careful who cares for your child.
Sadly, unrelated caretakers, including immature babysitters or a parent's boyfriend or girlfriend, harm too many children. Choose experienced, responsible caregivers who like children. Discuss your child's needs, habits and schedule. Communicate your rules and expectations of the caregiver. Make sure the caretaker knows what to do in an emergency, and check in frequently to monitor your child's well being. For more information about child care providers, contact the Office for Children Child Care Assistance and Referral program at 703-449-8484; TTY 703-222-9452.
- Don't leave children home alone until they can be responsible.
Infants and young children need full-time care and supervision – and no child or young teen should be left alone for a long period of time, such as overnight. Otherwise, leaving youngsters alone for short periods is a matter of maturity and preparation. Can your child follow rules (stay inside, no cooking, don't open the door to strangers)? Have you role-played what to do in case of fire, injury or other emergency? Is there a safe place to go, such as next door, if necessary? Does your child know how to contact you? A rebellious teen may need more supervision than a responsible 11-year-old. Check out Fairfax County's Child Supervision Guidelines.
- Never leave children alone in a car.
In summer, a closed car can quickly heat up to dangerous levels. In winter, a closed car left running can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Children alone in cars are also easy targets for carjackers or kidnappers. Read more from the United States Department of Transportation.
- Be careful with windows and young children
Remember, children are top heavy; they can be looking out an open window one minute and falling through it the next. A screen offers little protection when the weight of a child pushes against it.
- Always supervise young children. Life threatening injuries can happen in seconds to a child left unattended.
- Close and lock windows whenever young children are around. If you need ventilation, open windows that children cannot reach (For example, open double hung windows from the top only).
- Keep furniture and beds away from windows. Children can quickly climb onto window ledges and fall.
- Keep window treatments (blinds, cords, drapes, etc.) out of children’s reach. They may injure themselves when climbing or be strangled.
- Get parenting tips and learn how to work better together as a family.
The Department of Family Services Parenting Education Programs offers caring, comprehensive classes to parents and their children to help them learn new ways to work together as a family. The program is based on the philosophy that parenting is learned – the way parents were raised directly influences the way they raise their children. The Parenting Education Program teaches positive and effective ways parents can interact with their children at every age and stage of development. The focus is on the family - where children learn the values and beliefs that shape their futures.
- Learn about mental health.
Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an 8-hour training course primarily designed for adults – family members, caregivers, school staff, coaches, health and human services workers, etc. – who interact with young people ages 12-25. The program gives community members key skills to help a young person who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
- Call the Child Protective Services Hotline: 703-324-7400; TTY 703-222-9452
Our hotline is a help line. Call to report child abuse, or to ask questions about child abuse. You can choose to remain anonymous.