Strong Families, Happy KidsParenting Tips from Prevent Child Abuse Arizona
At the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone was trying to get their bearings with lockdowns, work and life disruptions, and constantly changing information, a post circulated around social media that went something like this:
A choir is able to sustain a very long note not because everyone holds the note at the same time, but because singers take breaths when they need to, and then join back in.
Our work as parents (and as employees!) is like that too. In the effort not just to keep your family unit running, but also to strengthen it, you may feel like things will fall apart if you take a break or time away. It may even feel irresponsible to take a break when there’s so much at stake.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a good leader, and how that crosses over into parenting. In conversations with leaders I admire, I’ve realized there’s one quality I respect most of all, and I believe this quality might be the most defining characteristic of a good leader … and a good parent.
When I write “leader,” I’m not necessarily referring to someone with a leadership title. A leader is someone who takes accountability for making a positive difference in the lives of others—and isn’t that what we do as parents?
So what is this quality? First, I’ll tell you what it’s not: It’s not charisma, confidence, knowledge, or vision.
It’s amazing how powerful a simple affirmation can be. Think about a time when a verbal nudge from a friend, family member, or colleague has encouraged you to take a leap into something new.
There’s a frequently cited quote by Mr. Rogers that’s often used to excavate the good from crises or tragedies. He told us to “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
He’s so right. But not everyone gets the kind of compassion that I experienced when they face a crisis. It is not just that we help. It is how we help. By offering help in a way that is understanding, kind, and nonjudgmental, we can be the difference between something painfully hard and something that’s hard, but doable.
This past November, Prevent Child Abuse America celebrated its 50-year anniversary in Chicago. The celebration included a discussion with Dr. Bruce Perry, who is a member of the board, and Oprah Winfrey, who is, well, Oprah.
As is quite typical of her, in her address to the crowd, Oprah said something deeply meaningful. She talked about one thing that all children need. It’s simple. It’s free. It takes only a second. And it’s the best gift that we can give to kids in our lives, all year round. It’s also the best gift we can give to each other.
Positive Child Experiences, also known as PCEs, are advantageous or benevolent childhood experiences that promote positive development and resilience among youth. Researchers have found that positive experiences can protect kids from the negative long-term effects of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), leading them to become healthier, happier adults.
So how do we, as a community, create more PCEs for all of our youth?
All parents and caregivers will need help at some point. Normalizing this is a huge step in supporting families in our community.
While well-meaning people are quick to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” when we see a family going through a tough situation, it’s rare that someone actually takes them up on the offer … because it’s vague and because asking for help is hard in a society that celebrates independence and grit.
“I just finished ‘Parent Nation’ by Dr. Dana Suskind. Folks, this is it. It beautifully articulates why we, as a nation, must support parents. If we want to promote child wellbeing and prevent child abuse, we need to support parents. If we want economic prosperity, we need to support parents. If we want a healthy nation, we need to support parents.
The book outlines why and how the U.S. doesn’t have things like paid parental leave and affordable quality childcare, and why that needs to change. In the name of preventing government overreach, we’ve left U.S. parents with nothing but bad options.
One concept in the discussion struck her most: the best thing any parent or caregiver can do to promote the well-being of a child is to be present.
In this case, “present” means that the parents and caregivers can be attentive and connected when they’re with their children.
There’s a parable about a woman who walks by three men working on a building site, each doing the same thing.
The woman asks the first man what he’s doing. “I’m hauling bricks,” he says.
She asks the second man what he’s doing. “I’m building a wall,” he states.
She asks the third man what he’s doing. “I’m building a cathedral,” he answers.
The men are all doing the same action, but their answers show how different they are framing their purpose.
Ever Feel Like You’re Not Doing Enough? Discover Your Most Precious Resource: Where Your Values and Your Passion Meet
It can be easy to feel that no matter what we do, it’s never enough.
If you’re a parent or caregiver who is paying attention, this may feel familiar. There is a lot to care about—a healthy diet, extracurriculars, mental health, social activities, school, homework—and there are a lot of problems to solve.
Creating the Healthy, Resilient Community We All Want: Look for Opportunities to Support Parents, Every Day
Parenting is a difficult job any time of year. During the holiday season—despite all the warm fuzzies we’re feeling—it can be even more so. We’ve started turning on the heat in the house, our children need new coats, and we’re in pursuit of that special holiday gift.