Strong Families, Happy Kids: Parenting Tips from Prevent Child Abuse Arizona

Prevent Child Abuse Arizona Executive Director Claire Louge recently watched a discussion between renowned neuroscientists Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Melissa Merrick, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America.

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.

Why does presence matter so much? Think about the times you’ve really felt present with someone else. What does that feel like? What does it look like? It means active listening and focusing on the moment. It means intentionally setting aside thoughts about to-do lists, ruminations on the past, or anticipations of the future. It’s being in space and time with someone else.

It sounds simple, but putting it into practice is hard! Our brains are wired to mull over our past experiences to predict future threats. Our world has a lot of distractions, and there is a lot we must do to maintain the pace of life necessary to have the resources to survive stably.

Presence, though, is the doorway to human connection, belongingness, learning, teaching, and empathy. Being present allows us to access what is most meaningful in our human lives. Being present with another human being gives us the ability to witness them for who they are and who they are striving to be, and witnessing is the best gift we can give to anyone. It is the best, most nurturing gift we can give to children.

If we want children to flourish, they must have present adults in their lives.

Here are some tips for being present with the children in your life:

  • Get outside! Sometimes a change of scenery is just what you need to stop thinking about (and doing) all those other tasks. Take a walk, go for a hike, or play an outdoor game.
  • Set a timer for a certain amount of time and do something your child wants to do. Put down your phone and focus on that activity, knowing you can come back to everything after the timer goes off.
  • Consider how you can reduce your own overwhelm. Ask your spouse or partner and your kids to help with chores. Think about what you have to do, versus what you’re doing out of obligation or guilt.
  • Practice mindfulness when you’re with your kids, and as often as you can. Notice the way the light enters the room, the feel of your child’s hand in yours, the smell of that fresh outdoor air.
  • Reduce distractions. Identify the things that distract you most, and remove them when you can (for example, you can turn off the TV or put away your phone for certain amounts of time, or leave the house if you can’t help but finish certain pesky chores).

Every human being benefits from present people in their lives. During these summer months, find moments to set aside churning thoughts of the past or your worries of the future to be present with people you love. Witness them for who they are, and be witnessed for who you are. Give and receive the powerful gift of presence.

Editor’s Note: look for the Strong Families, Happy Kids column in every issue of Prescott Woman Magazine. It’s designed to support parents with actionable tips and strategies they can use to create optimal environments for their children to thrive. To learn more about Prevent Child Abuse Arizona’s mission and resources visit