Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are used to designate all types of neglect, abuse (emotional, physical, and/or sexual), and other traumatic experiences. This can include household challenges such as domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, separation/divorce, and/or the incarceration of a household member that happen to children under 18 years old.
ACEs put children at a higher risk for chronic health conditions, risky health behavior, and the potential for early death. The number of ACEs that occur is positively correlated to these outcomes- the higher the number of ACEs, the higher the risk.
Lasting impacts of ACEs can include injuries (burns, fractures, and traumatic brain injury), mental health issues (PTSD, anxiety, depression, and suicide), maternal health issues, (unintended pregnancy, pregnancy complications, and fetal death), infectious diseases (STDs and HIV), chronic diseases (diabetes and cancer), risky behaviors (unsafe sex and alcohol and drug abuse), and opportunities (such as on education, occupation, and income). It is crucial to know that creating positive experiences and/or protective factors can prevent ACEs and protect a child from the negative outcomes of the ACEs they have endured.
The key for a child who has endured ACEs is resilience.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a bad experience. We can support children in developing this vital tool by helping them build healthy coping skills such as mindfulness, mediation, exercise, and stable sleep routines. We can empower children by building their problem-solving skills and helping them process their situation.
It is also crucial that children know how to identify their feelings, are able to talk about them, and know how to appropriately express them. Keep in mind that a child’s behavior may be influenced by their experience of ACEs. Here, we wonder, “What happened to you?” and not, “What’s wrong with you?” Behavior is communication.
In order to do the above, we need to build our understanding through empathy. Have you experienced any ACEs? Have they had a physical, emotional, or professional impact on your life? What helped you cope with those ACEs? By asking yourself these questions, you can better help those in need.
Heart and Solutions, LLC’s staff of therapists and behavioral health intervention service (BHIS) providers work with children, adults, and families who have endured ACEs through our three services: mental health therapy, behavioral health intervention services (BHIS), and marriage and family therapy. Through these three avenues, we can help those affected by ACEs to build coping skills and work through problems/issues brought on and exacerbated by ACEs.
CDC. (4/9/2019). About adverse childhood experiences. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/acestudy/aboutace.html
Joining Forces for Children. (2019). What are ACEs? http://www.joiningforcesforchildren.org/what-are-aces/