“The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, and conceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday our body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child, who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.” – ALICE MILLER
Adverse Childhood Experiences, or short ACEs, are traumatic events during childhood (under the age of 18).
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional abuse
- mental illness of a household member
- problematic drinking or alcoholism of a household member
- illegal street or prescription drug use by a household member
- instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison
- witnessing violence in the home or community
- having a family member attempt or die by suicide
What Effects Do Adverse Childhood Experiences have?
These experiences are causing toxic stress which affects the body and the brain. Today ACEs could be linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, social and emotional problems and substance misuse in adulthood. They can also negatively impact education and job opportunities.
It doesn’t matter what ACE it is and they have a cumulative factor. The rougher the childhood, means the higher the score the more likely is it to be at a higher risk for later health problems. With an ACE score of 4 or more, the likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 %; hepatitis, 240 %; depression 460 %; attempted suicide, 1,220 %.
Health effects include:
- suicide attempts
- Sexually-Transmitted Disease
- heart disease
- broken bones
Behavior effects include:
- drug use
The ACE score isn’t a crystal ball it’s just meant as guidance. When children do experience trauma, understanding the impact of ACEs can lead to more trauma-informed interventions that help to mitigate negative outcomes.
However, ACEs can be prevented and there are responses for people who experienced ACEs.
How to prevent ACE’s and what to do when hapend?
Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent ACEs and help all children reach their full potential.
Promote resilience and protective factors like
- social and emotional competence of children
- knowledge of parenting in child development
- social connections
- parental resilience
- concrete support in time of need
For those who suffered from ACEs there is good news, the brain is plastic, and the body wants to heal. When individuals are able to acknowledge their past, and seek help for its possible effects, various approaches to treatment may help to ease these cognitive concerns, such as
- mindfulness practices
- good nutrition
- adequate sleep
- healthy social interactions
The issue of ACEs belongs to everyone, and within everyone lies the problem as well as the solution. Let’s start healing our own wounds so we can learn to regulate our own emotions and become capable of providing our children with healthy, secure, and happy childhood experiences.