All children deserve to grow up in a safe, nurturing, stable home. When they don't, this could be because of adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs as you may have heard it). Adverse childhood experiences are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood where a child’s sense of normalcy, safety, and control are threatened. These adverse experiences can lead to detrimental health and emotional concerns in the future if untreated. Many people have experienced at least one ACE over their lifetime, with a lot of people experiencing 4 or more. But just because these events are present doesn't mean you can't heal or that your child won't grow up to be resilient.
Types of ACEs
parent has a mental illness
parent is treated violently
parent struggles with substance use
parent is incarcerated
parents are divorced
If you've experienced an ACE, it's something that we unfortunately cannot undo. This doesn't mean, though, that there isn't strategies to break the pattern. It's believed that ACEs can impact the way that we have relationships, thus potentially acting out our trauma patterns with our children, friends, families, and loved ones. Healing can occur at any age, but requires an active stance of turning towards the pain. Here are some ways to break the pattern of trauma due to adverse childhood experiences:
Recognize what is going on by taking the ACEs Quiz. This will help you recognize what you may have experienced and the possible impact of any adverse childhood experience.
Make connections on whether some of the experiences you have had in childhood may relate to your thoughts, behaviors, or responses today. If this is hard, a therapist can help you with those connections as well. It's always easier having a third party looking from the outside in.
Learn and implement strategies to cope with and regulate your nervous system when you feel like your stress response (fight, flight, or fawn) is taking over.
Talk about it with a professional. I always say there is no replacement for good, healing therapy. Avoiding your trauma reinforces the fear of it. Talk about it with a trusted therapist. Process what meaning you've made of the event and how to process it in healthy ways.
By growing past our trauma, we break the cycle for future generations to come.
Center for Disease Control. (2020). Adverse Childhood Experiences Prevention Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/pdfs/priority/ACEs-Strategic-Plan_Final_508.pdf