ACEs, Compassion, and the Power of Resilience
Tracy Darling-DeMarcus, Prevention Program Manager
We work with people every day who have experienced immense amounts of trauma. Often, their first traumatic experiences occur as children. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is the term used to describe all types of abuse, neglect, and other potentially traumatic experiences that occur to people under the age of 18. Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death. But the presence of ACEs does not mean that a child will experience poor outcomes as an adult (Centers for Disease Control).
Positive experiences can prevent children from experiencing adversity and can protect against many of the negative health and life outcomes, even after adversity has occurred. These positive experiences build resilience in children. Resilience helps kids navigate stressful situations, builds skills and confidence to work through problems, and teaches them that they have what it takes to confront difficulties.
Whether you’re a parent, aunt, grandfather, teacher, or coach, caring adults can help kids build resilience. Here are a few things you can do to help build resilience for the children in your life:
- Build a strong emotional connection. Children want to know they have the unconditional support of a caring adult. Positive connections also allow adults to model coping and problem-solving skills.
- Teach problem-solving skills. We all need help sometimes, and it’s important for kids to know they have help and its okay to ask for it. By brainstorming solutions with kids, we engage them in the process of solving problems.
- Label emotions. In a stressful situation, it can be hard to identify all of the emotions we might be feeling, even as adults. Teaching kids that all feelings are important and being able to identify their feelings can help them make sense of what they’re experiencing.
The Compassion Project: Let us be the ones who transform our world by allowing compassion to lead our action. Throughout the year, this column will feature the various ways to have compassion for others, for our specific organization, and for yourself.
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