ACEs are preventable
We can prevent childhood adversity from within our sphere of influence, as parents, family members, employees, and community members. We can prevent, build resilience or heal ACEs or the consequences of ACEs at any point in the lifespan. What you do depends on whether you are acting as a professional, friend or caring neighbor. What you do depends on the age and experience of the person you want to help, and what they’ve experienced. Your approach, tools and interventions will be different depending on all of those factors.
- You can prevent ACEs by:
- Becoming aware of the science behind adversity, toxic stress and resilience
- Sharing that knowledge so we can move from a blame, shame and punishment approach to one of compassionate, solution oriented problem solving
- Using it when you are with people, especially children
- Using it to integrate trauma informed practice at work
- Influencing policy and decision makers to adopt trauma informed practice, and to focus on preventing ACEs and community adverse experiences
- Starting or participating in a community initiative like Resilient Napa that promotes upstream prevention by facilitating and supporting community members
The Importance of Relationships
Supporting responsive relationships with a parent or caregiver can also help to buffer a child from the effects of stress, and helping children and adults build their core life skills can strengthen the building blocks of resilience. These three principles—reducing stress, building responsive relationships, and strengthening life skills—are the best way to prevent the long-term effects of ACEs. Center on the Developing Child, Harvard.
- Other resources with action steps for prevention:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Prevention Approaches
- Child Welfare Information Gateway, Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect
- We Can Prevent ACEs, CDC
At a community level, we can prevent bad things from happening to children by working to ensure community adverse experiences, and historical and systemic trauma are addressed. This means we need to work towards goals such as adequate housing, jobs that pay an affordable wage, high quality and culturally appropriate childcare, and more.
Brains can heal, and we can build resilience
In addition to preventing ACEs, we can heal and build resilience, as individuals and communities.
The range of practices and programs that promote healing from trauma is vast, and ranges from things as simple as 3 deep breaths to complex best evidence programs, from self care, to trauma informed practice, to therapeutic interventions. In the coming months we will work to add specific healing interventions and practices to our Resource Directory.
Addressing the impact of trauma in adults can prevent ACEs in children and poor health outcomes in adulthood.
- Here are a couple of sites to get you started:
- 8 Ways People Recover From Post Childhood Adversity Syndrome, by Jackson Nakazawa
- The steps that adults can help adults heal from childhood trauma, by Dr. Shanta R. Dube
- A Cross Cultural Perspective on Healing ACES, National Resilience Institute
Let’s Act Early
There have been countless studies (see a few under Cost Benefit in Resources) on the savings of investing in prevention. If we invest in upstream approaches and support children’s healthy brain development, the amount of effort and degree of impact is much greater. Here’s a graph that sums it up:
So, although we can build resilience and heal throughout a lifetime, our impact is greatest during the first few years of life.