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Awareness Around ACEs

By CFI Predoctoral Fellow Samantha Ippolito, M.S.Ed.

What are ACEs?

    • ACEs stand for Adverse Childhood Experiences. 
    • Potentially traumatic events that occur within the first 17 years of life

What are the different types of ACEs?

    • Violence, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), and neglect
    • Witnessing violence in the home or community
    • Having a family member attempt or die by suicide
    • A household with someone who has substance use or mental health problems
    • Instability in the household, such as through parental separation or household members being in jail or prison
    • Not having enough to eat
    • Homelessness or unstable housing
    • Experiencing discrimination

What impact do ACEs have on children?

    • A higher number of ACEs might mean a higher risk of health problems or outcomes.
    • ACEs are linked to chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease; mental illness; and substance use problems that can begin as early as adolescence.
    • It can have lasting adverse effects on education or job potential
    • Children with a history of ACEs might have trouble forming healthy and stable relationships

What to do if your child has experienced ACEs?

    • Talk about emotions.
        • Similar to if your child was misbehaving, increasing dialogue about their feelings can help understand what is going on for them.
        • If your child resists talking about their feelings, we can often bridge this gap by discussing what characters in TV shows or books think and feel.
    • Identify behavioral patterns and warning signs for when they act out.
        • Be mindful of situations and things that may be said around when behavior changes in children.
    • Help them learn self-regulation strategies.
        • Consider relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, stretching, yoga, and relaxing their muscles.
        • Help them practice identifying their feelings (this can be a game such as feelings charades).
        • Help them practice skills when they feel sad or angry –such as deep breathing, talking to someone they trust, and taking a break for active play or exercise.
    • Try to maintain regular daily routines to promote safety and normalcy.
        • Children benefit from knowing what to expect from their environment.
        • Routines for meals, bedtime, homework, and chores.
        • Visual schedules and prompts may help.
        • Try to build in time for relaxing activities such as light exercise.
    • Provide a consistent, safe, and secure environment.
    • Promote trust in your relationship with your children.
    • In addition to mental health suggestions, promoting a healthy diet, regular exercise, getting consistent sleep, and mindfulness are helpful strategies to help children with a history of trauma.



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