In my last post, I introduced the impact of toxic stress on children. I have blogged over the last few years about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the notion of resiliency. None of which are “feel good” topics. Yet, these topics are essential to understanding who people are in our society today. These topics are even more important to changing and improving the life trajectory of our youth who face a seemingly bleak tomorrow.
I continue to research ACEs and share my knowledge because I believe that anyone who affects the life of a child (parents, caregivers, extended family, teachers, school administrators, and medical providers) should be fully aware of how significant their contact is to the child.
“ACEs” stands for “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” These experiences can include things like physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence.
The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely he or she is to suffer from things like heart disease and diabetes, poor academic achievement, and substance abuse later in life.Harvard University Center on the Developing Child
I wish I understood this more when my son was a toddler on up until now. While I believe I was a fairly good mother, there are still many things I would have done different. My son tells me to “knock it off” when I say that, because he appreciates his life and all I have done right by him.
There is no shame or blame intended by this post. There are no perfect parents or children. My mother is who she is in my life partly due to her own ACEs. She is doing the best that she knows how. When she says that she doesn’t know how to love, she means it.
Experiencing many ACEs, as well as things like racism and community violence, without supportive adults, can cause what’s known as toxic stress. This excessive activation of the stress-response system can lead to long-lasting wear-and-tear on the body and brain.Harvard University Center on the Developing Child
Stress Response System
This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. … Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties.
Over the years, researchers have learned not only how and why these reactions occur, but have also gained insight into the long-term effects chronic stress has on physical and psychological health. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction. More preliminary research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise).
The harmful effects of ACEs and toxic stress can be reversed. All it takes is a change in the environment, building caring and safe relationships will make all the difference. This explains why you can meet a person who experienced a traumatic background that seem to have it all together in the present.