Children: Resilient or Re-Silent?

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has been studying the effects of  toxic stress on a child’s brain, and what happens to a child he when he or she is exposed to prolonged periods of tension, stress, neglect, or abuse of any kind; and the findings are devastating.

The expression “children are resilient” should be re-interpreted as“children are re-silent” because it might be more appropriate in some cases….

When children have been repeatedly mis-treated, their means of adapting and surviving has everything to do with how they suppress their pain, and cope with their reality, developing sophisticated ways of interacting with the world that have everything to do with their instinct to stay safe.  Children are experts in imagination, and this skill becomes incredibly useful when they are working to overcome circumstances from which they feel they cannot escape. The world of “pretend” is one that all adults can easily comprehend- pretending that everything is ok when it’s not can serve us for a time, until it doesn’t. In the case of children, their ability to pretend everything is ok has a direct correlation to their ability to survive it.

The impact of adverse experiences leaves a child feeling a host of dis-empowered emotions including loneliness, abandonment, frustration, sorrow, anger, and worthlessness.

Children are very adept at “coping” when they don’t have any other choice- and so from exterior appearances, we make assumptions about their well-being that are far afield of the more realistic and lasting behavioral issues that will plague mis-treated children for the better part of their lives.

Learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy development. While moderate, short-lived stress responses in the body can promote growth, toxic stress is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system in the absence of protective adult support. Without caring adults to buffer children, the unrelenting stress caused by extreme poverty, neglect, abuse, or severe maternal depression can weaken the architecture of the developing brain, with long-term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.

This video is part three of a three-part series titled “Three Core Concepts in Early Development” from the Center and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. The series depicts how advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics now give us a much better understanding of how early experiences are built into our bodies and brains, for better or for worse. Healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. – Center on the Developing Child 

Watch this video to gain insight into how the body and brain respond to toxic stress, and please leave any comments in our comment section- we’d love to hear from you!

 

Adverse Childhood Experiences = Aces too High

Over the last 15 years, research has shown that childhood trauma injures a child’s brain. It impairs the brain’s physical development and function. You can see the effects of trauma on a brain scan. The result: These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) cause kids to have a hard time learning, making friends and trusting adults. They can’t keep up in school, so they shut down or get in fights. They’re the “problem” kids. Schools suspend them. There’s lots of ways for kids to cope with their trauma. Alcohol. Drugs. Smoking. Food. Kids become daredevils and break their bones. Sleep around and get STDs. Grow up too fast and become workaholics. - Aces too High

There is a starting amount of new information on the subject of childhood trauma, and how “trauma” experienced in early childhood can literally haunt them for the rest of their lives unless they become aware that their experience is valid, and that they are not alone.  It’s becoming ever more urgent that childcare professionals, parents, psychologists, teachers, and caregivers get the proper information, and continuing education so that they can more powerfully assist these children on their path to healing and wholeness.

So how do you help spread awareness, and get involved in being part of the solution?

Well, the first thing to realize is that if you are reading this post- the likelihood that you actually qualify as someone who is carrying the impact of trauma into your adult life is a startling 70%.

Many of us have had the kinds of experiences that qualify as trauma and that have a lasting impact on us, wrecking havoc on our sense of self, our relationships, and even our ability to learn and perform our job efficiently.

The first step to identifying it’s impact is to understand that childhood trauma does not have to look like the worst scenario you can think of- in fact, all it can take is a child  who is repeatedly exposed to stressful situations or even prolonged tension at home or in another environment.  Could this be you?

Check out the Aces Too High website, to learn more, and while you are there, please score yourself by answering the questions you see below:

Prior to your 18th birthday:

Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason ?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Was your mother or stepmother:

Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Did a household member go to prison?

No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Please go to this page to add up your score: http://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

( excerpts taken from Aces Too High at www.acestohigh.com)

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Touching the Lives of Children and their Families and Healing Community Trauma

Many of us are gearing up for our most important conference of the year; The 5th Annual Child Trauma Conference, happening this coming Oct. 2013 in Mystic Connecticut.

Our participants will come from area’s far and wide to participate in a weekend long conversation and workshop series brought to you by the foremost professionals on the cutting edge of healing trauma;  in our children, their families, and our communities.  The sheer importance of such an event blows my mind because the quality of care these families receive is directly proportional to how up to date their care-givers are on the latest treatment options.

Are you an area professional whose work touches the lives of children and their families?

Your work is vital to helping children and their families heal, and in doing so, your work is actually changing the lives of thousands.  Each child that has an opportunity to heal will in turn, help others heal, and it all began with you, and your commitment to making a difference in the world.  You are the most important asset our communities have.

Please consider joining this year for our regional conference so that we can update you on how you can make an even greater impact with your work and in the community you serve.   To learn more – please visit our registration page at http://www.childtraumacon.com