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    How to help kids face trauma


    The report broke down prevalence of ACEs by state, with percentages ranging from 38.1% of children facing ACEs in Minnesota compared with 55.9% in Arkansas. The study also investigated other demographics, noting that white children are less likely to face ACEs than black or Hispanic children, with 41% of white children facing ACEs compared with 51% of Hispanic children and 64% of black children. Income plays a role, too, with 62% of children with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level reporting at least 1 ACE. However, 26% of children at or above 400% of the poverty level also report at least 1 ACE. Children aren’t the only ones affected, either. According to the report, just 2 in 5 mothers of children with ACEs are in good physical or mental health.

    Adverse childhood experiences can have serious, long-term, negative impacts on a child’s health and well-being, according to the report. High levels of stress and trauma can take a toll physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively. The report also notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked ACEs to increased risk for heart disease, depression, dissatisfaction with life, smoking, alcoholism, lung and liver diseases, and many other illnesses and unhealthy behaviors.

    According to the report, children aged 3 to 5 years with 2 or more ACEs are more than 4 times more likely to have multiple social and emotional challenges that can impact learning. More than 75% of children aged 3 to 5 years who were asked to stay home or expelled from preschool had ACEs, and children aged 6 to 17 years with ACEs were twice as likely as children without them to be disengaged in school. Additionally, about two-thirds of children aged 6 to 17 years who bully other children, or who are bullied themselves, have had at least 1 ACE, the study notes.

    There is hope for improvement, the report suggests, and having some sort of support and resilience training can help. Children who were taught to stay calm and in control when faced with challenges were 3 times more likely to remain engaged in school and are half as likely to be diagnosed with an emotional, mental, or behavioral problem. Even something as simple as talking it out can help. Children with 2 or more ACEs whose parents report sharing ideas and talking about problems were almost 3 times more likely to demonstrate resilience and children whose parents have positive communication with healthcare providers were 1.5 times more likely to practice resilience skills with their children. These skills can include eating family meals together, reading to children, limiting screen time, and not using tobacco at home.

    Next: Adverse childhood experiences are linked to ADHD

    Bethell says she hopes her research will spark interest among others to learn more about and begin to address ACEs, and to promote positive health in practice.

    “Many primary care-based efforts exist and the simple discussion of ACEs and helping families begin to heal is a powerful intervention in itself,” she says. “Families show interest in discussing ACEs and their family and child’s social and emotional concerns and aspirations.”


    Rachael Zimlich, RN
    Rachael Zimlich is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes regularly for Contemporary Pediatrics, Managed Healthcare ...


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