Childhood trauma can lead to long term effects well into adulthood.
About half of all children today came from what used to be called "a broken home". Growing up with some sort of major disruption to how you were cared for can be a traumatic event. Given the almost 50% divorce rate for families with children in the U.S., at a threshold level, about half of American children already start out with one major adversity to overcome.
In the communities we live in and serve as part of BBG's work, some of the common childhood experiences we've witnessed or hear about include:
Dad walked out and never returned.
Mom and Dad divorced.
Father was incarcerated.
Grandmother took over because Mom was having trouble with drugs.
These experiences are included under the label "household dysfunction" and accompany the other main categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences that child development experts tell us have lasting affects (these physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse or neglect). (See the chart below and learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/about.html).
Emerging research is demonstrating how communities of color have been impacted by ongoing generational trauma caused by systemic racism. Families struggling with uncertain immigration status also live with a current of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty throughout their lives. To interpret the prior statements as political is to miss the point. It's not politics, it is how all humans react to stress - regardless of race putting stress on individuals through historic oppression has terrible long term impacts.
If you experienced any of these factors growing you are said to have had "ACEs" or Adverse Childhood Experiences. Take BBG's ACEs Quiz here.
ACEs are painful and potentially emotionally and physically overwhelming events in life and they can lead to many negative coping skills. As a child or young adult we adopt coping traits that helped at the time but became detrimental in adulthood. Some coping mechanisms that can have long term effects include:
Eating in order to soothe bad feelings, leading to a lifetime of obesity, or diabetes and other health problems
Becoming distrustful and aggressive to push away potentially dangerous people or situations, and finding it hard later in life to make meaningful connections with others.
Coming up with ways to distract with risky behaviors, multiple partners, or constant interpersonal dramas, leading to household dysfunctions passed along to our children.
That's one reason why finding coping skills as an adult can be more effective when we do things that make us feel good today -- but also will make us feel better and stronger tomorrow. In addition, finding ways to cope that specifically address the root causes of our initial traumatic event can be very healing for some. If you were emotionally neglected, doing something that supports your feelings of self worth can be really healing. If you were physically abused doing something that helps your body to feel comforted cared for can be a way to affirm your right to live in safety.
BBG Building Blocks help you to address past childhood adversities by providing a foundation of support you can now provide for yourself.
Here are some examples from our community of what we've found to help with coping and healing:
"As someone who had my share of ACEs growing up, I find protection and feeling safe are very important to me now. Safety to me can be found in routines, being facts-based, being protective of my feelings, and also just thinking about the things I need to feel physically safe in my home and workplace."
"I have asked certain people if we can support each other. Like how you have in school an "in case of emergency" person. They are mine and I am their's. It helps to know I have some back up".
The pandemic hasn't "stressed me out" as much as it is made me feel weird and not myself. For me, coping skills means spending time in places that help me reconnect with my sense of self and place.
Cooking is a great way to show yourself you have skills. Even if what you make doesn't work out the way you hoped, you can always try again. "Can-do" is what we do to show ourselves that despite what we have been through, despite what others may have told us, we are capable of learning and growing. Here is an example of a Can-do moment for Micah and his trusty helper - his daughter Mileesa. Get out and "can-do" it!
"Even though I consider myself an introvert and maybe a bit of a loner it's important for me to feel like there is a place where I belong. For me its the parts of my family that "get" me and my small group of friends. I have also joined facebook groups and other places where I can express myself and be appreciated for my similarities to them as well as the ways I'm different!"
Here, Jeannette shares ways we can create a map that shows the places and people where we belong.
Some people won't share their resilience story because they think it's a contest of 'who had it worse'. It doesn't matter! You own your unique experience and it is not worse or better, it just was. Tell your story even if it's just to yourself. We often don't know our own powers for resilience until we tell the stories of what we went through.
This video below is used as a teaching tool in one of our Community Learning Events. Trauma and resilience stories are stories about what makes us human.