Updated: Dec 19, 2020
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. That means at a threshold level about half of American children already start out with one major adversity to overcome.
Some experiences we've heard include:
Dad walked out and never returned.
Mom and Dad divorced and Mom chose to live in another state with a new boyfriend.
Father was incarcerated.
Grandmother took over because Mom was having trouble with drugs and alcohol.
These experiences included under "household dysfunction" are part of one three main categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences that child development experts tell us have lasting affects. Abuse, physical, emotional, and/or sexual and neglect are the other main categories. (See chart below and learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/about.html).
Emerging research is also showing 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 the 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. For example, eating in order to soothe bad feelings, becoming distrustful and aggressive to push away potentially dangerous people or situations, or cocooning away from new experiences may have helped at the time but now are hinderances to physical or emotional health.
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 also find things that help me during the day to protect myself from getting overwhelmed, like taking a walk when I need to clear my head."
"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".
Angelica shares how she is planning her day so she gets some time to take care of herself. She has several coping skills you can find in the videos she creates. This one is about how she deals with the weight of taking care of her household and kids especially during COVID.
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. Can-do is about finding out what YOU love to do, what YOU are good at and giving yourself the gift of time and focus to work on those talents and loves. The act of selecting something you want to eat and making it happen for yourself can be very satisfying and fulfilling. 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.
"I hear people trying to compare stories like 'who had it worse'. It doesn't matter it happened to you and only you know, right? Your experience was your experience and you don't need anyone to approve of how you are handling it! When you are ready tell your story even if it's just to yourself so you know what happened and how you are getting through it."
This story is used as a teaching tool in one of our Workshops.