This post is made possible with support from the American Academy of Pediatrics through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All opinions are my own.
It has officially been one year since the start of the pandemic, and what a year it has been. We have experienced so many unexpected circumstances—extreme highs and lower than lows, and yet, we have made it. As I watched my children navigate the last year, I have had the opportunity to reflect on my own childhood and have wondered often how I would have weathered the storm of 2020. I work really hard to create a safe, attentive, and loved-filled environment for them to prosper in, and it has been a joy seeing them thrive despite the pandemic. Their resilience is admirable, but I know it is only because of the caring community we have put in place to love and champion them despite what is happening in the world.
Growing up and aging out of the foster care system myself (read my story here), it was critical that I had caring adult mentors and organizations available to check on me, support me, provide access to opportunities, and help me see beyond my situation. I spent so many hours in latchkey and park programs, at the Boys and Girls Club and in afterschool sports, clubs and activities, during the school year and over the summer. My teachers were my family and I looked to them for the nurturing that I lacked at home. Many of these organizations and institutions are closed and have remained closed for over a year. Had something like COVID-19 occurred in my own childhood, it would have been devastating to be pulled away from the very organizations and people who made me feel loved, valued, and supported and I am almost positive it would have shifted the trajectory of my life moving forward.
It is important for children to have safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments (SSNRE). Environments that are working hard to provide affirming atmospheres and provide social, mental, emotional support, helping to reduce the impact of ACEs in the life of children (https://bit.ly/learnaboutaces). This pandemic has been a constant reminder that everyone’s situation and personal challenges, even when many of us are facing the same one, aren’t created equally and our children aren’t equipped with the same tools to navigate through them.
If you’re new here, you may be wondering what ACEs are. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include lots of types of childhood trauma. Traditionally we think of ACEs as falling into three categories: Abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual); neglect (physical or emotional); and household dysfunction (mental illness in the household, witnessing intimate partner violence, divorce, incarcerated relative, substance abuse in the household).
The good news is that preventing ACEs and leveling the playing field for our young people is possible and can be done in a few mindful ways, starting with creating strong supportive environments for our own children and being a part of that supportive community for other children we know. It can be as complex as creating a community of trusted adults and mentors to speak into the lives of our own children, or as small as picking up your crying baby holding them close to bring reassurance.
There are so many beautiful ways to love our children well and to provide the kind of relationships that affirm them and launch them into the world with as little trauma as possible. Having a support system helps the body’s stress system reset and SSNRE’s are essential to lifelong health and success as well as the prevention of ACEs.
To read more about ACEs check out the articles below:
So, who are the three sources of support who are going to help your child through the tough times, AND who can you offer to “be the 3”—one of those three trusted adults in a child’s life?
To learn more about ACEs and how you make a difference in the life of a child, check out http://bit.ly/learnaboutaces