What did you think about when you first learned about ACEs? If you have completed the 10-question ACE survey, you will know your score and might have some idea as to the score of your parents or your children. What is your perspective? Where do you stand? By placing yourself in one or more of the following categories, which I will call ACE PLACES, you will be taking the first step toward the healing and prevention of ACEs.
ACE PLACE #1: Your ACE score is high.
Your childhood experiences were more adverse than you realized.
ACE PLACE #2: Your ACE score is 0.
ACEs aren’t a factor in your own life and you’re not worried about them.
ACE PLACE #3: Your ACE score is low, but your grown children’s scores may not be.
You have a low ACE score, but you think your grown children’s score is higher than yours and you are worried or feel guilty.
ACE PLACE #4: Your children’s ACE score is likely to be high.
You are currently raising children and are feeling very stressed. Maybe you are unemployed, your marriage is a disaster, or there is addiction in the family. You worry that you might be contributing to creating ACEs for your children.
ACE PLACE #5: You are concerned about an at-risk child’s potential ACE score.
You can think of a child in your social or work circles who might be vulnerable to ACEs now. This includes children in your extended family, neighborhood, school, church, clinic, or sports team. If you are in health care or education, you no doubt can think of many such children.
ACE PLACE #6: You care about the societal implications of high ACE scores.
You are part of the world community, you care, and want to make things better.
Knowing the basics of ACE science and knowing our own PLACE will be the catalyst to help us heal as individuals, families, and communities. What follows is a brief list of suggestions, references, and links to get you started, all presented from my perspective as a Christian. Prayer is vital as part of this healing journey. As a first step, let us say the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change,
the courage to change what I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
How to Prevent and Heal High ACEs Based on Your “ACE PLACE.”
If you are in ACE PLACE #1, you might have feelings of anger or resentment. Or, maybe you are feeling relieved because you now can better understand the difficulties you’ve faced. Pray for wisdom. Take new and different steps. Consider: counseling; sharing your ACE score with your doctor and asking for help; trying different types of prayer, especially quiet prayer; reading the bible; walking or starting an exercise program; joining a church or other group; feeding your “temple” a healthier diet; joining a 12-step group; beginning a creative pursuit such as art, writing, or theater; finding more meaning in life by reaching out to help others; and, learning from others’ journeys, for example, by reading A Childhood Disrupted or The Soulful Journey of Recovery.
If you are in ACE PLACE #2, praise God and thank Him for your parents and your upbringing! Now you can pay it forward. Keep reading to learn more about ACEs and ACE prevention.
All the general suggestions also hold for ACE PLACE #3. But, here you also need to deal with painful feelings of guilt that you are somehow responsible for any difficulty your child faces in life. This is not a burden that God wants you to carry. You did the best that you could. God has forgiven you. If appropriate, you can ask your children to forgive you. Pray for the grace and humility to forgive yourself. Any step you take to maximize your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health will benefit your children, even if they are grown.
In ACE PLACE #4, you are dealing with profound stressors as you try to raise your children. Those stressors might be poverty, physical or mental illness, abuse, alcohol, joblessness or homelessness. Please reach out to your doctor, church, family, friends, or any relevant social agency. With all of your problems, reaching out can be hard. But this is a vital step. Ask Jesus to hold your hand as you make yourself vulnerable in this way. Take just one new step, such as committing to ten minutes of daily prayer, taking a daily walk alone or with your child, or following any of the suggestions listed above.
ACE PLACE #5 includes you if you can think of a specific child who might be vulnerable or live in an at-risk home, dealing with those stressors I just reviewed. ACE research shows that children with high ACE scores who grow up to be most happy and healthy often named one adult outside the family who made a difference. Are you that teacher, nurse, doctor, coach, neighbor, God parent, uncle or auntie who could reach out to care, listen, encourage or mentor? Medical facilities, schools, and municipalities are now offering programs teaching “trauma awareness.” This is the beauty of knowing about ACEs—now we know what to look for so that we can make a difference.
Lastly, we get to ACE PLACE #6, the world community. If you are a Christian, you may embrace this PLACE as the “Body of Christ.” Remember the famous quote, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” That bleary-eyed man panhandling on the highway median or that out-of control teen could be the most loving and courageous person you’ll ever meet, someone who persisted in life despite daunting disadvantages that started at birth. In ACE research and education, this compassionate, tolerant, and respectful approach is a big part of “trauma-awareness.” If you find yourself judging the behavior, appearance, or words of another, please stop yourself. If you need a tool to interrupt these judgements, try mine, which I call God-centered mindfulness. I immediately call upon my action prayer, “My Lord and my God.” Try it and see how this habit, as it becomes ingrained and automatic, can help you to avoid lingering on your negative thoughts.
Let each of us know our ACE PLACE. We are all more likely to be happy and healthy in the game of life if we acknowledge the cards we and others were dealt and act accordingly.
Have a great day.
For more information, check out these general resources: