I’m a single mom now, but there was a time when I wasn’t. My marriage wasn’t good, and at a certain point, it became clear that a divorce was necessary. What are ACE’s
While it might have been the right decision, it was an incredibly difficult ordeal. It was the lowest and toughest period in both my and my daughter’s life thus far. The emotional and mental trauma was real and scathing for both of us, and we almost became homeless. It was a very dark time.
I knew I had to do everything in my power to help keep my daughter physically, emotionally, and mentally safe and guard her during this time of adversity. That’s what I did with the help of three wonderful organizations, and she’s thriving today.
Before I dive into why it’s imperative to have a support system (3 people or 3 organizations), it’s important to first step back and look at what adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) really mean, who is affected by them, and what you can do to prevent the long-term effects.
What are ACE’s?
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are events and circumstances that can cause mental and emotional trauma for children during the first 18 years of their lives. Examples of ACEs include abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual), neglect, and, yes, even divorce is on that list.
These experiences are the kind that can negatively impact a child’s psyche in the present and for years to come, so it’s important to do everything we can to prevent or mitigate these adverse childhood experiences whenever possible. I know this first-hand because I had to navigate a series of ACEs with my own child.
ACEs can have a lasting impact on a child’s mental and emotional health. They can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and anxiety down the road. People who experienced ACEs in childhood are more likely to have chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. They may miss out on future educational, occupational, and financial opportunities. What are ACE’s
That’s the bad news. But there’s good news, too.
It’s Not Hopeless
While adverse childhood experiences can have a lasting, negative impact on children, it’s important to know that it’s not hopeless. Yes, early adversity can be common, and yes, it has biological implications physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, it’s not destiny. There are ways we can protect against ACEs or mitigate their impact on our children and the children in our community. I know. I’ve lived it. All of us can play a role in making sure that our community members are getting the support they need.
It’s important to know that we can all help prevent or mitigate the effects of ACEs. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments play a big role. If you are currently helping your child through an ACE, take full advantage of the loving relationships in your life and any available community outreach programs which focus on family and childhood trauma. If you aren’t currently in the midst of an ACE with your child, you can be there for someone who is. You can also support local community outreach programs that help families in need. What are ACE’s
Finding My Three
The #FindYour3 campaign from the American Academy of Pediatrics has a truly special place in my heart because that’s what I did. Remember when I mentioned using three organizations to help my daughter and I navigate my nasty divorce? They were “my three.” What are ACE’s
Before the divorce, I had been a stay at home mom for over three years. That’s a long time to be out of the game. Even though I had a degree, I found it difficult to find a job that paid well enough to cover childcare, rent, and all the other expenses that go with family. That’s when I found out that in California, Goodwill has a free program that helps people learn a trade. In my case, that was becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). I was then able to continue on to nursing school thanks to financial help and support from Goodwill. If you are on hard times and have a Goodwill in your area, see what they have to offer.
Another huge struggle I had as a newly single mom was finding safe, affordable childcare. I had no local family. Going to interviews or work is next to impossible without reliable childcare. Crystal Stairs is a local organization that assists low-income parents who work or attend school full-time with free or low-cost childcare. In addition, they are an invaluable resource in connecting people to other resources in the community. I could not have gotten through that difficult time in my life without their help. What are ACE’s
As I said, my divorce was a bitter ordeal, and it was terrifying for both me and my daughter. There’s nothing scarier than going through a divorce alone and wondering if you’ll lose your child. That’s where I was, not because I was a bad mother but because I wasn’t financially able to hire the kind of legal help that my ex-husband could. The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law specializes in divorce assistance for low-income parents and they were instrumental in my proceedings. Without them, I don’t know what my family would look like today. What are ACE’s
Find Your Three
Those are my three, now go find your three supportive people or organizations if you don’t have them already in place. Adverse childhood experiences can have a lasting negative impact on a child, but we can help. By finding your three, you can help prevent or mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences for your children, and by being part of someone else’s “three,” you can help other members of your community.
Please name your three in a comment below or share your three on social media using the hashtags #FindYour3 and #PreventACEs. Together we can help protect children against adverse childhood experiences and their effects.
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. For more information on our affiliate and or sponsored post policy, please click here.