Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) affects 34 million children in the US each year, often causing childhood trauma. Nearly half of all US children had at least one of nine ACEs, and more than 20 percent had two or more. The nine areas assessed are as follows:
• Somewhat often/very often hard to get by on income
• Parent/guardian divorced or separated
• Parent/guardian died
• Parent/guardian served time in jail
• Saw or heard violence in the home
• Victim/witness of neighborhood violence
• Lived with anyone mentally ill, suicidal, or depressed
• Lived with anyone with alcohol or drug problem
• Often treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity
Unfortunately, this is not an exhaustive list of what constitutes childhood trauma or the need for emotional regulation. Many circumstances cause children to feel unsafe or disconnected from the world around them, all of which are traumatic to that child. How they process those feelings, express themselves, and learn to thrive is unique to every child. It is impossible to prescribe one single approach to help heal their trauma and help them learn to self-regulate their emotions. However, there are many ways in which we can reach the parts of them that are suffering and to foster a healing environment.
While this can seem like an overwhelming endeavor, connecting with children and helping them feel safe can also be a lot of fun and deeply rewarding. You may find yourself healing along the way! Here’s a great article that promotes dance and movement as one way to help a wounded child express themselves and release some of what they are holding inside. Childhood trauma is a complex issue that cannot be reversed by this approach but it provides kids one additional tool to use during recovery. The pediatric occupational therapists at AZ+A find that using physical movement and play leads to children feeling safe, empowered and strong. Put on your boogie shoes and let’s dance!