Our brains are absolutely amazing organs. They begin developing in utero and by the time a child is born, their brain is already a quarter of the size of an adult brain. The brain then doubles in size before a child’s first birthday and continues to develop at a rapid pace. By kindergarten, a child’s brain is 90% of the size of an adult brain. The brain continues to grow until we reach our mid-20s, but it does not stop transforming then!
Similar to soft plastic, our brains are malleable. They can heal, adapt, and learn new things. This is not just in terms of knowledge, but in how they process and respond to inputs. New neurological pathways can actually be formed!
So as our children’s brains are developing… and then continuing into adulthood… we can take steps to not only prevent adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), but also help our brains heal from ACEs. Below is a list of parenting tips compiled by PACEs Connection and Family Hui to help us nurture children in a way that prevents and heals their trauma.
- Protect kids as much as possible. Be a source of safety and support.
- Move and play. Move inside or outside for fun, togetherness, and to ease stress.
- Make eye contact. It says, “ I see you. I value you. You matter. You are not alone.”
- Say, “Sorry.” We all lose our patience and make mistakes. Acknowledge it, apologize, and repair relationships.
- Give 20-second hugs. There’s a reason we hug when things are hard. Safe touch is healing.
- Slow down or stop. Rest. Take breaks. Take a walk or a few moments to reset or relax.
- Hunt for the good. When there’s pain or trauma, we look for danger. We can practice looking for joy and good stuff, too.
- Be there for kids. Simply being present with our kids is doing something. It shows them we are in their corner.
- Help kids to express mad, sad, and hard feelings. Hard stuff happens. But helping kids find ways to share, talk, and process helps.
- Keep learning. Understand how ACEs impact you and your parenting.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the Virginia Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline at (800) 552-7096. The hotline is staffed 24/7. You may make a call anonymously, but if you provide your name it will allow local authorities to follow-up with you.