I have been reading a great deal of literature lately on the experiences children have that can create lifelong risks for their health. These are called adverse child events. They affect how our brains interact with our immune systems and our endocrine systems. They put children at risk for chronic health problems in adulthood such as cancer, mental health problems, and physical problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
The research is showing that not only events such as maternal depression, poverty, domestic violence, and substance abuse in the family put a child at risk for adult health problems. They point out that divorce or separation of the parents have an effect. They have found that if a child often or very often experiences being sworn at, yelled at, put down or humiliated, she is in a higher risk category. They have found that if a child often or very often is slapped, pushed, grabbed, or has things thrown at him, he is at risk for health problems as an adult.
When I was growing up I heard “If you are going to cry, I will give you a reason to cry.” Now, my mother was not a bad person, but I really felt she didn’t get that I was crying for a reason. This was the way parents did things when I was a child. Unfortunately, almost 60 years later, this mindset is still going on today despite the research that has shown that punishing emotional stress doesn’t make it better. And schools are among the most frequent offenders of punishing the child in distress. I have dealt with at least a dozen children and adolescents this school year who are shutting down because they are so stressed and the school response is to punish them and blame their parents.
Let’s join the 21st century! Read up on the ACE study (www.acestudy.org) to learn about the risk factors for unhealthy adult outcomes. Read what is being written about toxic stress. Then contact your state’s Public Health, DHS (or HHS), and Education agencies, demanding to know what they are doing to help our children so that we don’t have more generations growing up to have the health problems that our current group of Baby Boomers are experiencing (and the generation right after them). We can’t wait.