Deepening our National Dialogue on ACEs and Trauma Informed Resilience
A recent 60 Minutes segment with correspondent Oprah Winfrey, has served to powerfully broaden our national conversation around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the impact of childhood trauma, and the possibilities of human resilience.
Oprah traveled to her childhood hometown of Milwaukee, where she learned about the body of research that shows how trauma experienced by children impacts brain development and increases long-term risk for physical, mental, and social problems, and how we can best heal and grow resilience in those exposed to high levels of violence, chaos, and neglect. The impetus for this story was a series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called a Time to Heal.
The 60 Minutes segment included the foundational trauma informed care principal: in order to begin healing, we must shift from asking “what is wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”
Oprah embraced the philosophy that in order to build resilience, we must first help people understand what happened to them and how this impacts how they behave. This is not an excuse, but rather an explanation that allows a person to move forward and begin using tools that help heal and grow strength.
“You can’t build resilience and grit when there is a hole in the soul. You have to address the trauma.” — Oprah Winfrey
Oprah explored why some people are able to thrive despite being raised in chaotic environments with high ACEs scores. One factor she identifies in her own life is the role of teachers who believed in her and showed love. This aligns with the research that the most important stabilizing factor is a relationship with a trusted adult who sees you, encourages you, and supports you.
Download a free THRIVE infographic with key protective factors, including Trusted Adults.
For a little more advice on where to start in becoming trauma informed, I am happy to share this episode of Resiliency Matters featuring Tonya Hotchkin, a trauma and resilience trainer.
A few takeaways from this show:
- You are either building or undermining resilience with every interaction. Choose to plant more seeds of hope, resilience, and well-being in the lives of children.
- You must be centered and calm before truly helping another. When you know your tendencies and take care of yourself, you create a safe environment for others to make better choices.
- Emotional intelligence includes self awareness, emotional regulation, social skills, and relationship skills. Environments that foster emotional intelligence fuel academic learning.