One promise I made to myself when I started writing these blogs was to be completely open and honest with my readers. To me, that means tackling tough truths, sharing personal examples, and putting all my cards on the table. So here goes: I am a 6.
Let me explain.
Over the last decade or so, science has provided new insights into how our childhood experiences affect our behavior, learning and even our physical health throughout our lives. Those insights include a core understanding that “early experiences affect lifelong health, not just learning but healthy brain development.”
So “playing the hand you’re dealt” means resigning ourselves to being at the mercy of early childhood traumas, right? Absolutely not. I have an ACE up my sleeve: I am a 6.
The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study came about when Dr. Vincent Felitti couldn’t understand why a majority of the people participating in weight loss programs could not seem to maintain losses over an extended period of time. Dr. Felitti decided to find out. Even better, he decided to provide a study-proven assessment of that why and develop a simple measurement tool to help people recognize how their brains were sabotaging their best efforts at overcoming any number of negative behaviors.
Based on an understanding that healthy brain development requires protection from toxic stress, Dr. Felitti came up with a list of ten childhood traumatic circumstances that produce toxic stress levels in children. The list included witnessing physical abuse, receiving physical abuse, living with an alcoholic, living with the loss of a parent at a young age, and so on. Each trauma was worth 1 point, and a score of 3 or less, if not ideal, was within an acceptable range of minimal impact. Anything above 3 was significant. His study was conducted through the Center for Disease Control on a group of 17,000 respondents. The results changed the way professionals are addressing stress, anxiety and resilience in children, and addictive behaviors in adults. They are beginning to learn (and teach) that we are not less than. We are not failures. We are not lost causes. We simply have to change our game strategies, and help our children change theirs.
I am a 6. And, among other stress-related ailments, I maintained a pattern of obesity throughout my life, using food as my main coping strategy. However, at this point, though I can’t change the hand I was dealt as a kid, I’ve learned different strategies to change how I respond when those familiar stressors and insecurities surface. There is no magic pill. As we’ve built Simply Successful Kids, the learning continues and makes me feel hopeful. It makes me feel powerful.
It makes me feel like I’m holding all the cards.
About the Author: Deb Timmerman is a co-creator of Simply Successful Kids and the Simply Successful Program.
Coming next: Resilience! We’ve got it and we’re willing to share!