ACEs and Toxic Stress: How We Can Heal Children’s Brains


From Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc.: “As a trauma and emotion-centered psychotherapist, I am relieved that children are now being screened for toxic stress. Thinking about mental health as a byproduct of a child’s environment is an important addition to current thinking on how to improve children’s wellbeing. Rushing to diagnose a child with a potentially stigmatizing label, incorrectly blaming ‘defective’ brain chemistry, resorting to unnecessary and sometimes toxic medications, and carrying out punishments do not address the underlying cause or help a child recover their self-confidence and ability to thrive. […]

When we continually suppress core emotions, they put stress on the mind and body. Too many emotions, coupled with too much aloneness, in persistently triggering environments, make it difficult, if not impossible for a child to feel safe and calm. To cope with the anxiety of unprocessed emotions, a child’s mind erects automatic, unconscious, defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms are also symptoms of toxic stress. They include depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior, substance abuse, cutting, eating disorders, and difficulty concentrating or focusing, to name but a few. […]

We must not send a message that our children are broken. Children easily interpret their distress as a personal flaw. This can evoke shame and adversely affect confidence. A trauma-informed approach includes parent and child together connecting, sharing, and solving problems. It sends a relieving, brain-regulating message that a child is not alone. Parent and child together can uncover the current and past stresses in the environment, work to restore a sense of calm and safety. This will build a child’s trust that talking honestly about struggles leads to relief. Working with emotions restores confidence and mastery that ‘I can feel my feelings, connect with caring others, and deal with whatever life brings.'”

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  1. To reduce toxic stress why don’t we start designing schools to look like schools again instead of modelling them after prisons ?

    “Microcosms of the police state, America’s public schools contain almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.” – The Free Thought Project About 29,400,000 results (0.25 seconds)

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