Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) in Alaska
“Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic experiences, including abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with substance abuse, mental illness, or a parent in jail.
Childhood trauma may lead to serious health problems that last into adulthood and even future generations, researchers have found.
The cause: Children’s stress hormones can reach toxic levels that interfere with their brain development. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The good news is that people can recover. Preventing ACEs and building resilience in Alaskans who have experienced them has the potential to pay enormous dividends, from less use of state health and social services to increasing the competitiveness of Alaska’s work force.
For more information about ACEs and ways to prevent them, see this report “Adverse Childhood Experiences - Overcoming ACEs in Alaska.”
Parents play an important role in teaching teens about healthy relationships by providing guidance and support, engaging in ongoing conversations, and by modeling them in their own relationships.
Supporting the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships has the potential to reduce the occurrence of teen dating violence and prevent its harmful and long-lasting effects on individuals, their families, and the communities. During the pre-teen and teen years, it is critical for youth to begin learning the skills needed to create and maintain healthy relationships. These skills include things like how to manage feelings and how to communicate in a healthy way.
Studies show that approximately 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year. Adolescents in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships.
Most parents of 11-to-14-year-olds don’t feel prepared to talk to their kids about healthy relationships and teen dating violence. They may not even want to acknowledge that their kids have started dating. And, they may not understand that controlling behaviors and bullying in pre-teen relationships can lead to dating violence and other harm later on.
Most parents don’t rank teen dating violence high on their list of concerns, but they are more likely to get involved once they understand that preventing teen dating violence can help protect kids from other dangers parents already worry about, like substance abuse and risky sexual behavior.
Unfortunately, dating violence is more common than parents think, especially among teens and young adults: nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, and nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.
Dating abuse can take many forms — physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, cyber. Data shows that only 33% of teens who experience abuse in a relationship ever tell anyone about the abuse.
It is critical for parents to take the time to know how to recognize warning signs, develop skills and tools to talk with kids, and identify the resources and supports that are available to help them and their children.
Exploring relationships is a healthy and important part of the middle and high school experience. For parents, finding the line that gives their teens room to explore, while staying alert to possible warning signs, is hard work! If your teen is dating or “talking” with another teen, here are a few things to watch:
· Is your teen cutting off communication with other friends? It’s understandable that a new relationship may take center stage, but not at the cost of other friendships.
· Is your teen suddenly changing habits or activities? If your teen is dressing differently, or quitting long-time hobbies or favorite activities, or dramatically changing their appearance, it may be a sign that their partner doesn’t appreciate them for who they are.
· Is your teen checking in with their partner constantly? Texting and social media are a reality for this generation, but constantly having to tell their partner where they are, what they are doing, or who they are talking to may be a sign of an overly possessive relationship.
· Does your teen have unexplained bruises or cuts? This could be a serious sign of abuse, or of self-harm related to a change in your teen’s self-image.
Parents play a powerful role in supporting the behavioral health of your kids. By providing a safe and supportive environment that promotes health and well-being, your kids can be led down a path where they can grow, learn, and thrive.
1. Start the conversation and really listen. Having important conversations about healthy relationships early and often will build a positive connection that can empower your teen to recognize when something isn’t right.
2. Be a strong voice and their best excuse. Clearly express family values and expectations related to sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, and dating. Let them fall back on you as an excuse not to put themselves in risky situations.
3. Use teachable moments. Ask your teen their opinion about unhealthy relationship messages in music lyrics or on TV and movies. Use these examples of unhealthy relationships or behaviors to guide discussion about why they’re unhealthy and to reinforce your family values and expectations.
4. Get to know your teen’s friends and dating partners. Welcome them into your home for dinner, family time, or movie night. Observe how the guests behave in your presence and how your teen behaves when they’re around. Afterwards, use the experience as an open door to discuss your teen’s relationships.
5. Encourage and model safe and healthy relationships. Your teen learns what to expect and how to act in their relationships by observing yours. Discuss what a healthy relationship looks like, feels like, and sounds like.
Making Caring Common's report The Talk: How Adults Can Promote Young People’s Healthy Relationships and Prevent Misogyny and Sexual Harassment explores these issues and offers insights into how adults can begin to have meaningful and constructive conversations about them with the young people in their lives.