Facts for Living: Compassion, understanding help others overcome life’s adversities

By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension Agent

080714-facts-for-living1In my previous article I shared information about how adverse childhood experiences, or childhood trauma, can last a lifetime, impacting future learning, behavior and overall well-being. The more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater the likelihood of developmental delays and later chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression.

As a reminder, adverse childhood experiences can include economic hardship (poverty); being a victim or witness to any violence in the neighborhood; physical, sexual and emotional abuse; parental divorce; incarceration of a parent or guardian; living with someone with a mental illness; and living with someone who had a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Research indicates that as the number of adverse childhood experiences increases, so does the likelihood a child will struggle in school. Students with multiple adverse childhood experiences are more likely to be designated to special education, fail a grade, score lower on a standardized test, have language difficulties, be suspended or expelled and have poorer heath.

There are many opportunities for communities, families and individuals to prevent or mitigate the effects of childhood trauma. Prevention includes helping parents have the knowledge, resources and support they need to provide safe, stable, and nurturing environments for their children to reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect. Services include working with families to manage stress, strengthen connections (family and friends), access resources (food, clothing, housing), and gain parenting skills.

Resiliency is the ability to “bounce back”. A resilient individual is one who is emotionally healthy and equipped to successfully bounce back from setbacks. We are born with resilience and it can be nurtured to help children and adults deal with the challenges in life. It means finding ways to solve problems, building and sustaining trusting relationships including relationships with your own child, and knowing how to seek help when necessary.

Trauma-informed care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. Trauma-informed care emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for the consumers and the providers. A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery. It also recognizes the signs of symptoms of trauma and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices. So, trauma-informed care can include schools, health care facilities, social services, and religious and faith-based communities, to name a few.

Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them. Understanding the impact of trauma is an important first step in becoming a compassionate and supportive community.

McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development agent. For more information, she can be contacted at the Extension district’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].

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