The sciences of medicine and behavioral health appear to be converging on this discovery articulated by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, that childhood abuse and chronic stress, as well as growing up with parents who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues, can alter the brain and eventually lead to heart disease and lung cancer. There is a call to address childhood experiences and trauma as a very real public health issue. My dear friend, Dr. Jessica Rodriguez sums it up nicely: “The biggest factor that contributes to mental and behavioral health issues in our society is a general lack of quality relationships in our lives.”
In my mind, this is significant for every parent to understand because our youth are experiencing tremendous cyber-stress in their cyber social realm. And brain science tells us the interaction with the device impacts that brain like a drug, changing the brain chemistry which can compromise healthy perspectives, behavior and impair their capacity to nurture good relationships, such that there can be actual trauma impact on the future of their health if not checked. (Note: one of the impacts is radicalization of youth into violent extremism which we will address at the Core Connectivity 2017 Fall Symposium on September 22, in South Sacramento).
Mike Mason is the Education and Outreach Director for Kids First in Roseville, a non-profit dedicated to child abuse prevention and intervention for Placer County. We met last week to discuss how this relatively recent revelation about childhood experiences and behavioral health impacts how we parent, called Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs). “All child abuse is an ACE,” he said, “But not all ACEs are child abuse.” He encourages parents to reflect on your own childhood, and consider how the experiences of your life may impact how you respond to your child’s experiences and needs.
Are you repeating the injuries you received?
And we also need to be mindful of what our children are experiencing in their on-line world and how that is affecting their capacity to make healthy choices and responses to what is happening. Our children are witnessing adult issues in their peer communities: bullying/violence, addictions, and sexual exploitation. “We are not expected to go through life without issues or events,” he said. “And coddling can be a form of abuse. If we coddle our children [at the expense of helping our children] to learn how to respond to stressors and risks and assaults in healthy ways, then we are indeed doing them harm.”
So here is the big question: how do we handle behavior that is unlovable? “The people acting out are the most needy,” Mason said. “They are asking for the greatest love in the worst way.” He encourages parents to help youth who are acting out to “find their worth,” which Mason refers to as the trauma-informed model.
Mason further acknowledges that there are great challenges for parents to keep the roof over the head and food on the table, and it is very interesting and worth noting that the financial struggle is not what causes an ACE. “I have found that parents who handled the financial challenges of providing for the family well, [i.e., they do not let hardship impact relationships in an adverse way], inspire resilience in their children.” In other words, they do not become angry or hostile as a result of that stress, which is a very hopeful and encouraging experience, and a good example for youth.
• To get help for ACEs related issues with you and your family, contact: Kids First and the Crisis Resolution Center.
• To create a family culture that promotes healthy, quality relationships to regulate the use of devices and counter the bullying impact of the social network, go to: Fresh Start. Joanna is available for private family consulting.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.