We imagine childhood as a carefree time of innocence, play, and curiosity. Sadly, far too many children are accumulating one negative experience after another. The effects show up in their brains, their bodies, and their behavior.Professionals in mental health, education, and healthcare now recognize the effect of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs) on brain function, mental health, physical health, and behavior. The more ACEs a child has, the more at risk they are for developmental disorders, adult diseases, and negative socio-economic realities.
As we care for our own children and serve children and families in our community, it’s important to understand the challenges that many parents, caregivers, and young children face. While the reality of ACEs is deeply discouraging and overwhelming, there are hopeful solutions within our reach! Both science and personal stories testify to the power of resilience in overcoming many of the effects of ACEs.
What’s the #1 way we can support resilience in children? The answer may surprise you. Relationships.
In a 2018 interview, Oprah Winfrey asked Dr. Bruce Harry, a leading researcher on ACEs: “What’s the difference between a really bad childhood and being able to overcome that, and a traumatic childhood and someone not being able to overcome that?” Relationships. “If you have the opportunity to be connected to people in positive ways,” says Dr. Henry, “that can buffer some of those effects.”
Relationships bring us to The Basics: 5 fun, simple, powerful ways that every family can give every child a great start in life. We love The Basics because they are simple and for everyone. But The Basics are also powerful because they are rooted in relationships. And relationships provide the love, support, and connection every child needs to help combat the effects of stress, whether it’s the stress of daily life or experiences that are traumatic.
Here are just some of the ways each one of The Basics can help support resilience in children:
1. Maximize Love, Manage Stress: This is the first and most important Basic for a reason. Children thrive when their world seems loving, safe, and predictable. With all that’s going on in the world right now, life can feel anything but loving, safe, and predictable, not only for our children but for those who care for them.
Young children are greatly affected by the stress of their parents and caregivers. Even babies can sense the stress of a parent. Additionally, a parent who is depressed may not be interacting with their baby as much, which means important brain development isn’t taking place like it should.
Caring for others begins with caring for you! It’s okay not to be okay. And if you’re not okay, it’s so important to find healthy ways to cope with stress and find mental health as you also care for your child. Not doing so can have a lasting effect on a young child’s brain, body, and emotions. If you know a parent who’s struggling, reach out to provide support. You can be an important lifeline for a parent who needs it!
Learn more about Basic #1: Maximize Love, Manage Stress:
- Parents and caregivers, here’s the most important thing you can do for yourself and your children during these trying times.
- Caring for children requires caring for you. 8 ways to manage stress when life is challenging and unpredictable.
- How a Simple Bedtime Routine Can Help Your Child Feel Secure (and help you manage stress)
Talking, singing, and pointing with your child from the moment they’re born is so important for healthy brain development. But it’s also vital for healthy connection! Conversation creates lasting bonds. It helps your child know that the ideas and feelings they express are safe with you and valued by you.
Our words matter. They have power. Not just for healthy language development, but for emotional development. Words are an incredible way to communicate how much you love and value your child–how special they are to you. Be purposeful with your words and use them in ways that build up your child. Focus on using more words that are positive, loving, and affirming instead of negative, harsh, and scolding.
Learn more about Basic #2: Talk, Sing, and Point:
- 10 reasons it’s important to talk with your child from the very beginning!
- 6 Simple Ways to Support Language Learning with Your Child
- Narrate life from the beginning! Your child’s brain depends on it.
You may be wondering, “What does math have to do with resilience and a child feeling loved?” Again, all of The Basics happen within the context of relationships. As you walk down the street and find shapes, as you count the apples you buy at the grocery store, as you let your child help measure and cook in the kitchen, you are connecting with your child, bonding with them, helping them feel valued because you’re including them in daily life.
Learn more about Basic #3: Count, Group, and Compare.
- Use these everyday moments to prepare your child for math! (even if you’re not a “math person”)
- 8 Simple Ways to Make Math a Fun Part of Daily Life!
- 3 Everyday Ways to Talk About Math with Little One
Not only is play important for building a healthy body; it’s another positive experience that helps buffer the effects of stress and trauma. This is true for children but also for adults.
Curiosity, exploration, and moving our bodies build muscles, relieve stress, and fuel the brain with “happiness chemicals” like serotonin and endorphins.
Learn more about Basic #4:
- 7 Simple Ideas for Exploring through Movement and Play (and why your child’s brain needs it!)
- The Basics of Exploring through Movement and Play with Your Baby and Toddler
- 10 Everyday Ways Your Child Can Explore Through Movement and Play (even when it’s hot outside)
Reading for just 10 minutes a day has huge impacts on a young child’s developing brain and also creates positive experiences and lasting memories.
Reading together exposes children to language and helps them become more curious, imaginative, and compassionate. But more importantly, snuggling up with your child and a book is an opportunity to bond. It helps your child feel safe, loved, and secure. This close time together can also be a positive way for you to unwind as a parent and focus on connection, thus reducing your own stress and increasing your capacity to respond to your child with more love and calmness.Learn more about Basic #5:
- Let’s be honest: reading to little ones can be challenging. Here are 6 simple ways you can enjoy it!
- How Reading and Discussing Stories Can Help Your Child Process Uncomfortable Emotions
- 10 Simple Ways to Get Creative & Have FUN with Read-aloud Time!
- The #1 Thing You Need to Know About Reading to Your Baby + 7 Simple Tips
The #1 thing you can do to promote resilience in children is to provide a loving, supportive relationship. And that’s the beauty of The Basics. You practice them in the context of relationship.
Yes, these tips and principles will build strong and healthy brains that are ready for school and ready for life. But more important than that, The Basics reinforce healthy connections between young children and the adults who care for them.
Brains develop best when a child feels loved.
The Basics are 5 fun, simple and powerful ways that every parent can give every child a great start in life!
Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:
- Watch this short video for an overview of The Basics.
- Receive regular, FREE resources from The Palmetto Basics.
- Follow The Palmetto Basics on Facebook and Twitter. We provide encouraging, real-life, shareable content to help parents and caregivers!
- If you, your faith community, your organization, or your place of business would like to join us as a Champion for Children, contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for sharing this post and spreading the word about The Palmetto Basics to those within your circle of influence!