As Joy dropped her 4-year old son Luke off at children’s class, she looked exhausted.  

“Luke has thrown three tantrums today,” Joy explained, as she began the second week of her Nurturing Home parenting class. 

Today’s lesson was on how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) hurt children’s developing brains and bodies and impact lifelong social, emotional, and physical health. As parents learn their own ACE score, they discover how their childhood trauma has influenced their current situation. Many realize for the first time how their past has led them to a lifetime of poor choices.

Joy learned that her ACE scored was 10 out of 10.  She had experienced a wide variety of physical and emotional neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.  Additionally, she came from a dysfunctional household that included drug abuse, mental illness, incarceration, divorce, and domestic violence. Her mother had a string of boyfriends who physically and sexually abused her. Worst of all, Joy felt her mother didn’t care. 

Research shows that parents with high ACE scores like Joy are at high risk to expose their own children to similar experiences. The training teaches parents how they can heal from ACEs, and how they can protect their own children.

In addition to classes, parents receive in-home coaching sessions. Joy’s counselor, Jessica, worked with her to implement techniques to help with Luke’s aggression. They created a calm down spot in the home where Luke could go when he was experiencing overwhelming emotions. In his spot, Luke shakes a bottle filled with glitter in a clear liquid and watches the glitter slowly sink to the bottom. By the time it settles, Luke feels calm.

After several weeks of using techniques like the calm down spot, Luke’s aggression and tantrums have decreased. 

As parents put what they have learned into practice, they begin to shape a brighter, more nurturing future for themselves and their children. These skills are key to breaking the cycle of ACEs.