Impact of ACEs on Emotional Intelligence

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a significant impact on emotional intelligence. ACEs are traumatic experiences that occur during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction. These experiences can affect a child’s emotional development and ability to recognize and manage emotions. However, emotional intelligence can also be developed through positive experiences and interventions. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and emotional intelligence and how emotional intelligence can be cultivated in individuals who have experienced ACEs.

The Impact of ACEs on Emotional Intelligence

ACEs can have a significant impact on emotional intelligence. Children who experience ACEs may struggle with:

  • Recognizing and labeling emotions
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
  • Regulating their own emotions and behaviors
  • Developing empathy and perspective-taking
  • Forming positive relationships with others

ACEs can also affect the development of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and decision-making. This can lead to difficulties in managing emotions and making healthy choices.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence in Individuals with ACEs

While ACEs can have a significant impact on emotional intelligence, it is possible to cultivate emotional intelligence through positive experiences and interventions. Some ways to cultivate emotional intelligence in individuals with ACEs include:

  • Providing a safe and supportive environment: A safe and supportive environment can help individuals feel secure and build trust, which is essential for emotional development.
  • Teaching emotional literacy: Teaching emotional literacy, including identifying and labeling emotions, can help individuals understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.
  • Encouraging self-reflection: Encouraging individuals to reflect on their own emotions and behaviors can help them develop self-awareness and take responsibility for their own emotional reactions.
  • Providing opportunities for positive experiences: Providing individuals with opportunities to form positive relationships, develop skills, and experience success can help build resilience and emotional intelligence.
  • Offering trauma-informed interventions: Trauma-informed interventions, such as therapy or counseling, can help individuals process and heal from ACEs, which can improve emotional intelligence.

Adverse childhood experiences may significantly impact emotional intelligence, but emotional intelligence can also be cultivated through positive experiences and interventions. Providing a safe and supportive environment can tremendously impact students and their future. “My Best Me” curriculum was created to help schools provide this support in an easy way. (Sample “My Best Me” curriculum)

5 Tips For Helping Children Develop Emotional Intelligence

As parents, caregivers, and educators, one of our most important responsibilities is to help children develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, and it is a critical skill that helps children navigate the ups and downs of life.

Five tips for helping children develop emotional intelligence

  1. Model Emotional Intelligence: Children learn a great deal from the adults around them. As parents or caregivers, it is important to model emotional intelligence by showing children how to identify and manage their emotions. Talk about your own emotions with your child, and encourage them to do the same. When you are feeling angry, sad, or frustrated, explain why you are feeling that way and how you are managing those emotions. By doing so, you are showing your child that it is okay to have emotions and that it is possible to manage them in healthy ways.
  2. Help Children Identify Their Emotions: Children often have a difficult time identifying their emotions. They may know that they feel upset, but they may not be able to articulate why. To help children develop emotional intelligence, it is important to help them identify their emotions. Use emotion words (such as “happy,” “sad,” “angry,” “frustrated,” etc.) when talking to your child about their feelings. You can also use books or TV shows to help your child learn about different emotions.
  3. Teach Children Coping Strategies: Coping strategies are the tools that we use to manage our emotions. As adults, we have developed coping strategies over time, but children may not have the same tools. Teach your child coping strategies, such as taking deep breaths, counting to ten, or taking a break when they feel overwhelmed. Encourage your child to practice these coping strategies when they are feeling strong emotions.
  4. Encourage Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Encourage your child to practice empathy by talking about other people’s emotions. For example, if you see someone who looks sad, you can say to your child, “That person looks sad. How do you think they are feeling?” By practicing empathy, your child will develop a better understanding of other people’s emotions and will be more likely to show compassion.
  5. Practice Problem-Solving: Problem-solving is an important skill for emotional intelligence. When your child encounters a problem, encourage them to brainstorm solutions. You can help your child by asking open-ended questions, such as “What do you think you could do?” or “How do you think you could solve this problem?” By practicing problem-solving, your child will develop the skills they need to manage their emotions in difficult situations.

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill that helps children navigate the ups and downs of life. As parents, caregivers, and educators, we can help children develop emotional intelligence by modeling emotional intelligence, helping them identify their emotions, teaching coping strategies, encouraging empathy, and practicing problem-solving. By doing so, we are helping children develop the skills they need to manage their emotions in healthy and productive ways. My Best Me give you the tools to be able to teach these skills in an easy, fun and effective way.

Child sitting at the bottom of a slide.

The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences

“My Best Me” curriculum’s primary goal is to help reduce the negative impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences and promote a positive and healthy connection between families and the community. 

What is an Adverse Childhood Experience?

Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE are potentially traumatic events that occur in a child’s life.(0-17 years of age) This may be in the form of violence, neglect, experiencing the death of a loved one, or abuse. ACE can also be categorized as experiences of elements within their life that may jeopardize their sense of safety, binding, or stability. Examples can range from parental separation to substance abuse. 

What impact can Adverse Childhood Experiences have on a child?

ACE’s are linked to mental illness, chronic health issues, and substance abuse in adults and teenagers. In addition ACE’s have shown to have an impact on a child’s academic journey and in latter years job opportunities and earning potentials.

How to prevent the impacts of ACEs?

It is important to nurture relationships and environments for all children and families to help prevent ACEs and help children reach their highest potential. According to the CDC, teaching skills that have been identified as Social Emotional Learning is a strategy to prevent the negative effects of ACEs.

Did you know that 

In the United States, 64% of adults have an ACE score of 1. This means they have experienced at least one ACE in their lifetime. This subsequently increases the chances that that individual will experience a second ACE. 

How the “My Best Me” curriculum can help

How to Talk to Children About School Shootings

At the epicenter of school shootings, lives have been forever changed and trauma has become part of those communities. The effects of these shootings can also be felt far beyond the epicenter. They have brought on a lot of stress and anxiety for American parents. It is no surprise that the stress and anxiety that adults feel are also felt by children. 

It is important to realize that children are very much aware of current events AND most schools are having “active shooter drills”. This topic is highly visible to children and we need to help them manage their feelings around this topic. 

How can you talk to children about school shootings?

  1. Start the conversation: The hardest part is starting the conversation. You may feel the desire to avoid this topic but in reality, discussing school shootings can help children feel less anxious. Ask your child what they already know about school shootings then allow them to guide the conversation and ask questions.
  1. Normalize the feelings: It is important to normalize the feelings they are having. It is completely normal for them to feel anxious, sad, and/or scared. Allow them to explore those feelings in a safe place. 
  1. Talk about safety: Let your child know that school shootings are actually very rare. Reiterate that schools have taken appropriate measures to help children stay safe. Without getting graphic, ask them what plans are in place to keep them safe at school. They may answer fire drills, active shooter drills, tornado drills, etc. 
  1. Connect with the community for support: Anxiety and fear can make children more reclusive and less sociable. Remind your children of the people within your community that helps keep them safe. Teachers, coaches, cross guard, police, camp counselors, etc. These are the people within the community that are there to keep them safe.  

Restoring Hope

Hope is the belief that tomorrow will be better than today and that you have the power to make it so.”

During times of high stress, anxiety, and/or adversity students may lack hope. Lack of hope can affect willpower which in turn can make it hard for children to self-regulate. The outcome can be explosive outbursts and impulsive actions. 

Dr. Chan Hellman, Ph.D. has studied hope extensively and believes it is the key to social-emotional well-being. Hope is a way of thinking and CAN be taught.  

What he has found to be the three key components to hope. 

  1. Set goals
  2. Identify Pathways: the ability to identify pathways toward goals (problem solve) and Find ways around obstacles.
  3. Cultivate willpower: the ability to sustain motivation to continue on the pathway in order to achieve that set goal.

In increasing numbers, educators in classrooms nationwide are seeing more and more children exposed to adversity, stress, and trauma. The impact of this trauma on the learning environment is felt throughout the hallways of schools as students struggle with academic performance, disruptive behaviors, and emotional insecurity.

Hope is the answer for the students, classroom, district, and communities. 

(READ MORE on the science of Hope)