Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic experiences that happen in a person’s life before the age of 18.1 These experiences can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being.2

ACEs may include:

  • Abuse (physical, emotional or sexual)
  • Neglect (physical or emotional)
  • Household dysfunction (mental illness, relative in jail, mother treated violently, substance abuse, divorce)

What is resilience?

Resilience is being able to deal with or bounce back from difficult times. Resilience can help reduce the negative impact of ACEs and other stress. It’s possible to become more resilient at any stage of life, but it’s easiest to build the basis of resilience in early childhood.3,4,5

Ways to build your own resilience

  • Learn about ACEs so you can be a part of breaking the cycle of trauma
  • Foster supportive, healthy relationships with people you can count on
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Take care of yourself – sleep, healthy food and exercise are really important

Ways to build resilience in kids

  • Spend quality time together: Eat dinner, play a game, go for a bike ride or read together
  • Get to know your kids’ friends
  • Give your child safe opportunities to try new things
  • Ask your child to help you prepare a snack or meal
  • Assign your child a chore that matches their age and stage
  • Model and teach your child calming exercises such as coloring, art, reading, deep breathing and listening to music
  • Meet your neighbours, parents at your child’s school or parents at a play group

Protective factors: Things that help children do well6,7,8

  • Supportive, nurturing relationships with caregivers and other adults (like neighbours)
  • Networks – positive relationships with extended family members and others
  • Support to develop helpful coping skills
  • Strong cultural identity
  • Stable home life
  • Healthy and supported caregivers
  • Safe and connected communities
  • Role models and mentors
  • Positive school environment

Struggling? Need help?

Contact your family physician or call:

  • Here 24/7 Waterloo Wellington: 1-844-437-3247
  • 24/7 Crisis Support Peel Dufferin: 1-888-811-2222

ACEs Coalition is a group of community stakeholders taking action on ACEs in our community. Contact us at gwacescoalition@gmail.com.

  1. Bucci, M., Gutiérrez Wang, L., Koita, K., Purewal, S., Silvério Marques, S., & Burke Harris, N. (2015). Center for Youth Wellness ACE-Questionnaire User Guide. CA, San Francisco.
  2. Felitti, V.J., Anda, R.F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D.F., Spitz, A.M., Edwards, V., Koss, M.P. & Marks, J.S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 14(4), 245-258.
  3. Masten, A.S., Gewirtz, A.H., & Sapienza, J.K. (2013). Resilience in development: the importance of  early childhood. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/sites/default/files/textes-experts/en/834/resilience-in-development-the-importance-of-early-childhood.pdf
  4. Zolkoski, S.M. & Bullock, L.M. (2012). Resilience in children and youth: A review. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2295-2303. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/pdf/01907409/v34i0012/2295_ricayar.xml
  5. Minnesota Department of Health (2013). Resilience to ACEs: Some children thrive despite ACEs. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/program/ace/resilience.cfm
  6. Promising Futures(2016). Protective Factors & Resiliency. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://promising.futureswithoutviolence.org/what-do-kids-need/supporting-parenting/protective-factors-resiliency/
  7. Benzies, K. & Mychasiuk, R. (2009). Fostering family resiliency: a review of the key protective factors. Child & Family Social Work, 14, 103-114. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://sccn612final.wikispaces.com/file/view/Resiliency+in+Families+(Question+3).pdf
  8. Child Welfare Information Gateway (2015). Promoting Protective Factors for In-Risk Families and Youth: A Guide for Practitioners. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from  https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/in_risk.pdf