Children are resilient
It’s a common misconception that what happens to you in the past is just that, in the past. Maybe you experienced trauma in your childhood, but why does that matter? Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, can have a tremendous impact on an individual’s future as it relates to lifelong health issues.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) describe instances of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction that occur to children under the age of 18. One of the root causes of chronic disease, mental illness, and most violence, ACEs harm a child’s developing brain and lead to changes in how they respond to stress. These changes can damage a child’s immune system so profoundly that the effects show up decades later. When a child or adult acts out of the norm, often the question becomes, “What is wrong with you?” With the research around ACEs, we’re beginning to understand we should rather be asking, “What happened to you?”
As the president of the Daniel Island Exchange Club, I have seen the importance of child abuse prevention and the positive effects it has on communities. Every minute, an adverse childhood experience affects the psychological and physical development of a child in our community. In Charleston alone, 63% of adults report having experienced at least one ACE, making the population of Charleston at risk for numerous poor health and social outcomes. As a result, adverse childhood experiences become a public health and community problem. However, with research, knowledge, and the amazing resources we have in the Charleston community – we know adults can do something to help prevent and overcome the negative effects of prolonged childhood adversity.
Children are resilient, and with the proper support system, they can heal. This includes reliable, informed adults to act as a buffer to negative consequences in daily life. A buffer provides protection, encouragement, and support. So, if we all have a part to play – what is yours?
Daniel Island is one of the most hospitable, forward-thinking, and generous communities in our state. We know child abuse is one of the most prevalent health issues facing kids today. We know that no community is immune from abuse and trauma. I believe our community can be a part of the solution – the positive outcome – for adults and kids who have experienced trauma. Just by being trauma-aware we can move the conversation from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” We can partner with local organizations such as Darkness to Light to learn how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. We can utilize the resources the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center offers to help our kids heal if abuse does happen, instead of looking the other way. We can trust our gut if we see something that makes us uncomfortable. We can speak up if we see someone crossing a boundary. We can empower our kids to know their boundaries and to say “no” to adults if they are uncomfortable. We can make a difference.
Not only will we as a community be protecting our kids, but we will also send a message to anyone who thinks our community will put up with child abuse – that there is not a place for them here. All these actions can make a difference in a child’s life. They can prevent adverse childhood experiences from happening, they can rescue a child from abuse, and maybe even save them from the life-long health consequences. It is imperative that we start preventing childhood adversity to allow every child to live to their fullest potential, both here on Daniel Island and beyond.
To learn more about how to have a conversation with your kids, visit DIPROTECTS.com.
Joe Delpino is president of the Daniel Island Exchange Club. The club’s projects include the Honor Banner Program in the island’s downtown area, the annual Field of Honor display, and the “Pinwheels for Happy Childhoods” initiative in April. To learn more about the Daniel Island Exchange Club, visit https://www.facebook.com/DIExchange/about.