Woman reading to her toddler son.

Building Childhood Resilience in Social Work 

As social workers, understanding and responding to childhood trauma is part of providing meaningful care. This often includes interacting with individuals and families with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

With 64% of adults having at least one ACE, it is vital to support caregivers who may have experienced childhood trauma.

That’s why we are sharing 10 ways to build resilience to support you as you work to empower families. You’ll learn about ACEs, their impacts, and strategies for recovery and prevention.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur before age 18.

The ACE study links childhood trauma to negative later-life health and life course outcomes. There were two major findings in the study. First, adverse or traumatic experiences in childhood are extremely common. And the higher the ACE score, the greater the risk of negative health outcomes later in life.

A few examples of ACEs or early childhood trauma linked to higher risks of negative effects include:

  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Poverty
  • Racism
  • Separation from caregivers
  • Bereavement and survivorship
  • Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect

This is not a comprehensive list of childhood adversities. Any event that happens in early childhood that causes excessive stress can be considered traumatic. When stress occurs and the child does not receive nurturing support, it can cause toxic stress.

How Adverse Childhood Experiences Impact Health

It’s hard to fathom the lasting negative effects on children’s mental and physical health. But experiencing frequent or prolonged trauma is especially disruptive for children whose brains are still developing.

According to Dr. Bruce Perry, childhood adversity plays a significant role in overall mental health. It’s estimated that it contributes to 45% of all childhood mental disorders and 30% of adults.

Growing up with toxic stress can impact relationship building and stability. Children who grow up with trauma may have difficulty forming healthy relationships. They may have unstable work histories and struggle with finances, jobs, and depression throughout life. (cdc.gov, April 2024)

Childhood adversity affects people of all genders, races, and socioeconomic status. Although daunting to realize how common early childhood trauma is, there is hope!

Adverse Childhood Experiences can be addressed to prevent negative outcomes.

Building Childhood Resilience

Experiencing adversity in childhood does NOT mean we are destined to have negative outcomes throughout life. We can build resilience and adapt our lives despite difficult circumstances!

Resilience is the ability to build back. It’s important to remember that it takes time and support to grow resilience. The path to recovery looks different for each person.

Healthy attachment relationships foster resilience.

A strong and healthy attachment relationship with a primary caregiver is very powerful. Research shows that it promotes optimal development and resiliency in early childhood.

Attachment relationships include:

  • Connection:
    • Humans are born wired for connection. We depend on the quality and reliability of our earliest connections. It becomes the blueprint for how we think about ourselves, interact with the world, and create relationships.
  • Supportive Relationships:
    • A stressed, unreliable, or scary relationship between caregiver and child can create an unhealthy attachment. If a child is able to feel safe to explore, they can then create supportive relationships. 
  • Nurturing Responsive Care:
    • With consistent, nurturing, and responsive care, children feel loved and valued.

Concrete Strategies for Supporting Recovery and Resiliency at Any Age

At Great Kids, we believe recovery and resilience can be achieved throughout life.

We designed a guide including easy steps that can be implemented daily. Each step supports you to heal and grow new pathways in the brain. Building resilience takes time and repetition. However, it is possible to recover and experience healthy outcomes for you and the families you support.

With this guide, you can: 

  • Build resilience and adapt despite difficult circumstances
  • Learn daily steps that can produce positive outcomes
  • Begin to heal and grow new pathways in your brain with time and repetition

Supporting Resilience in Social Work

Supporting building resilience and understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences go hand and hand in social work. Your work involves daily interaction with people who have experienced at least one ACE.

You can support families dealing with adversity. With our guide, you will have concrete strategies for building resilience at any age.

Remember, safe and supportive relationships are the most significant factor for recovery.

Reach out to learn more about tools for building resilience and how we can help you.



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