Adverse Childhood Experiences: Most Prevalent Unaddressed Public Health Threat
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events in a child’s life. This trauma can be the result of many difficult experiences. A child might experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. ACEs can be caused by trauma associated with physical or emotional neglect, or domestic violence. The trauma from parental mental illness, parental substance abuse, an incarcerated household member, and divorce can result in ACEs as well. How can a divorce mediator help protect children from an adverse childhood experience and support a healthy divorce?
ACEs significantly affect the way in which the human body responds to stress. Specifically, childhood is a time when our brains develop quickly and ACEs can interfere with normal cognitive growth. When children are exposed to ongoing stressful events, their ability to cope becomes impaired. They often experience academic difficulty in school. Teachers often report that these children have behavior issues as well. ACEs impact children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and psychological development.
Research has focused on the relationship between ACEs and long-term health concerns such as depression, substance abuse, heart disease, and cancers. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, esteemed pediatrician and the Surgeon General of California, worries that ACEs are possibly the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our population today.
Limiting Adverse Childhood Experiences in Divorce
Nearly 50% of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. This figure does not include the breakup of unmarried parents or “paternity” cases. While many children adjust quite well to the new family circumstances, 5 – 25% of children experience the negative impacts of ongoing high conflict both during and after divorce. Typically, the initial breakup causes trauma resulting from loss and adjustment for children. A prolonged period of high-conflict exposure can result in a greater risk of unfavorable health, developmental and academic outcomes for these children. Given the high prevalence of divorce in today’s world, many studies point to the trauma incurred by children exposed to constant conflict.
Divorce Mediator’s Role: Lean In and Listen
What role can a divorce mediator play in buffering the impacts of ACES? First, as mediators, we need to educate ourselves about ACEs related to the family court system. Then, we need to understand that divorce, especially high conflict divorce, is one of the most commonly occurring ACES in our society today. Finally, armed with this knowledge, mediators need to lean in and ask the parties for honesty about their children’s exposure to the ongoing conflict between the parents.
Any time any member of the “divorce team” becomes aware of an ACE, there is an opportunity to advise the parent of the possible effects it may have on the children and what they can do to address the ACE.
A divorce mediator can:
- educate parents about the harmful effects prolonged exposure to conflict has on children
- discuss the immediate impacts on cognitive and social development
- explain how exposure to conflict can cause damage that lasts well into adulthood
- suggest resolutions that guard the children against further exposure to conflict
- help the parents brainstorm ideas that prevent the conflict between two bitter parties.
Some of my favorite tools and ideas for minimizing conflict between bitter parents are: pick-ups and drop-offs at school, communication through My Family Wizard, and an agreement to refrain from negative comments about the other parent. Mediator’s can assist in developing mediated agreement that promote protection for the children.
Negotiated agreements need to provide children with a secure base – a haven from conflict. A mediator can ask the parents what they desire for their children, then assist them in structuring agreements with these goals in mind. Mediation can help families avoid a harmful court battle. Mediating agreements that protect children from ACEs can provide a means to a healthier divorce for everyone involved.
Learn More About Divorce Mediation in Florida
Successful Solution Divorce Coaching and Mediation is physically located in Clearwater, Florida but I can work with clients anywhere in the state of Florida with my online divorce help services. Contact me for a free divorce mediation consultation.