Challenges Children Face: Adverse childhood experiences and COVID-19

A person’s childhood shapes their lives in many ways. Almost 35 million children face experiences that put them at risk for behavioral or long-term health issues in adulthood. Understanding how these issues originate, their long term effect, and how to prevent them is critical. 

What are adverse childhood experiences? 

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are potentially traumatic events that occur during childhood that impact a child in the future. From experiencing neglect or abuse to growing up with a lack of stability due to an incarcerated parent, adverse childhood experiences take many forms. These experiences impact the development and long term wellness of individuals as they reach adulthood. 

Adverse childhood experiences can include:

  • Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Emotional or physical neglect
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Having an incarcerated family member
  • Household substance misuse
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce

The long-term effect

Adverse childhood experiences can have a prolonged effect on one’s health and wellbeing. It can create a type of stress that is more intense and has a longer effect than normal called toxic stress. When not properly addressed, often due to lack of a support system, toxic stress can lead to behavioral issues and health complications. Toxic stress impacts brain development of children causing them to react differently to future stressors and impacts decision making. It can affect one’s behavior and puts individuals at higher risk for alcohol and substance misuse. Not only can toxic stress affect behavior, it also can affect the mental and physical health of an individual. People who experience toxic stress caused by adverse childhood experiences are at greater risk for issues such as heart disease, obesity, depression, chronic lung disease, and diabetes. Children growing up with adverse experiences may also face difficulty forming healthy relationships and keeping a stable job.

COVID-19 and social isolation in children

Children are experiencing unprecedented social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the days of virtual schooling, children spent the majority of their time surrounded by their peers. COVID-19 and social distancing has dramatically changed the way children learn and interact with one another. Virtual schooling and a lack of extracurricular activities have created challenges for children that lead many to feeling lonely, stressed, or depressed. One’s childhood is a crucial time for growth and social development. Friendships and interacting with peers is important for children to develop a sense of belonging and their own identity. Finding new ways to help children connect and cope with loneliness is more important than ever.

Preventing adverse childhood experiences and isolation

Creating a stable and nurturing environment for children and their families can help prevent adverse childhood experiences, and help improve feelings of social isolation. Community organizations offer resources that children and their families need to create and maintain that environment. At Pieces, we work closely with organizations that specialize in youth services, such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and various others. These organizations are specifically designed to enrich the lives of children through educational programs, mentorship, and more which helps prevent adverse childhood experiences or toxic stress by providing children with a support system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, new challenges have arisen like navigating how to best support the children they serve and fulfill their mission in a virtual world. 

Pieces Connect assists community organizations that offer youth services, and others in their mission to provide support to children, prevent adverse childhood experiences and assist with isolation. Families need community resources now more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic. Pieces Connect is a cloud based case management platform that helps community organizations connect their clients to needed resources in the community. With a robust referral directory, Pieces Connect makes it easy to refer a client to another organization in your community to ensure that the client gets the extra help that they need. You also don’t have to worry about information being out of date, because all referral directory information is verified for accuracy. During the coronavirus pandemic, we know situations are constantly changing, so we strive to ensure that our referral directory is up to date with the most recent information. Pieces Connect is here to support community organizations as they support the families and children that need it most.


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