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Stressed Tennessee Children Dealt Bad Hand with "ACEs" – How to Help

Photo: Fifty-two percent of Tennessee children have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience during childhood, according to data released from the CDC. Photo credit: GaborfromHungary/morguefile.com
Photo: Fifty-two percent of Tennessee children have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience during childhood, according to data released from the CDC. Photo credit: GaborfromHungary/morguefile.com
June 8, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For children in Tennessee, childhood isn't all bedtime stories and playgrounds.

The Volunteer State is one of five states recognized in a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the prevalence of what experts call an adverse childhood experience, or ACE.

Those experiences include abuse and neglect, and according to the report, 52 percent of children in the state experience an ACE at least once during childhood.

Barbara Nicholson, co-founder of Attachment Parenting International based in Tennessee, says ACEs can have a big impact on children going forward.

"A lot of families in Tennessee are under a lot of stress,” she points out. “Parents need to be that listening ear, that empathic person and that is what will give them resilience to other stresses that maybe parents don't have that much control over."

The report underlines the long-term impact of things such as abuse and neglect on a child's brain development. Both the report and Nicholson recommend building a strong and solid foundation for children by talking, singing and rhyming with them; breastfeeding if possible; offering good nutrition and regular sleep.

Nicholson adds it's also important to engage children in the process of discipline and teach them a lifestyle of healthy habits.

Attachment Parenting International recommends that parents respond to their children with sensitivity and consistent and loving care. Nicholson says it often comes down to making sure parents are offered proper support, particularly in the first three years of their child's life.

"Reaching parents when their children are very young – infants, toddlers – that seems to be the most critical period and that's when they're more open for support," she stresses.

While more than half of Tennessee children have experienced at least one ACE, 21 percent of them have experienced three or more, which can lead to chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN