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Hi all,

I'm in search of resources/ideas/discussions regarding sensitive and compassionate approaches to educating parents about ACEs/Toxic stress, specifically when working with biological parents whose decisions have contributed to the transmission of ACEs to their children. How are you all empowering parents to overcome (or set aside) the feelings of guilt, shame, and fear of being judged so that they may parent in a way that contributes to healing and resiliency?

Gratitude for your wisdom.

Megan Monds, MSW

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So, I have a few thoughts and I'd be happy to discuss further if you have questions or ideas. My organization is wanting to bring ACES and Resiliency to the parents we serve (Head Start and ECEAP preschool families), so I have been putting together presentations that will happen in February. I have used a lot of information that has already been available, including talking to other individuals who have done similar work. I learned a lot getting feedback from their experiences. 

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child has great information about toxic stress, executive function, resilience, and brain architecture. I've incorporated several of their videos because they use language that is understandable and good visuals. I also use the ACES Primer Video ( 

What we decided to do is two presentations - the first very briefly introduces the concept of ACES, and focuses heavily on Resiliency and HOPE (Health Outcomes from Positive Experiences framework). The second presentation goes more into the science behind ACES, as well as the Strengthening Families 5 Protective Factors framework. I originally had Executive Functioning information in the presentation, and only one presentation rather than two, but it was just too lengthy and we had to narrow the focus to what we really hope that they get out of attending - a sense of hope for their and their children's future, and ideas on how to support resiliency now and ongoing. 

We also purchased the Be Strong Families Parent Cafe discussion cards (English and Spanish) in order to host Cafe Conversations if parents are interested in that being a way of follow-up after the presentations. They are available here: https://www.bestrongfamilies.o...parent-cafe-in-a-box and they build on the 5 Protective Factors framework that we introduce in Part 2 of the presentation. 

There is a local therapy clinic that we are partnering with to have staff available at the presentations in case parents feel the need to speak with a professional at that time, and the clinic does take state insurance so we can refer families to them for on-going services. That's all I can think of for now. Hopefully this helps!

Melissa - It sounds like you are being very thorough in your caring steps to help parents with ACES. I work with parents, children, families with ACES and have for 42 years. If you'd like to see my approach with children as young as 3, please check out my website for a free video that addresses children directly. In addition, there are downloads/handouts online free of charge for that first video that educate parents how to reinforce what I teach the children. It strengthens the family unit/classroom unit.

Also you might want to check out where you will find six of my published books addressing practical skills for children in fun ways. The Superkid Power Guidebook has 52 lessons, each connecting the body awareness with the topic (for example, tense/calm, stress, sad, jealousy, anger and much more.) 

I hope you find these resources helpful. There is so much need at this time. 

Thank you for all you are doing, Janai Mestrovich aka Grandma Boom

Hi Megan:

What a great question. In addition to the great info. you've received above, I also suggest listening to this interview both for the content within in and the way others worked "shoulder to shoulder" with Rebecca. She says two things that I think are key in all of her impressive work. 

1. Those closest to the pain should be closest to the power.

2. When people buffered me I could buffer my kids.

I also suggest watching, with parents, Wrestling Ghosts, Paper Tigers, and Broken Places that talk ACEs but also center on personal experiences and how hard, lengthy, but also possible healing is. There are lots of other excellent films as well. Here's a link to where/how to get those films and others. Check out the resources and videos for lots of free videos available as well which can be watched with families. 

Here are some orgs I love that are parent or survivor led or co-led and strongly anchored in lived expertise and what Louise Godbold calls direct experience, because that matters most for exuding understanding, compassion and "getting it" that reduces shame and changes the tone and nature of conversations.

Attachment Trauma Network

Fathers Uplift

Vital Village


Rise (different than RYSE which is another great resource, in general)

Parenting with PTSD


Beating Trauma

They all have FB and Twitter pages as well and some have private pages or groups you can join through FB or the websites. 

Of course, we have Parenting with ACEs and a resource center and lots of people speaking and writing and presenting about these issues on our site. 

Other excellent resources are Dr. Claudia Gold, and Donna Jackson Nakazawa and Laura Porter and Dr. Renee Boynton Jarrett speak about facts and data on parenting with ACEs but with deep respect for parents and survivors (and that's not universal). Daniel Siegel has hopeful work as well and points to the fact that history isn't destined to repeat itself if trauma and past issues are worked with and through.

There are others but these are all organizations that talk with parents, as parents and not at parents or to parents. That alone is a HUGE difference that people feel and makes whatever info. is being shared received, heard, way differently.

And one sentence I saw that Laura Porter shared in an ACE InterFace shared said:

ACEs are not Destiny 

I think who is talking with parents is as important as what's being said. No one wants to hear about poverty from someone who has never been poor, about weight struggles from someone who has never had them, about menstrual cramps or menopause sleeplessness from someone who hasn't lived with and in a body with those things even if the person is excellent at conveying the science and data. Having presentations led or at minimum co-led by people who are speaking as parents who have ACEs changes a lot of the shame because the language of we is way different than the language of me to talking to or at you (especially if the one talking hasn't done parenting with post-traumatic stress from ACEs and the lived expertise is missing. 

Finally, what brought me, a socially awkward writer and introvert to this movement work, is in fact the ACE study but what moved me most, as a person with 8 ACEs was not what I hear impacts lots of others. I was floored that so many people had 0, 1 or 2 ACEs and once I saw that, understood that, I understood I had indeed struggled with more than others and that those with lower and fewer ACEs are advantaged and set up for success and that the step-dose response curve exists for them as well and that as a group they have less disease, missed work, and social, physical and financial problems. THAT REDUCED SHAME. It showed we are coming to life, to adulthood, to parenting carrying different amounts of struggles as well as different amounts of protective factors. And if we don't have enough protection, support and buffering, and we have lots of trauma and stress and adversity (in and outside the home, meaning adverse community experiences as well as the traditional ACEs), the trajectory isn't the same. We are all individuals, always, and no one can predict specifics about a person based on ACE scores. People with low ACE scores can get depression, diseases and suffer and people with high ACE scores can have full lives and be good parents. But the data and statistics certainly show us what's more or less likely given our earlier experiences. 

And for me, that helps reduce shame. I'm a mom and my daughter, who deserves an ACE score of 0 does not have that and through no fault of her own. And that does pain me deeply. Her score is not 0. It's much lower than mine but not low enough. But because I understand ACEs and also the impact of early poverty and keep learning about adversities I didn't experience but that also impact health and wellness (racism, homophobia, bullying, loss of siblings, community violence, etc.), I understand my own experiences and that of others more compassionately. 

I share this with others (parents and non parents). This was in Wrestling Ghosts

If you want to hear more parent voices and perspectives and some conversations between parents and other experts, this chat series and these resources are available. 

Thank you for asking this question and caring about parents and looking at what causes and prevents shame. I hope some of these things help. Please feel free to reach out, ask more questions, browse around in Parenting with ACEs. 




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  • ACEs are not Destiny

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