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Creating Happy Childhoods

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumas that happen in a child's life that hurts or scares them. A ground-breaking study in the 1990s identified 10 ACEs, listed in the graphic to the right. Since then, ACEs have expanded to include a wide range of experiences. While many ACEs (like abuse and neglect) can be prevented, other ACEs can't always be stopped, like having a parent who struggles with their mental health, or experiencing a natural disaster. When a child is exposed to traumas such as these over a long period of time, it can lead to toxic stress, which is harmful to their growing body and brain and can lead to negative outcomes like risk of heart disease and stroke.


The good news is there are many ways to buffer the effects of ACEs so that children grow up healthy and strong! Research has shown that building resilience, having protective factors in place, and creating positive childhood experiences can reduce the physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral effects of ACEsin some cases by nearly 50%!

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To learn how YOU can help create happy childhoods for the kiddos in your life, keep reading!


Resilience is the ability to "bounce back" after experiencing challenges or stressful situations. For children, challenges and stressful situations can include starting at a new school, moving, or being bullied. Resilience can be built and children can learn how to be resilient by having a strong, positive relationship with a primary caregiver or another caring adult.

The graphics below show just a few ways you can work to build resilience with the children in your life. Click the graphics to learn more!


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Protective factors are conditions or qualities in individuals, families and communities that can reduce the likelihood of maltreatment and certain ACEs by promoting health and well-being of children and families. Protective factors can help parents identify resources, supports, and healthy ways to cope under stress that emphasize their strengths. We can all help parents build protective factors! Check out the graphic below for more information. Click the graphic to download it as a PDF.

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Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) can protect children from the immediate and long-term negative effects of ACEs. PCEs help create environments where children feel connected and supported by their peers, community and adults in their lives. Check out the graphic below from Mezzo Solutions and our 20 Ways Lists for some examples of Positive Childhood Experiences.



ACEs are not destiny! If you or someone you know is dealing with the longterm effects of ACEs, there is hope! Resilience can be built in any person, at any time. With the right support from professionals and the right education, you can overcome ACEs.

Help is available

Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-(800)-252-2873

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988

Disaster Distress Line: 1-800-985-5990

Parent Help Line: 1-800-727-5889

If you'd like to schedule a training on any of these topics, PCA Illinois can provide one for you at no cost, either in-person or virtually!

Contact Kelsey Greene our ACEs Project Director at to schedule a training or learn more.

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