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Healthy and happy childhoods start now. Learn how you can help!

Children and families thrive when they have access to safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. These relationships and environments are essential to creating positive childhood experiences and preventing adverse childhood experiences.

Early negative events impact the health and well-being of children and the adults they become. These negative events are known as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). For example:

  • Experiencing violence or abuse
  • Witnessing violence
  • Having a family member attempt or die by suicide

ACEs also include aspects of the environment like growing up in a household with:

  • Substance misuse
  • Mental health problems
  • Instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison

Some adversity and stress are normal and can even be helpful so that children learn how to react to future challenges. However, if children are repeatedly exposed to adversities like abuse and neglect and unstable relationships or environments, they may experience toxic stress. Discover how toxic stress develops and evolves.

We all benefit when children have safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. Everyone can help prevent ACEs and promote positive childhood experiences by supporting children and families where you live and work.

Parents and caregivers:
Parenting is hard work! There are many things you can do to create positive childhood experiences.

  • Establish a routine. Children feel secure and thrive when the environment is structured for them.
  • Praise your child when she does something right. The more you praise a behavior, the more likely it is your child will behave the same way again.
  • Pay attention to your child when he is trying to communicate with you. Giving him your full attention will make him feel like you care about what he has to say.
  • Set aside time each day to talk and play with your child. Creating a special time lets your child know she is important and strengthens the bond between the two of you.
  • Check out CDC’s Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers! This resource can help you handle common parenting challenges and improve skills so you can enjoy helping your child grow.

We know that every child and every parent is unique. You may face many different situations and challenges every day. It’s ok to ask for help.

  • Reach out to babysitters, family members, or close friends.
  • Discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor.
  • Find out if your community offers support groups or programs for parents and caregivers.

Friends, family, and neighbors:

As a friend or neighbor, you can develop nurturing, supportive relationships with the children in your life. Offer to babysit, make a meal, or drive a parent or child where they need to go.

As a coworker, you can listen and support your colleagues by encouraging them to take breaks or seek additional help if needed. You can also offer to help with their workload.

We can all recognize challenges that families face and offer support and encouragement to reduce stress. Everyone can promote social norms that discourage violence and help ensure the safety of all members of a community.

  • Let people know that violence is unacceptable and steps will be taken to protect the victim of violence.
  • Encourage people to stand up and speak up, if they can safely do so, when a person is being harassed or hurt or needs support.

We can also support community programs and policies that provide safe and healthy conditions for all children and families.

  • Examples include supporting family friendly work policies like paid leave and flexible work schedules and supporting policies that strengthen household financial security based on the best available evidence.

Working together, we can help create neighborhoods, communities, and a world in which every child can thrive.