May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. A new report released last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) includes some sobering statistics on the mental health of our nation’s youth. The report, Helping Children and Youth Who Have Traumatic Experiences, indicates that nearly half of the kids in the United States, a staggering 46%, have experienced at least one trauma in their lives. Trauma, as defined in the report, includes a variety of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) including:

* Abuse and neglect
* Exposure to substance use and abuse
* Parents or guardians who spent time in prison
* Divorce
* Witnessing domestic abuse
* Victim of or witness to violence in their neighborhood
* Death of a parent

The effects of these traumas are profound. “It is important to understand the impact trauma has on children,” says Amy Blankenship, a Beech Acres Parenting Center Therapist. “Research indicates that children who have experienced trauma don’t know how to regulate their emotions.” Their brains are rewired as a result of the trauma they experience and it takes time to heal and repair those pathways. Meeting children and parents with empathy is the first step in care.

Beech Acres Parenting Center believes that the best way to help kids is through their parents. Our services are based on Natural Strength Parenting™, a unique approach to parenting that encourages parents to be intentional and mindful with their parenting while focusing on their child’s innate strengths. “Research shows that a strengths-based approach really helps heal the brain especially for someone who had been through trauma,” Amy said. “Mindfulness is also very effective in supporting people who have been through trauma.” Using intentional, strength-based, mindful tools helps direct service providers like Amy teach caregivers more positive parenting strategies.

Childhood trauma is a serious and widespread public health issue. In addition to utilizing Natural Strength Parenting™ as an antidote to this epidemic, Beech Acres Parenting Center therapists are Trauma Informed and the entire organization is currently working toward becoming a Trauma Informed Care organization. This process includes evaluating our current practices and procedures and ensuring that Trauma Informed Care is consistent across the organization.

With nearly half of the children in the United States having experienced one or more traumas in their life chances are you know a child who has. It’s time to start to consider what happened to them, not what’s wrong with them. Awareness is important and more and more people are starting to realize the pervasiveness of this issue. As a parent welcoming your child’s friends into your home, as a coach, or a volunteer in the classroom, this is important to understand. “It’s great to see people in the community embracing mental health awareness especially in early childhood,“ Amy Blankenship commented. “If we all make a small difference we can help families and children make big differences in their lives.”

To learn more about Natural Strength Parenting™ click here.