By Dr. Scott Grant
Q: “Who do you go to when you need help or you’re in trouble?”
A: While this may seem a simple question you hear at your child’s annual doctor visit, it reflects a fundamental milestone in our emotional development that can have lifelong effects. Children and adults will experience adversity. How we respond to adversity as an adult is shaped in our early childhood years.
With the 1998 landmark “Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” Drs. Vince Fellitti and Rob Anda described the profound impact adversity in childhood can have on our longterm health. These researchers showed the progression from adversity in childhood — like abuse, neglect, witnessing violence in your home and parental substance abuse or mental illness — to poor health outcomes in adulthood.
Ongoing research in this area paints a grim picture. Unbuffered exposure to adversity has been linked with increased risks of eight of the 10 top causes of death in the United States.
Your eyes may have naturally focused on the scary words in that last sentence: ADVERSITY or DEATH.
I draw your attention instead to the word that is our source of hope: UNBUFFERED!
Just as adversity is a consequence of negative relationships, healing and prevention come from positive relationships. Just one relationship with an adult that is safe, stable and nurturing can buffer these consequences of adversity. A former mentor taught me, “Every kid needs one adult in their life who irrationally believes that they are the best kid in the world.”
Doctors should ask about the adversity kids are facing. There is an equally important question: Who is the adult in your life who you can go to when you need help?
And the question for our community is this: How can we equip as many adults as possible to have the tools necessary to provide safe, stable and nurturing relationships for the children in their lives?
Join us Monday, Jan. 30, to learn more about the science of adversity and the tools you can use to help the kids in your life thrive and overcome the adversity they will face.
Dr. Scott Grant is a husband and father who works as a pediatrician in southeast Michigan. In 2021, he created Docs2Dads, a podcast to help men find joy in fatherhood and become experts in their own health and the health of their children. His program, “Overcoming Adversity & Building Resilience,” takes place 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at the Grosse Pointe Public Library Ewald Branch. Visit familycenterweb.org for more information.
The Family Center provides free programs and resources that empower families to successfully navigate life’s social, emotional and physical challenges. Learn more at familycenterweb.org
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