Are ye feeling ACE or no?

To understand more about adverse childhood experiences or ACEs.

What you will need

You will need...

Timing: 20mins

  • Different sized paper
  • Coloured pens
  • Access to the what we say document from Beacon House
  • Access to the video/s on ACEs and equipment to show them (TV or tablet/projector)


Start by...

Spend a bit of time looking at the videos on what ACEs are (see the video link and the link). Be aware that these videos might trigger emotions and you may need to have someone on hand or make yourself available after the session to speak to people whose emotions were triggered by this session.

One way to deal better with young people that have traumatic childhood experiences is to be trauma informed. For example, in the past society viewed all behaviour as bad and made the child fully responsible without showing any sympathy. Schools would often punish or belt children that acted up in class. Now, there is much more effort to understand and appreciate that some behaviours are responses triggered by other things. It's not our fault. If we understand them, we can manage them better.

One way to remember this is the 4 R's: Realise - Recognise - Respond - Resist.

  • Realise means to realise that some childhood experiences have a lasting effect.
  • Recognise means to appreciate that most behaviour is a way of communicating. We need to stop and listen to what the individual is trying to say.
  • Respond means to take positive action, like making sure the young person feels safe and has someone to talk to.
  • Resist is about making sure that you don't make things worse or add to the emotions that are already going on.

Ask the group if they think that the 4 R's is good advice, would it be helpful when they're in fight, flight or freeze mode?

Middle bit...

Invite the group to make up a poster for adults. On one side list things that adults say which are unhelpful when they are in stress, frustrated or angry. On the opposite side write what adults should say instead. For example:

  • What have you done? Changes to What happened to you?
  • Be quiet! Changes to Can we all speak a bit quieter please.
  • What a mess! Changes to Can I give you a hand to tidy this stuff away?

End by...

Now think about our self-talk. Reflecting on our discussion about things adults say, what do we say to ourselves that takes us to a negative or dark place? Are we too hard on ourselves at times? What sort of things can we say that would help us feel less annoyed, frustrated or angry?

Finish by inviting everyone to give one positive thing that they've learned about themselves today?

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