Parents With ACEs: Is It Time to Change Your Parenting Playbook?

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Parents With ACEs: Is It Time to Change Your Parenting Playbook?

If you experienced severe hardship as a child, are you more likely to have children with behavior or mental health problems?

The short answer is yes.

A recent UCLA study shows that the children of parents with four or more ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are twice as likely to develop ADHD which makes it more likely children will become hyperactive and unable to pay attention or control their impulses. In addition, their children are four times as likely to have mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

However, the researchers said a positive parenting style can help protect children against this risk. Here are some tips for a close, healthy relationship with your children:

Adam Schickedanz, MD, of UCLA

Lead study author Adam Schickedanz, MD, of UCLA

Take a deep breath when you’re stressed out. Breathing in and slowly exhaling to the count of four interrupts the stress response. Repeat as necessary.

Build in some daily rituals. Scientists say that routines and rituals are critical for healthy child development. Cook and eat together, watch the PBS Kids show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with your preschoolers, and read to your kids at bedtime. Even sort clothes together while catching up – all these “anchoring” rituals can help create closer, more loving relationships with your children, according to Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical teen psychologist licensed in Connecticut and New York.

Take care of yourself. Take a walk with a friend, watch the dancing cockatoo on YouTube, have the neighbors over for a picnic. Feeling happy will help you stay calm and nurturing with your children.

Consider a peer parenting coach. “We found this really promising,” said UCLA study leader Adam Schickedanz, MD. “When it’s someone from your community or social network, it’s much easier to trust them.” Ask your health provider about parenting resources in your area.

Take a parenting class. “It’s important to realize that when it comes to parenting, not one size fits all,” says Greenberg.  “If the class doesn’t feel right to you, try a different one.”

Get more support. If you’re depressed or at your wit’s end, consider seeing a mental health professional for help.


Schickedanz A, Halfon N, Sastry N, et al. Parents’Adverse Childhood Experiences and Their Children’s Behavioral Health Problems. Pediatrics. 2018;142(2)

Hembree, D. Don’t Know Why Your Kid Has Behavioral Problems? Your Own Childhood May Hold Clues. Retrieved from