We’ve all got good at talking about adverse childhood experience and trauma. So good that we can name them, count them, measure their impact and they even have a handy acronym. We talk about the number of ACEs someone has with fluency and zeal. In lots of conversations recently I’ve found myself reflecting on the opposite.
What if we talked about their positive childhood experiences in the same way? What if we calibrated the impact of joining a sports or theatre group? Of learning to play a musical instrument or being a member of a choir? Of growing up in a home without the daily grinding poverty faced by parents forced to choose between eating and heating? Of growing up with strong networks of support? Of having a significant, reliable adult who isn’t your parent in your life? Of enjoyment of nature, of play? Of security?
What if we listed these experiences, and measured them, bringing together the evidence that we know exists to demonstrate what a difference the positive childhood experiences make not just to happy healthy childhoods, but long term resilience, well being, and health.
That would be a world in which no schools inspector could rate a school which had cancelled its music lessons as anything but poor. No local authority would be able to reduce funding for parks and open spaces without calculating the costs. It would be a world in which deep connections would have a value of their own. It would be a world in which changes to the system of welfare benefits would be assessed for their impact on the lives of children not this year, but in thirty years time. It would be a world in which it would be self evident that providing secure tenancies for families is a contributor to long term mental and physical well being. It would of course be a world in which we would recognise trauma for what it is, but would also know that we were investing in all the positive childhood experiences that provide the scaffolding on which people build their lives.
Is this just a fuzzy utopia? The sort of wishful thinking that gets us nowhere? Or is it instead the foundation for a a different sort of relationship – one that recognises that the health of a nation is its biggest single asset, and that the best way of strengthening that asset is to recognise, and measure, the benefits that we gather through life, and understand what they do to our long term survival. That would be serious asset management and would contribute to building a strong, capable generation with the skills and capacity to take on the leadership roles we so desperately need.
http://www.juliaunwin.com/wp-content/uploads/julia-unwin.jpg00juliaunwinhttp://www.juliaunwin.com/wp-content/uploads/julia-unwin.jpgjuliaunwin2018-03-17 14:17:142018-03-17 14:17:14some thoughts on all our childhoods