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15 Ways To Overcome Adverse Childhood Experiences ACEs

What are adverse childhood experiences ACEs?

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). For example:

  • experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect

  • witnessing violence in the home or community

  • having a family member attempt or die by suicide

Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding, such as growing up in a household with:

  • substance use problems

  • mental health problems

  • instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison

According to the CDC, the examples above are not a complete list of adverse experiences. Many other traumatic experiences could impact health and well-being, such as not having enough food to eat, experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, or experiencing discrimination.

ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adolescence and adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential. However, ACEs can be prevented.

In my own childhood experience, I experienced both abandonment and neglect. However, today we will discuss what Emotional neglect looks like and I'll show you 15 ways to begin your recovery journey.

What is childhood emotional neglect?

According to psychologist Dr. Jonice Webb author of Running on Empty.

Emotional Neglect: A parent’s failure to respond sufficiently to your emotional needs.

In other words, childhood emotional neglect is something that failed to happen while you were growing up.

What does childhood emotional neglect look like?

Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs.

It goes unseen, unnoticed, and unremembered. But what does that look like?

Sky’s friends gang up on her in gym class one day calling her all kinds of names and picking at her for the hand-me-down clothes she gets from her older sister. So Sky comes home from school feeling sad. Sky’s parents don’t notice her sadness.

Neither says, “Sky are you OK?” or “Did anything happen at school today?” No one seems to notice that anything is wrong.

This probably seems like nothing. Indeed, it happens in every home, and it generally is nothing.

So how could an incident like this damage a child, leaving scars that remain into her adulthood? After all, kids get teased at school and some point in time. The answer lies in the natural, developmental needs of children.

In order for a child to grow up with a complete and solid sense of herself, who she is, and what she’s capable of, she (or he) must receive enough awareness, understanding, and acceptance of her emotions from her parents. In other words, she must be both emotionally and mentally strong to handle the. difficult situation she experienced at school.

If there is a shortage from the parents in any one of these areas, the child will grow up feeling incomplete and lacking some of the skills self-knowledge, and self-care that are necessary to fully thrive in this world.

And now back to our girl Sky, who came home from school feeling sad. If this happens on occasion, it’s no problem. If it happens with enough frequency and depth — that what Sky feels is not noticed, responded to, or validated by her parents — Sky will grow up with a hole in her emotional development. In addition, Sky will not have the tools to deal with stress, difficult people, or difficult situations because no one taught her how to process and regulate her emotions.

She may deeply believe that her feelings are irrelevant, unimportant, or even shameful or unacceptable. This subtle message is telling Sky in order to deal with pain, loss, disappointment, and hurt you must avoid it, deny it rather than look at it closely, and handle the problem causing you stress. In her mind, it's better to wipe the tears away, keep her head up, and keep going because life ain't fair, so don't expect it to be.


In both my counseling practice and my own life, I've experienced personally as well as seen when an adult looks back to her childhood for an explanation for why she feels unseen, unheard, misunderstood, and different that she feels unworthy of love and good in life.

I have seen time and time again that these subtle parental failures in childhood leave the adult with a feeling of being incomplete, empty, unfulfilled, or even questioning her own purpose and value in life.

On my own journey, I can remember sitting in the counselor's office defending my family saying no they loved me, and they weren't struggling with low emotional intelligence this sounds crazy. I would constantly say “I had a great childhood. I wasn’t mistreated or abused. My great-grandmother and mom loved me and provided me with a nice home, clothing, and food. If I’m not happy, it’s my own fault. I have no excuse.”

But what I've come to learn from studying abandonment wounds, emotional abuse, and emotional neglect is that folks like me with adverse childhood experiences ACEs can’t remember what didn’t happen in their childhoods. So as adults, we blame ourselves for whatever is wrong in our lives.

Dr. Jonice Webb's advice in her book Running on Empty says we have no memory of what went wrong for us, so we have no way of seeing it or overcoming it, to make our lives happier. In addition to self-blame, another unfortunate aspect of emotional neglect as a child is that it’s self-propagating, says Dr. Webb.

What happens to adults who were emotionally neglected as kids?

Dr Webb says, emotionally neglected children grow up with a blind spot when it comes to emotions, their own as well as those of others. When emotionally neglected children become parents themselves, they’re unaware of the emotions of their own children, and they raise their children to have the same blind spot. And so on and so on and so on, through generation after generation.

After reading Dr. Webb's book Running Empty and learning the tools needed to help me heal. My goal is to make women aware of this subtle but powerful factor. To give them the ability to look back and see the invisible emotional wounds; have the words to talk about it, and an opportunity to correct it and stop blaming themselves and others for the pain in their adult lives.

How to Begin Healing From adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

Recovering from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) related to abandonment, childhood emotional neglect, and associated addictions is a profound and challenging journey. Here's a step-by-step approach to help you begin your recovery journey:

1. Acknowledge and Accept Your Past:

  • Acknowledge the impact of your childhood experiences on your life and well-being. Accept that these experiences have shaped you but don't define you.

2. Educate Yourself:

  • Learn about ACEs, the effects of childhood emotional neglect, and abandonment to understand the patterns and behaviors you might have developed as a result.

3. Therapeutic Intervention:

  • Individual Therapy: Seek a therapist experienced in trauma, abandonment, neglect, and addiction. Therapy (e.g., trauma-focused therapy, EMDR, or somatic experiencing) can help you process and heal from these experiences.

4. Support Groups:

  • Join support groups specific to ACEs, abandonment, emotional neglect, or addiction. Sharing experiences with others who've gone through similar challenges can provide validation and understanding.

5. Mindfulness and Self-Compassion:

  • Practice mindfulness to become more aware of your emotions and reactions. Cultivate self-compassion to treat yourself kindly during this process.

6. Inner Child Work:

  • Explore inner child healing techniques to reconnect with your younger self and provide the care and nurturing you may have lacked in childhood.

7. Expressive Therapies:

  • Engage in expressive therapies like art, music, or dance to explore and express your emotions in a non-verbal and creative way.

8. Healthy Relationships:

  • Surround yourself with supportive and understanding individuals who can offer empathy, validation, and encouragement.

9. Physical Health:

  • Focus on regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Physical health is intertwined with mental and emotional well-being.

10. Journaling:

  • Maintain a journal to document your thoughts, feelings, and progress in your recovery journey. Reflect on your growth and challenges.

11. Trauma-Informed Care:

  • Choose healthcare providers and professionals who understand trauma and its impact, ensuring a safe and understanding environment.

12. Establish Boundaries:

  • Learn to set and enforce healthy boundaries in your relationships, prioritizing your well-being and needs.

13. Seek EMDR or Trauma Therapies:

  • Consider Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or other trauma-focused therapies to address specific trauma-related symptoms and triggers.

14. Practice Patience and Self-Kindness:

  • Understand that healing is a gradual process. Be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion as you navigate your recovery journey.

15. Celebrate Progress:

  • Celebrate your milestones and progress, no matter how small. Recognize the resilience and strength you've shown in facing your past and working towards healing.

Remember, your recovery journey is unique to you. Be patient with yourself, seek professional guidance, and surround yourself with a supportive community. Healing is possible, and your commitment to self-discovery and growth is a powerful step towards a healthier and happier life.


Need Help Developing A Plan For Self-Care

Do you want help developing a self-care plan that works for your busy schedule? Do you want accountability in implementing a self-care plan? If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out to Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. We are a Metro Atlanta, Conyers Georgia area. We are a coaching and counseling practice with empathetic, skilled counselors and recovery coaches who can help you set goals, develop a self-care routine, and move forward to build a more fulfilling life. Our team would be happy to work with you either just for a couple of sessions to develop and implement a Self-care plan or longer term to work toward overall better mental health within our membership site or other programs.

Dr. Nikki LeToya White
Dr. Nikki LeToya White

About The Author:

Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC

Art Wellness Studio and Botanica to provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. Loving her low-sugar balance lifestyle.

Best Regards

Dr. Nikki LeToya White