Connecting ACEs, poverty and trauma: A mum's perspective

Over the next two weeks in Scotland we will see the culmination of a huge amount of work to raise awareness of both ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and poverty.

On 26 September, over 2,000 families, professionals and policy influencers are coming together for the ACE Aware Nation Conference. Then, between 1-7 October, communities and campaigners will be raising their voices against poverty during Challenge Poverty Week.

For some the ACEs focus on what happened to you as a child, can seem to ignore the impact of structural inequalities that increase or create the conditions for poverty. Through Children 1st’s work with children and families across the country we see how, left unaddressed, the trauma of ACEs affects your self-esteem and functioning which in turn affects your ability to get a job or stay out of debt.

During the next fortnight, we’ll share the perspectives from guest bloggers about these issues - how do ACEs and poverty connect and how do we intertwine approaches to address them?

We start with a mum's perspective:

"Growing up in a family that you feel doesn’t really want you or care about you is one of the hardest things to do as a child. Being constantly told as you grow up that you are worthless and that the only thing you are good for is for others to take their anger out on lives with you for the rest of your life. All of this was happening for me while my family struggled to make ends meet. It means that the same opportunities are not available to you as for others and that while everyone else is on school trips or going to clubs after school or at the weekend you are left behind.

"These feelings are destroying to a young mind and continue to impact on your life.

"It means that your relationships are constantly shrouded in doubt that anyone actually wants you around and always feeling as if you are on the outside of every group. It means struggling to have a relationship with your own children because you don’t want to be with them the same as your family were with you so you sometimes struggle to know what to do or how to cope.

"Living with these experiences means that you are so desperate to make sure that your own children have a better life that you forget all about yourself and can drive yourself into depression and feeling inadequate. It can affect your relationships with others and can affect the way that you think about money and budgeting. It means being desperate to try to have as much money as you can, which often leads to large amounts of debt to try to keep up with everyone else and make sure your own children have the things that you didn’t.

"You are constantly stressing over how to make the money last because you couldn’t budget last week’s money in the way that you had planned to. You always feel like if you had more money life would be easier but when you take out that loan to make life easier it is gone before you even know what you have spent it on. Your focus in life becomes about money and how you can get more so that you and your children don’t end up in the same situation you grew up in. But because you don’t have the necessary skills of managing money and saving for things and are constantly seek instant gratification through loans credit cards and catalogues you find yourself spinning out of control and slipping into the spiral you so desperately didn’t want to be in.

"You don’t have anyone around you that makes you feel better about yourself or supports you in the way that a family should, so you constantly feel isolated and like the whole world is just waiting for you to fail again. This then sets off the fear that its not just yourself you are failing but those beautiful little creatures that you have brought into the world and no matter how many times someone says you are a good Mum all you can see is all the times you have failed and can only see the evidence that points in that direction too.

"The worst thing we can do for a child growing up the way I did is to leave them in that situation or remove them from it without any help and expect that to mean that the rest of their life will be fine. They need intense support to actually realise that they are a wonderful human being and they can achieve all they want to or could ever dream of achieving. The care system needs to support young people to deal with their past and help them cope with their finances so that they are not left to try and sort their own life out, because it’s too hard to do on your own and it will hound you for the rest of your life.

"So does what happened to you as a child link to living in poverty as an adult? Absolutely. How could it not?"