API Live Podcast Interview: Christina Bethell, PhD, of Johns Hopkins – Positive Childhood Experiences

API Live Episode: AP Month 2020 Parenting for PEACE: Positive Childhood Experiences

Guest: Christina Bethell, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, Program Host: Patricia Mackie, Special AP Month Episode Host: Artemisia Yuen, Welcome by Samantha Gray, API Executive Director

Portrait photo of Christina D. Bethell, PhD

Christina Bethell, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University on Positive Childhood Experiences sits down via Zoom with API’s Art Yuen.

API brings you a new interview with this leading researcher and advocate on positive childhood experiences (PCEs).

API Live Podcast Episode with Christina Bethell and Art Yuen


Restoring relatedness should be taken as seriously [in public health] as curing cancer.

Christina Bethell

Have you been feeling stressed lately?

You don’t have to be a parent to watch, soak-up, and share this mega-dose of care, straight news about stress, and simple healing tools from Christina Bethell.

Christina puts relationships at the center of her Captain Marvel-sized work in public health.

She’s working to shift big health systems and services to focus on relationships as the most fundamental element of health, especially for children.

In this episode of API Live, Christina gives a birds-eye view of that work, then quickly shifts to share immediately useful examples of the way systems might work so that everyone can access healing “through any door.” She shares new ideas about stress, healing and gives us several simple tools and supports we all have available and can begin using now. These tools aren’t merely for coping, but they help us grow, even in the face of stress.

In a year that feels like a big loss, especially for health, everyone deserves to hear how we can access our very own health super-powers – for us, our children, and our world. May your 2021 be filled with healing and health.

API Live Podcast Episode with Christina Bethell and Art Yuen



Join API in this episode to hear from Christina about:
  • How cultivating positives may not cancel out stress, but does allow us to heal and evolve
  • Recommendations for individual, family, and work resilience plans
  • Acknowledgement of how parents are often called to provide nurturing warmth when we least feel able
  • Tips for engaging in art, movement, music, play, and time in – because we all need a “sense of mattering”

API Live Podcast Episode with Christina Bethell and Art Yuen


references & selected publications from christina bethell

When it Pours for Moms, Help them RAIN! Your Being, their Well-being!

Exclusive to AP Month 2020 “Parenting with PEACE -” with our focus on positive childhood experiences – API is pleased to welcome this special guest post from Christina Bethell: PhD, MBA, MPH Professor, Johns Hopkins University.

Blue earth with parents and children of different backgrounds standing all around edge and words attachment parenting month in the centerBeing a consistently kind and positive parent can be challenging, especially when children are also struggling or stressed.  Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, national data showed that over 1 in 3 children had moms who were not coping very well.1 And over 2 in 5 had parents who struggled to stay hopeful or find strengths to draw on when things were hard.  These parents were three times more likely to report routinely feeling angry and aggravated with their child.1 


Our best research calls for doing all we can to foster positive parent-child experiences.


About 1 in 4 US children have mothers who do not experience excellent or very good mental health and are less likely to cope, remain resilient and connect positively with their child. This is especially true for the more than 4 in 10 US children with parents who face economic, safety or household problems like someone who drinks too much, has untreated mental illness or is emotionally or physically abusive.1  Perhaps a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the light it shines on the need and possibilities to support moms and families by encouraging them (and their children) to reach out for help: to reduce longstanding sources of stress, build resilience, hope and strengths, and prioritize positive emotional connections with their children – especially during difficult times.


We can help moms recognize and heal from their own pain and build resilience, while also helping their children flourish.


Research points to transformational opportunities to promote both parent and child well-being by helping them build skills to recognize their stress; allow the feelings to move (and pass); identify core needs for compassion, care and support; and nurture themselves and reach out when they struggle. Taught by Tara Brach, the RAIN model (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) works.2 As do similar approaches.2 RAIN paves the way for mothers and children to withstand challenges and stay emotionally connected during difficult times. It also supports clinicians to cope and learn from challenges, which, in turn, helps their clients.2 

Red umbrella graphic with text: Parenting with peace daily tip - Do you find it easy or hard to talk to your family about feelings? Talking to your children about feelings is a positive childhood experience.Our best research calls for doing all we can to foster positive parent-child experiences: like talking together about things that really matter, looking for strengths and reasons to hope, and reaching out for support during hard times.3,4   The benefits are long lasting for us all.  Our recent research shows that fostering the most important positive childhood experience of all- safe and nurturing connection with parents-markedly reduces the risk of having depression or poor mental health as an adult. This increases the chances of having the social and emotional support they need later in life, when they might be parents too.3,4 

When it pours down for moms, help them RAIN!2  In doing so we can help moms recognize and heal from their own pain and build resilience, while also helping their children flourish4 and become healthy adults,3 despite the challenges of life.

  1. Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, National Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health, Johns Hopkins University. 2017-2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) national data findings accessed 10.20.20 at www.childhealthdata.org.  Additional NSCH analyses conducted for this article by C. Bethell, 10.20.20. 
  2. Hedderman E, O’Doherty V, O’Connor S. Mindfulness moments for clinicians in the midst of a pandemic [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 21]. Ir J Psychol Med. 2020;1-4. doi:10.1017/ipm.2020.59
  3. Bethell CD, Jones J, Gombojav N, Linkenbach J, Sege R. Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences: Interactions and Effects on Adult Health Outcomes. JAMA Peds 9.09.19
  4. Bethell CD, Gombojav N, Whitaker RC. (2019). Family Resilience And Connection Promote Flourishing Among US Children, Even Amid Adversity. Health Affairs. 38(5). May 2020