This post is sponsored by Stress Health, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness. I am not a doctor and any information here is for informational purposes only. I wanted to share tools and information to help you and your child identify and cope with various types of stress in their life.
As a parent of three children I can’t count how many times I wonder….am I doing a good job? Are my kids going to grow up to be strong, responsible people? Are they dealing with something that I don’t know about?… and many more fears, too many to list. I’m sure if you are a parent like me, you know exactly what I mean. We want our children to strive, learn, grow, and become productive, happy adults. However, how do you know if your child is straying from that path?
Stress Health and Your Children
As parents we know our children best. Maybe your child gets stressed and nervous the night before a big test at school. Maybe tests are a piece of cake but entering a new school or meeting new children is a stress trigger. These are all considered positive stresses in a child’s life. Their bodies release stress hormones that help them through these sometimes uncomfortable situations and then they go back to normal. Another kind of stress is tolerable stress. This stress could be caused by a scary injury or a natural disaster. As you can see, this stress can be a little more nerve wracking for both child and parent than positive stress. However, having a parent or caring person help a child through tolerable stress will help calm her stress response.
A third type of stress is toxic stress. This is not the type of stress we want our children to be under or have to deal with. Some examples of events leading to toxic stress are abuse, neglect or being witness to abuse. Toxic stress can leave a lifelong impression on your child, opening up them up to higher chances of heart disease, cancer and more.
You’re the parent, you know your child is fine, right? However, recently you’ve noticed changes and you wonder what is going on. Has something happened? Is my child not telling me something? How can I tell if they are under toxic stress, and what should I do?
Signs of Toxic Stress
- Poor coping skills
- Behavior and learning difficulties
- Mood swings
- Sleep issues
- Overeating and other compulsive behaviors
- Fear and anxiety triggered by places or people that remind them of past trauma
If you are concerned your child is under some form of toxic stress then take a moment to take this ACE quiz.
What exactly is ACE?
ACEs include experiences like abuse, neglect, and other major stressors such as divorce, a parent’s substance abuse, or witnessing violence in the home (Felitti et al., 1998)…Other kinds of difficulty, including community violence, bullying, and poverty, can also lead to health issues without the right support (Finkelhor, Shattuck, Turner, & Hamby, 2015).
If you find that your child is or has been under toxic stress, there is help! Research shows that the right kind of support and care can mitigate the impact of toxic stress on children and help them bounce back. There are ways parents can support a healthy stress response: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mental health, mindfulness and healthy relationships. Together, all of these important things can help turn the stress response down and can reduce the potential negative effects of ACEs. If you don’t know where to start,then we recommend you check out this website about stress health.
Ways to Help with Toxic Stress
- Build supportive relationships for and with your child
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep (see infographic below)
- Offer good nutrition
- Promote daily exercise
- Learn about any mental health issues
- Pay close attention to your child’s feelings and experiences, which is part of mindfulness
At the end of the day, remember that you are your child’s best advocate. Take the time to learn what they are doing and ask how they are feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, then get help or take necessary actions to help your child. Your support will make all the difference.