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Helping your child with chronic stress

Stress isn’t all negative. As a parent you want to protect your child from experiences that lead to emotional pain, especially long-term or chronic anxiety or stress.

Yet, researchers say it isn’t stress itself that is damaging, but chronic stress experiences without support or relief from a caring adult.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy child development. Some stress is necessary, they say, to build a healthy response as a child ages and grows.

So how do we help children now, in 2020, when we are all experiencing ongoing, chronic stress from coronavirus-related changes, loss and uncertainty?

According to the Center, toxic stress “can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support.”

The phrase to note here is without adequate adult support.

Stress creates a physiological response in a child. But when a caring adult offers support and love, the stress response calms down.

“The result,” according to the Harvard University’s center, “is the development of healthy stress response systems.”

Having caring relationships with adults from a very young age is crucial to that development.

As the Center on the Developing Child puts it, “The actions of supportive adults help the brain and body adapt and recover and build healthier stress responses for the future.”

For more information and resources visit The Center on the Developing Child here.

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