As a parent, I think it’s only natural to worry about how stress will affect our children. It’s part of my job description as a mom to protect my boys from everything that I can and ensure that their childhoods are worry-free. However, as I shared with all of you last month, stress happens.
Now, thankfully for most of us, the stress our children are exposed to is positive stress or tolerable stress. But the simple truth of the matter is, there are children out there who have toxic stress in their lives. To learn more about what toxic stress is and why you should be concerned about it, visit this post. Once you’ve refreshed yourself on not only what toxic stress is but what causes it, read on to learn more about simple tips to help children deal with toxic stress.
As a reminder, if you think a child in your life may be experiencing the effects of toxic stress, be sure to click here to take the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) quiz.
Whether it’s your own child, a child in your neighborhood or your child’s classmate, there are some simple ways to help deal with toxic stress and help provide a sense of security to children who have been impacted by adverse childhood experiences like emotional or physical abuse or neglect. Here are a few ideas that can help protect against or even reverse the effects of toxic stress.
Be Available and Supportive
Children look to the adults in their lives to learn how to deal with a variety of situations, so it’s important to always be available and supportive. Sit down and talk with your child (minus the cell phone, mama!). Allow them to share what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Let them know that you offer a safe place for them and that you will always be there for them.
This simple act of providing a place where they feel safe and secure can help lower the stress response in children.
Provide a Loving Environment
like being available and supportive, providing a loving environment is a way to protect against toxic stress and help children heal from it. I know we live in a world where we don’t want anyone to see us cry, but simply letting the children in your life know that you are a shoulder to cry on and that you’ll still love them regardless can have a huge impact.
Taking the time to share with your child that it’s OK to be sad and offering to help them work through their sadness can have a huge impact on the way that a child responds to stress.
Enforce Healthy Routines
We all know that routines and schedules equal security in children and creating healthy routines is a fabulous way to combat toxic stress and help children heal from it. Some simple ideas for a healthy routine include:
- Eating dinner as a family
- Establishing morning and evening rituals
- Making time for outdoor play
- Creating healthy sleep routines
It’s often easy to forget that the consistency of healthy routines not only offers security to children but helps them deal with toxic stress by allowing them to know what to expect each day.
Know When To Ask for Help
While making simple changes like these can be all that a child needs to avoid toxic stress or even heal from it, it’s important to know when to ask for help. If you’re doing all you can to be supportive but still notice signs of stress overload in your child such as frequent sleep issues, headaches, tummy aches, crying more than usual, becoming extra clingy, regressing to bed wetting or baby talk or developing new fears, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about the options for therapy, counselling and more. Remember that your child’s toxic stress reaction is not a reflection on your parenting and we all need help sometimes.
It’s important to remember that stress can affect every child differently, just as it impacts us differently as adults. If you think you know a child who has been impacted by toxic stress, start by visiting stresshealth.org to learn more about this condition, the sign and symptoms and what you can do. Then be sure to check back next month when I’ll share more about parenting with toxic stress and how you can still be the best parent around even if you’ve dealt with toxic stress in your own life.
Now tell me, which of the above tips have you used for helping a child deal with toxic stress?