You might have noticed that over the last few months, I’ve shared quite a bit about toxic stress. If you need a refresher course on what toxic stress is and how it effects children, be sure to read my posts on what toxic stress is and and tips to help kids cope with toxic stress. While as a parent I tend to be focused on how things like toxic stress impact my children, today I want to talk to all you parents out there who may have been children who grew up with toxic stress in your lives. From my previous posts you know that there are methods that can help children cope with toxic stress but you also probably know that the effects of toxic stress are far reaching. So, today let’s take a look at how toxic stress in childhood impacts parenting and tips to help you parent effectively after dealing with toxic stress in your own childhood.
How Can Toxic Stress in Childhood Effect You As a Parent?
From my previous posts, you likely know that toxic stress can have an impact that is far reaching but did you know that it can impact your adult life and even your parenting techniques? While there are the physical ramifications of toxic stress to consider like a higher risk for heart disease, depression and other chronic illnesses later in life, there are also impacts to your parenting abilities. You body may learn from toxic stress in childhood to respond to small problems as if they were big ones. Suddenly, little things like a toddler’s tantrum or a glass of spilled milk can feel completely overwhelming and cause your body to react. For some parents, this may mean an increase in blood pressure and heart rate that your body naturally triggers so that you have the energy to run or fight back. For others, it may mean you that freeze or shut down. While these reactions can be normal and are your body’s way to trying to keep you safe when used occasionally, toxic stress can trigger them to happen as a reactions to small problems which can definitely have a big impact on your ability to parent.
For more symptoms and responses in adults that may be caused by toxic stress, click here.
How Can You Determine if You’re at Risk for Toxic Stress to Impact your Parenting?
You may remember me suggesting that you take the ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) quiz if you think your child or a child you know has been effected by toxic stress. Well, now I want you to take it for the child that you once were. If you think there may have been experiences in your childhood that trigger toxic stress reactions, take the ACE Quiz today. This will give you a better starting point to help determine if your parenting skills are being impacted by toxic stress from your own childhood.
How Can You Be A Better Parent in Spite of Toxic Stress?
The thought that your own ACES and exposure to toxic stress as a child can impact your parenting is scary. I totally understand that. However, understanding that you can start taking steps to undo the impact of your own childhood trauma while trying some new approaches with your children to protect them can give you great peace of mind. Here is some science-based advice from StressHealth.org to help you get started.
- Realize it’s not your fault. Many trauma experts have pointed out that it’s important to remember that your reaction is not about what is wrong with you but instead what happened to you.
- Take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself both physically and mentally is important. Having a strong support system and people to take to can have an impact. Equally, knowing that it’s OK to take time for yourself can help.
- Take some deep breaths. While I know this sounds simple, stopping what you’re doing for a few minutes to breathe can calm your body and ease your stress response.
For more tips on parenting with ACES, click here.
While this information and these tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parenting after being exposed to toxic stress as a child, the most important thing I want you to take away from all of this is that there is help. There are resources. And StressHealth.org is the perfect place to start! With tons of information, tips, resources and more to help you identify the symptoms of toxic stress at any stage of life, this site should be bookmarked on every parent’s computer. Be sure to check it out today.
Then take a moment to look at your life and at the life of your children and remember that even if toxic stress has already entered into your lives, you can combat the effect of it starting today.