I thought this week I would give a short summary of a great website for helping parents and caregivers care for traumatized children. The site is found at www.stresshealth.org.
The site starts with a positive message: research shows parents can be the most powerful force in preventing or even reversing the impact of toxic stress in their children. That one point is why this website was developed.
How do I know if my child is affected?
“If you notice your child is having sleep issues, frequent headaches or tummy aches, crying more than usual, becoming extra clingy, regressing to bed wetting or baby talk, or developing new fears, it could be related to toxic stress.”
In school-age kids and teens, common signs of toxic stress include: a) poor coping skills, b) mood swings, c) sleep issues or d) fear and anxiety triggered by places or people that remind them of past trauma. These are not the only possible symptoms of toxic stress, but they provide important signs that your child may need help.
How does toxic stress affect children?
The website talks about four parts of our body that can be affected. The first is the brain, toxic stress can make it harder for children to sit still and learn. It can affect other behavior, too, causing children to have trouble with things like remembering rules or thinking before acting. The second is the heart, toxic stress can increase a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure. It also promotes inflammation, a condition that can damage the arteries starting at a young age. The third is the immune system, toxic stress can make it harder for bodies to fight off infection and illness. For example, children may have more frequent colds and ear infections or health conditions like eczema or asthma. The last part that is mentioned are hormones,toxic stress can impact growth and development. It can also lead to obesity and changes in the timing of puberty, as well as other issues.
How do we help?
The most important section to me was about how we can help protect our children. When caregivers consistently care for children and offer support, children feel safe. This feeling of security helps protect against or even reverse the effects of toxic stress. Other protective factors for our children include eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, practicing mindfulness, and getting mental health support when needed. Together, these factors help lower the stress response and help your child regain his health and vitality.
At the end of this section of the website they let you take an ACE (adverse childhood experiences) inventory quiz to learn what you or your child’s toxic stress score is.
If you would like to read more about how the Center works with traumatized children please click on the link.