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Your Stress Becomes Their Stress: The Effects of Stress on Kids

This post is in partnership with StressHealth.Org, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness.

Stress. Ack! It’s inevitable and challenging trying to manage in this super-busy, fast-paced world. We’re multitasking maniacs, running businesses, raising kids, homeschooling, and trying to keep the household together. By the end of the day, when the kids finally drift into a slumber, there’s barely any time left to pour into ourselves. We either fall down in exhaustion or push past the exhaustion to savor the little sliver of peace we have to ourselves. How many of you use that time to actually unwind? How many of you are scrambling to tie up loose ends and get work done like me? I’m getting better about having nighttime rituals where I end the day with a hot shower, my favorite wellness products, and a YouTube video spree. I may even cook a meal because cooking is therapeutic for me.

It’s so important for parents to take time for themselves to recharge and heal from the everyday. A happy, healthy parent equals happy, healthy kids. A parent who is always in a stressed state affects the entire household, and it trickles down to the children. If left unaddressed, toxic stress — that is, stress that is chronic and severe — can affect growth, learning, behavior, immunity, and even genes. Children who are exposed to very high doses of adversity without the support of loving and caring adults can have more than double the lifetime risk of heart disease and cancer and a nearly 20-year difference in life expectancy. They’re also at greater risk for depression, obesity, substance abuse problems, smoking, lung problems, and teen pregnancy, along with other chronic illnesses.

StressHealth.Org offers a quiz on Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs,to assess the stress levels of you or your children and practical tips you can incorporate into your child’s’ day. Our family has gone through a lot of changes this past year, so this resource comes right on time. Our stress levels have been at an all-time high as everything started falling apart last fall with no clear signs of getting better until NOW. We’ve been in between households, split with three here, two there, vice versa. Whatever combo to keep things copacetic. We’ve made a lot of changes, including the decision to homeschool in all of the madness. Our situation falls under the realm of tolerable stress, according to Stress Health, but the fact that the children have been exposed to this kind of stress and the nuances that have come with that has bothered me. Once we are finally settled, I have a major family reset and stress detox planned for all of us so we can bounce back together. I want to cleanse all of the negative energy away to make room for the abundance that awaits.

Types of Stress

StressHealth.org explains there are three main types of stress and how to recognize signs of toxic stress:

Positive Stress

Our body’s response to normal everyday stress, like starting a new daycare or taking a test at school. Stress hormones help the body do what’s needed in the moment, but once the event passes, our body goes back to its normal state.

Tolerable Stress

Our body’s response to more serious stress like a scary injury, immigration, or living through a natural disaster. A flood of powerful stress hormones helps the body rise to the occasion. However, the presence of a caring and trusted adult can offset this rush, calming the child’s stress response, and building resilience.

Toxic Stress

Our body’s response to severe and/or lasting stress such as emotional or physical abuse, or neglect—without support from a caring and trusted adult. Powerful stress hormones overwhelm the child’s body and brain. This can result in lifelong issues with mental and physical health, as well as behavior.

What are the 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 notice any of these signs in your children, Stress Health is a great resource that can help guide you through this challenging time. Also, I would like to stress the importance of consulting with a mental health professional if needed. Being proactive in your children’s treatment is valuable to their development and success! Roughly half of the children in the United States have had potentially life-altering traumatic experiences. But it has been proven that parents can be the most powerful force in preventing or even reversing the impact of toxic stress in their children. Let’s keep our kids happy and thriving!

To support my blogging efforts and site expenses, I do share relevant affiliate links in my posts. Thank you for your support.

Sheena Tatum (founder)

Hey, I'm Sheena! I married my jr. high sweetheart and together, we raise three tiny humans in NW Indiana. I'm an introverted free-spirit and serial dreamer obsessed with all things tropical and carefree. I love inspiring others to live wholly and find beauty in the mundane. I don't always get it right, but I'll keep trying anyway. :) Email: [email protected]

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