Lifestyle Parenting Tips

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

Written by Emily Buys

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

Last month I introduced you all to the different types of stress one can experience, and how to determine if your child is experiencing toxic stress. Stress is there and a part of our lives, but it’s how we deal with the stress that really matters. Toxic stress is another story and can be damaging to our growing kids (and us), so with the help of the Stress Health initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness, I’m sharing tips for preventing toxic stress in your kids.

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

As a reminder, toxic stress is 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. Most Americans will experience at least one ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience), which ramps our stress response into overdrive. Because we don’t want these powerful stress hormones to affect the mental and physical health as well as the behavior in our children, we want to do all we can to prevent this kind of stress.

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids
1. Be consistent and offer continual support so your children feel safe. A strong sense of security helps protect against or even reverse the effects of toxic stress. If your child is crying a lot, try some different tactics instead of saying “stop crying!” Work on building your relationship with your kids by reading together, playing together and cooking together.

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

2. Make sure your children are being offered a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet provides the body with important nutrients to combat illnesses and give our minds the boost they need to handle stressors.

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

3. Encourage physical exercise, whether it be through play, walks, or an exercise regimen. Exercise helps the body release endorphins, which are “feel good” chemicals that interact with receptors in the brain. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling and help reduce the perception of pain.  

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

4. Have a regular bedtime and ensure your child is getting a good night’s sleep. Nobody feels super when they’re not getting enough sleep. This starts with a regular bedtime routine.

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids

5. Practice mindfulness by helping your children learn to be aware of their surroundings, their thoughts and sensations, without any judgment. Try teaching them to meditate and/or breathe deeply when they’re feeling anxious about anything.

Tips for Preventing Toxic Stress In Your Kids
6. Offer counseling and mental health support when needed. Make sure your children know they always have someone to talk to about their feelings, whether it’s you or a professional. Let them know it’s okay to be sad sometimes.

If you practice all of these things, you can help prevent and heal toxic stress in your kids. You may not be able to control all stressful situations or protect your children from them, but these factors can help lower the stress response and help your child regain their health and vitality. Visit StressHealth.org for more information, and take its ACEs test to see if your child might be experiencing toxic stress from Adverse Childhood Experiences.

About the author

Emily Buys

10 Comments

  • I didn’t realize there were different types of stress and will have to check out that other post you wrote, too. Great information for parents!

  • What great info for parents who may be struggling with helping their kids. Little ones shouldn’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders, yet, it seems to be the trend.

  • These sound like good things to keep in mind for when your kids are upset or stressed. I can see how the words of understanding and encouragement would help.

  • This is an important post for parents and those who work with children. I practice this with my own children and when I was a teacher I used these techniques in the classroom too.

  • I don’t think I have ever told my kids to stop crying. It would be like telling them that they aren’t entitled to their feelings. I didn’t realize there was such a thing as toxic stress. This was very informative.

  • I would like to do all I can to prevent this kind of stress. I think talking and listening your child is the best way!

  • It is very important that we are vigilant in observing signs of stress in our children, especially the young ones who are still unable to process complex emotions. Thank you for writing this post. It is a great resource for parents!

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