Supporting Stress Management in Families
By Claudia Rios-Gastelum, LMFT 97284 Para este blog en ESPANOL,
abra este documento.
With Covid-19 still interrupting our lives, we thought it would be good to remember our four part series last fall on Childhood Stress. We hope the wisdom of our therapists brings healing, help and hope to you and your children as we continue to navigate our new normal.
Childhood is all about learning about oneself, others, and the world. One key learning in childhood is how to cope with hardship. Often times parents report they want tools to help their child stop experiencing hardships — I often hear parents mention they want their child to “…stop getting angry when [their child] loses a game.” The better game plan is to support children with tools to manage feelings around adversity or in other words — learn to express and problem solve emotions and stressors. Stress comes into play in coping with adversity as children often think of themselves as not being in control of changing aspects of adversity which leads to stress. We often experience stress when we feel threatened (real or imagined), and our body’s stress response is automatic. Our body has 3 responses to stress:
1) Positive Stress Response — in response to mild changes to routines such as the first day of school for an older child. Other examples may be school projects, disagreements with friends or moving to a new home. The body has a slight increase in heart rate and stress hormones, but returns to baseline quickly. Caregiver support is helpful, but the child may be able to manage stress on their own with personal assets.
2) Tolerable Stress Response — in response to serious and longer lasting events such as the death of a loved one or natural disasters. The body has stress responses that last longer and are more intense, but can return to baseline with the support of caregivers. Caregiver support is needed to prevent long lasting effects of stress.
3) Toxic Stress Response — due to multiple or intense experiences of adversity such as physical/psychological abuse, chronic neglect, or witnessing domestic violence. Usually there is no caregiver intervention which exacerbates the impact of the stress response. Toxic stress has been found to disrupt brain development in children and increase the risk of stress related diseases and cognitive impairments.
We will discuss tools to support both adults and children in managing stress in order to reduce the risk of toxic stress in future posts.