Does stress affect children’s development?

Does stress affect children’s development?

We are living in an environment where we are constantly stressed out and under pressure....from the moment we get up in the morning until we go to sleep in the evening. As you might be aware not all stress is bad for us - as long as the stress we are experiencing is in our comfort zone (e.g. before an interview, or big presentation), it will help us stay motivated, alert and focused. However, the problem arises when we are experiencing chronic or toxic stress - meaning that our body is in the so called "fight-or-flight" state for longer periods of time on a regular basis. Because of all the hormones released in the body, this is the type of stress that can have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing in the long run.

Taking a step further, being a mom to two little kids, I can't help but wonder how this stressful environment they are growing up in affects them and their physical and mental development? Most of us think that kids don't experience any form of stress until they start with school or even at a later point in their life. But this is very far from the actual truth, and studies are showing that the toxic kind of stress can have a negative impact on the developing brain from a very young age.

In fact, as early as in the womb - the brain starts developing already in the 5th week of pregnancy; and some experts even suggest that if a mother is constantly stressed out during pregnancy this might have a negative impact on the brain development of the baby! There are not enough evidence to confirm all these, but I still feel that it is something for every (pregnant) woman to consider. 

Some of the effects constant or toxic stress might have on the developing brain are:

  • delays in the brain development
  • experiencing difficulties with learning
  • memory and behavioural problems later on in life
  • long term consequences in mental and physical health

In addition to that, the extended periods of time that cortisol is released during a stress response can impact the immune system in a negative way.

I am not an expert, nor am I a scientist, but the bottom line is that seeing how my own kids are directly affected when I am stressed out, I can only imagine the negative effect a long term and toxic type of stress has on their development and overall health in the long run. I believe that it is our own responsibility as parents to teach them how to deal with stress......but more on this in next week's blog.

Stay healthy

Anna

 

Photo by © Robert Kneschke / Fotolia.com

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