Some stress in childhood is normal. At an early age, children can learn how to cope with unexpected challenges. It helps them build coping skills they will take with them as they grow.
Stress is what comes before anxiety, so let us look at some ways you can help avoid prolonged stress situations in children and protect them from a future anxiety disorder.
According to the Harvard Medical School guide on Anxiety and Stress Disorders, children normally experience 3 different kinds of responses to stress:
Positive Stress Response:
A child goes to school for the first time. Their heart rate goes up and they cry unconsolably. The parent leaves the school but the teacher reassures the child and they slowly get used to their new environment and the separation from the parent. This is normal and healthy.
Tolerable Stress Response:
A hurricane hits and destroys the family home leaving a family homeless. A child is afraid and upset. But the family is resilient and they comfort the child, they make promises that they will remain together and go through their difficulties together and rebuild their home and their lives. The parents are instrumental in providing support and protection against a higher degree of stress than the one explained in the previous scenario.
Toxic Stress Response:
The child makes a mistake and is reprimanded with violence. The child is verbally abused by the parent and there’s no social support for this child to lean on for support. This kind of continuous and severe stress can disrupt their brain development and increase their risk for a future anxiety disorder.
If you believe your child is at risk and are concerned or unsure about how you or you family can help, contact me to schedule an appointment.