Stress And Your Child’s Brain

Stress is a condition in which an individual experiences challenges to physical or emotional well-being that overwhelm their coping capacity. While some experience with manageable stress is important for healthy development, prolonged, uninterrupted, overwhelming stress can have toxic effects. This type of toxic stress is often associated with childhood abuse and neglect.


In the early years of life when the brain is developing rapidly it is particularly sensitive to environmental influences. Toxic early life stress (ELS) may induce persistent hyper-sensitivity to stressors and sensitization of neural circuits and other neurotransmitter systems which process threat information.  These neurobiological sequelae of ELS may promote the development of short and long-term behavioural and emotional problems that may persist and increase the risk for psychopathology and physical health disorders into adulthood.


Scientists discovered that the hippocampus of children with post-traumatic stress disorder had shrunk.  The hippocampus is a brain structure that assists in storing and sorting memory and emotion.  The withered hippocampus may make children “less able to deal with stress and increase anxiety.”  If a baby or toddler is left uncomforted for too long or exposed excessively to a stressful situation, the cortisol levels will spike. This is linked to depression and anxiety, and, alternately, to violence and aggression.  If cortisol is present in the child at high levels, it kills brain cells and impedes the child’s intellectual development.  It interferes with the brain’s ability to form memory by inhibiting the use of blood sugar by the hippocampus.  It also interferes with the neurotransmitters making appropriate connections within the brain, resulting in the kid’s inability to concentrate and learn.


If your child is dealing with school stress, here are 10 ways you can help him or her cope.

1.Get more sleep

Kids who get enough sleep are likely to be less irritable and better able to handle school stress.

  1. Talk

If you suspect your kid is stressed or is being bullied, open the lines of communication by asking about his or her day and challenges.

  1. Practice relaxation

Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and positive thinking are proven ways to reduce stress that also work for kids.

  1. Connect

Talk to school staff and other parents about their observations of your child so you can keep track of how he or she is handling school.

5.Don’t criticize

Even if you disagree, never talk negatively about homework or teachers in front of your child because it creates fear.

  1. Get help

If school stress is affecting your child’s ability to function, it’s important to talk to a counsellor who can help your child cope.

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