You Know it: Kids Feel Stress, Too

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”8342″ img_size=”620×288″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ok…I’m about to tell you all something you already know…our babies, our toddlers, our kids…they feel stress! We “old” folks don’t have a monopoly on this lovely feature of the human condition. Now think about this: we are supposed to have things together by adulthood, but let’s face it, how many times do you get into a situation and look around for a more “adultier” adult than you!? We are supposed to have a developed sense of self-awareness that allows us to – hopefully – use developed coping strategies to process stress in a heathy way. Now…imagine an infant or toddler experiencing a stressful situation. Not only might the situation be new, they are still figuring out how to respond! This can compound stress in a child. No fun, right?

stressed child stress toddler
Harumph! Don’t look at me!

Recently, the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University (I’ve heard of this Harvard – supposedly they’re pretty smart, guys) posted about ways to mitigate (Ivy League lingo for the win!) toxic stress in kids. The main idea? If we can’t help kids deal with stress, the health development of the next generation might be thrown of the tracks and “can have damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan.” So…what can we do?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Responses to Stress

The Center defines three types of responses to stress and how these responses impact the body:

  • Positive – this is common and often short-lived. New babysitter? Perhaps a new food to try? A child might experience this type of response. Think a short rise in heart rate.
  • Tolerable – Often the result of a loss of a loved one or perhaps experiencing something scary like breaking a bone. This can last longer than the Positove response. With an environment of supportive adult relationships, the effects of this type of stress can have a buffering impact and help a child recover.
  • Toxic – this is longer lasting and can be a result of such awful things as neglect, abuse, or the results of economic hardship – and occurs when supportive relationships are not present.

One aspect of these supportive relationships is “Serve and Return.” As it turns out, a tennis match of interactions between our children and caring adults has a positive impact on developing brain structures, stress levels, and processing stress in a healthy way. From the Center:

“When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills. Much like a lively game of tennis, volleyball, or Ping-Pong, this back-and-forth is both fun and capacity-building. When caregivers are sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals and needs, they provide an environment rich in serve and return experiences.”

As you build the circle of positive interactions for your child, you increase the child’s ability to respond to the world, learning that these “tall people” really care, and it would seem that the earlier this occurs, the better.

Now…think about the types of interactions that occur during Kindermusik classes. See a connection? I do! When taking part in regular group musical activities lead by a caring adult, a child’s circle of positive relationships grows. Singing together, call and response activities (a musical version of “serve and return”), and group movement, all can have a positive impact on stress levels. Did you know that groups that sing together can sync their heart beats? Crazy, right?

So consider this the next time your child is overwhelmed by the world around them…and not just when they are anxious to go to bed at night…sing a song together, dance together, or get out some pots and use them as drums. You bang and then have them mimic you. Music can reduce those hormone levels, singing can control breathing, and that stress response can be brought back to a healthy place.

Friends…the power of music![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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