Parenting 101: Strategies to Fight Trauma and Stress in Kids

Living Local

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – It’s a startling number. Nearly half of the kids in the U.S. experience one or more types of childhood trauma by the time they are 17. Trauma can get under the skin and make kids more susceptible to illness.

Death … divorce … abuse … What impact can trauma and chronic stress have on a child’s health? Developmental scientist at University of Florida Melissa Bright, PhD, looked at surveys from nearly 100,000 parents with kids under age 17. The parents were asked if their children were exposed to any adverse childhood experiences.

“Things like did you have a parent go to prison, witness domestic violence, parental divorce, mental illness,” detailed Bright.

They were also asked if their child had any physical, mental, or developmental conditions, such as asthma, vision problems, depression, ADHD, or learning disabilities. Bright found kids who had just one adverse experience were two times more likely to have had at least one physical and at least one mental condition.

“Having three experiences was associated with almost a six time increase in likelihood of having, at least one physical, at least one mental, and one developmental condition together,” Bright told Ivanhoe.

But Bright said positive interactions and relationships can protect kids’ brains against the negative impact of these adverse experiences. Things such as face-to-face interactions, being responsive, and cuddling can have a positive influence.

“Just having one really important adult in a child’s life can make all the difference,” said Bright.

Bright emphasizes that not all stress is bad and some stress that is not chronic is normal and can teach kids skills to deal with difficult situations.

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