22 October 2018

How to Keep Your Kids’ Stress from Hurting Them

This post is sponsored by Stress Health, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness.  As always, all opinions are my own.  

I'm going to get real with you today. Being a parent is tough. Raising a tiny human to be a kind and productive member of society isn't easy for any parent. Yes, it's rewarding, but it's also very stressful. 

I'm also an autism mom times two, so I have added stress. I spend most of my days and nights worrying about their futures. Will they get jobs?  Will they get an education to get a good job?  Will they be able to live independently?


As stressful as being an autism mom is, I sometimes forget that it's also stressful to be a kid with autism.

Instead of being a typical kid, my sons spent years in various forms of therapy and trying to adapt to a neurotypical world.  It must be exhausting just trying to fit in all day, every day.  

THE EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD STRESS


WHAT ARE ACES?


ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences.   These are stressful things that happen in a child's life, and most children will have at least one.  ACEs are common, and they can have lasting effects on a child's health.

There are 10 ACEs linked to a child's health and his or her health as an adult.  They include:
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Mental illness
  • Witnessing their mother treated violently
  • Divorce of parents
  • Incarcerated relative
  • Substance abuse
All stress, good and bad, can affect children.  But there has been research that stress from ACEs is different than other types of stress and can lead to health problems such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease later in life.  

Stress from ACEs can also affect behavior, mental health, and learning.

For more information about ACEs, this Ted talk is amazing.


You can take an ACEs quiz for yourself or a child to see how you or the child scores.  

WHAT CAN WE DO?


There is good news though.  The stress from adverse experiences doesn't have to lead to health problems.  After a child has experienced a stressor, adults can help support the child so the child feels secure and safe.  The security of knowing that their needs are being met can help reduce the negative effects of stress.  

You can do this by validating your child and being sympathetic to his or her needs.  I love this infographic from Stress Health with 10 things to say to your child when he or she is upset, scared, or sad.  

    From the Happiness Is Here blog

Adults can help children by providing nutritional support, encouraging exercise and good sleep, and getting mental health support when needed. 

There are some things that I can't control in my sons' lives in regards to stress.  I can't take away their autism.  Even though I try, I can't make the world change for them.

Instead of focusing on the things that I can't change, I'm focusing on the things that I can change.

I can't change the world, but I can help my boys fit into their world by getting them occupational therapy, speech therapy, and behavioral therapy.  If the need arises, we will also seek cognitive behavioral therapy for mental health.


I also keep them active by putting them in karate and ju jitsu for regular exercise. This also helps them socialize with other people their age, which is important since we homeschool.

Sleep is a big struggle for us, as on of my son's also has a sleep disorder.  We are currently working with a doctor to improve sleep.  Despite his sleep issues, creating a sleep routine has been one of the most important and successful things I've done as a parent.


Although I try to protect my children and provide a good life for them, I can't eliminate all of the stress in their lives.  They haven't experienced ACEs, but I'm still taking the advice of Stress Health by creating healthy habits for them so they can lead healthy lives into adulthood.  

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Cari Dunn
Cari Dunn

Cari lives on a small farm in Ohio with her husband, three kids, two dogs, two cats, five goats, several chickens, and homing pigeons. She loves Gilmore Girls, coffee, and her kids. Not in that order.