6th February, 2019
Written by Georgina Cadby-Fisher, Community Psychiatric Nurse
When we become stressed our brain releases a chemical called Cortisol which is our bodies natural way of protecting us. We release adrenaline as well as Cortisol and this gives us our fight/flight response to dangerous situations.
As we grow and have childhood experiences some exposure to stress and danger is healthy for us as it allows us to develop a sense of danger and hazard perception which is required for when we reach adulthood.
However, if children have been over exposed to harmful situations for prolonged or continual periods of time then the body naturally continues to over produce Cortisol and this can be harmful for the development of the brain which is crucial in the first five years of a child’s life otherwise known as the early years stage.
We learn to rationalise as we grow older and a part of the brain called the frontal lobe allows us to develop this skill, young children whose frontal lobes have not been able to develop properly due to over exposure of harm and over production of Cortisol may not be able to respond rationally to stress so children look to primary care givers to provide reassurance and emotional warmth. This reassurance allows children to develop attachments and seek out adults if they become stressed.
Stress in children can show itself in varied ways such as poor sleep, impulsive behaviour, lack of empathy, hyperactivity or anxiety.
Ways that you may be able to support a child who may be experiencing stress is by;
As the primary care giver you may recognise changes in behaviours, sleep patterns or eating habits. If you do and have concerns speak with social workers, Pastoral Support in Education, teachers and see if there could be any additional triggers or events that they may have an awareness of which could be causing additional stress. You could also visit the GP or speak with the school Nurse.
Helpful sites to visit to support you as the Adults with caring for a child who experiences stress or anxiety are:
You can chat with us online and you can get the answers to your questions immediately.