Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Help your infant or toddler cope with stressful events

Date:
July 29, 2014
Source:
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
Summary:
18-month-old “Karla” was playing on the slide at the park in her neighborhood, her mother sitting on a nearby bench chatting with her friend. A loud screech was followed by a crash and the sound of car alarms going off. In a flash, Karla was swept into her mother’s arms and both were shaking as they saw people running and heard sirens coming toward the scene of a car crash in the street next to the park.

18-month-old "Karla" was playing on the slide at the park in her neighborhood, her mother sitting on a nearby bench chatting with her friend. A loud screech was followed by a crash and the sound of car alarms going off. In a flash, Karla was swept into her mother's arms and both were shaking as they saw people running and heard sirens coming toward the scene of a car crash in the street next to the park.

"Hailey," age 11 months, had just learned to say "da da" when her father had to leave town for three months to work on a job out of town. Hailey was very attached to her father, who was always the one to tuck her in for bed and make her favorite oatmeal with bananas for breakfast. She keeps looking for him, jumps up whenever she hears someone at the door, and she cries when it is time for bed.

How stress impacts young children and babies

Infants and toddlers face stressful events in their everyday lives, just as adults do. Many people think that children younger than three years won't be as impacted by stress because they "won't remember" or don't understand what is happening. However, we now know from research on brain development and toxic stress that even tiny babies are impacted by stress. Even if they can't put words to their distress, they are impacted by feeling their heart racing, the sight of their mother's tears, or scary sounds of community violence.

The good news is that while you may not always be able to shield your child from stressful events, your relationship with your child is the buffer that protects from their effects.

Help your child overcome their stress

As a clinical psychologist and lead of the Early Childhood Mental Health Program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, my team and I provide therapy to about 400 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and their families each year, many of whom have been impacted by traumatic or stressful events. Here are some strategies you can use to help buffer your young child from the toxic effects of stress:

Do provide your reassuring presence. Staying close to your child, and letting your child stay near you, helps your child feel safe.

Do talk in soothing tones about how you are keeping your child safe. Give simple explanations of what is happening; this is reassuring even if your child does not understand your words.

Karla's mom could say, "That was scary when the cars crashed, but we are ok now. The doctors are taking care of the people in the cars." Hailey's mom could say, "We miss Daddy. He is thinking about us. He will come home when his job is done. Let's look at his picture together." Don't have adult conversations about stressful events in front of your child. Even if children can't understand the words, they hear the worry in adults' voices. Do help your child play about what happened.

Karla might play about cars crashing. Her mother can play a rescue vehicle coming to help the people in the cars, or a doctor helping them feel better. Hailey's mother can help her play about an airplane flying away with Daddy and then coming back home to her.

Do tell your child when you are leaving, and when you are coming back. Make sure they have a familiar person to stay with them when you have to leave. It might be tempting to "sneak out" to avoid upsetting your child, but this makes children more anxious about separations. Instead, even very young children need to hear, "Mommy's going to work now. You can play with Nana while I'm gone. I'll be back for dinner." If a child cries at separating, narrate their feelings and help them transition: "You're sad because Mommy's going. I'll be back soon." A goodbye ritual can help your child learn to say goodbye; you might have a special goodbye song or hug that you do each time you leave. You can also try giving your child something of yours to hold onto while you are gone.

Do remember that if your child acts up with tantrums, hitting, whining, or other behaviors, they might be reacting to stress or trying to tell you something. Help them put their feelings in words, while setting limits. "You're mad. It's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hit."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. "Help your infant or toddler cope with stressful events." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115106.htm>.
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. (2014, July 29). Help your infant or toddler cope with stressful events. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115106.htm
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. "Help your infant or toddler cope with stressful events." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729115106.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

First Confirmed Case Of Google Glass Addiction

Buzz60 (Oct. 15, 2014) A Google Glass user was treated for Internet Addiction Disorder caused from overuse of the device. Morgan Manousos (@MorganManousos) has the details on how many hours he spent wearing the glasses, and what his symptoms were. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins