When stress is related to a traumatic event, it’s important to play down the elements associated with the event. To do that, it’s often a good idea to seek help.
When stress is related to a traumatic event, it’s important to play down the elements associated with the event. To do that, it’s often a good idea to seek help. “Since traumatic experiences create an imprint on the brain, the brain needs to be reprogrammed to not place so much importance on certain everyday experiences that recall this event. This might consist of helping a child to not be afraid of all dogs because she was once bitten by one.
In more general terms, when stress becomes chronic, regardless of whether it stems from a traumatic event or not, it’s a good idea to get help. Behaviours can change and take hold. “The child may revert back to wetting her bed, having a hard time falling asleep, or having nightmares. Some children may experience mood changes that are difficult to understand or to link to a specific event. New habits may appear, and old habits, such as thumb-sucking, may return,” explains educational psychologist Marie-Josée Lagacé.
“When parents seek advice for behavioural problems, it’s remarkable to see the extent to which their child’s stress diminishes as the sessions progress. Parents feel reassured and supported, and they better understand their child’s reactions. They become less anxious about the problematic behaviours and can therefore better deal with the situation without letting their emotions cloud their thinking. As a result, the child behaves better, and everyone’s stress is lowered,” adds the educational psychologist.
The risks of chronic stress
What are the risks of chronic stress in children? “While science is still looking for the answer, it has found some solutions. We know that the stress response systems of children who are exposed to prolonged adversity (e.g.: abused children, children living in orphanages) are constantly being activated. The constant application of a system’s on/off switch sends it out of whack, and it must then adapt to multiple threats either by constantly producing cortisol, or, simply, by burning out. Fortunately, we know that the stress response system can evolve and recuperate,” says the researcher.
Esther and her fear of animals
“We noticed that Esther was terrified of animals from when she was tiny. When she was four, we decided to seek advice. The psychologist was able to relate this fear to the fact that she has multiple food allergies and that she translated her fear of dying into a fear of animals. We decided to talk less about her allergies in front of her, but it didn’t help. We then met with a zootherapist, and it worked miracles. Once a week, for six months, she spent time with different animals, especially different breeds of dogs. She also learned techniques on how to react; for example, to remain still when a dog approaches her as opposed to running away. She sees that she can have some control over animals and her stress has faded away.”
N. Bureau, Saint-Boniface
Changes in attitude are the best indicators of stress in children.
Exposing your child to normal life without overprotecting her will help her learn to better cope with stress.
You can reduce stress by making sure to diminish the novelty, unpredictability, threat to the ego and poor sense of control related to a situation as much as possible.
If your child’s stress becomes chronic, it’s a good idea to seek help.