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Protecting Kids from Toxic Stress

In a recent article featured in the NYT online publication, Opinionator, columnist David Bornstein highlights a need for the public to attend to a message regarding the health of children which has been in the making for over a decade since research began on a term coined by researchers as “toxic stress.”

Jack P. Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University explains, “What the science is telling us now is how experience gets into the brain as it’s developing its basic architecture and how it gets into the cardiovascular system and the immune system.

While the experience of toxic stress is a risk factor, it is crucial for caretakers, clinicians, school personnel, and anyone who works with children to know that it’s not a determinant. That is, it’s never too late to mitigate its effects. What’s next is to learn how that’s done.

“One thing that is highly protective is the quality of the relationship between the parent and the child,” Shonkoff explains.  He further notes, “In the context of a reasonably safe environment where children have protective relationships with adults, childhood stress is not a problem. In fact, it promotes healthy growth, coping skills and resilience. It becomes harmful when it is prolonged and when adults do not interact in ways that make children feel safe and emotionally connected.”

Here at Think: Kids, we too believe strongly in the importance of the parent-child relationship and we’re re passionate about helping parents to see their child (and the role they can take to help buffer the stresses of life) in a different way. Collaborative Problem Solving is one way to help parents and kids connect in a way that’s restorative.

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