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What is Toxic Childhood Stress

What is toxic stress in childhood? Having a toddler at home is stressful enough for parents and sometimes we tend to stress out for unwanted stuff in our daily routines. There were times in my daughter’s early years when we stressed out at not getting a full night sleep, having to get up every couple of hours to check her bed or she would cry out loud in the middle of the night and after all that disturbance, it was hard to go back to sleep. That is when we realize the importance of sleep in a human’s day of life, without proper amount of sleep all your organs tend to stress out and that also leads to unhappy scenarios at home and work.

So what is it that we really need to worry about, is not getting enough sleep a gargantuan factor for losing it out? We even tried the “cry-it-out” method to see if that helps our daughter get back to sleep by herself, but in-vain. There are many articles written by pediatrics and psychologists about this “leaving your kid to cry it out” method, where they explain the trauma and stress experienced by those young minds when left unheard by the parents. The one night we left her to cry(or rather an hour i should say), was enough for my wife to bear, every passing minute felt like a never-ending hour and made us realize it takes nerves of steel to let your kid cry without going and taking them in your arms.

All this made me read and understand what really is stressful for a kid during her childhood days and what I found was genuine and meaningful knowledge that I would like to share with all of you.

Seems like our pediatric pundits have carved out 3 types of childhood stresses and all of them have different levels of intensity on the child’s behavior and future growth.

First, is what is called a positive-childhood-stress where the kid experiences a stress with a positive feeling around him/her. Take for example, a vaccine shot to be given during their monthly or yearly visit to the pediatrician’s office. The child stresses out seeing the nurse with a needle about to cause an agony of pain, but at the same time, there is a positive influence of her mom or dad, holding her and comforting her throughout that experience. This positive stress stays for a very less amount of time and the child overcomes it in no time.

Second type of a little more intenseful stress is what is known as a tolerable-childhood-stress. This can be related to  a tragic event in the kid’s childhood, like a death in the family or a natural disaster or a bad divorce, where the kid turns for a positive-factor around it to handle and respond to the stress. As long as the positive-feeling is felt and nurtured, the kid is good to take it to a lesser stressful level, but the risk of no belonging and absence of a loved one can affect the kid’s hormones and the way of thinking.

Finally, take the tolerable-stress a few giant notches up and minus the positive feeling around the kid’s stress, and now we are talking of a toxic-childhood-stress. Kids who are exposed to adult abuse and those who do not have a responsible parent around to guide them and constant exposure to substance abuse are the ones who are in the high-risk zone of experiencing the toxic stress levels that may have damaging affects later in their life.

No matter, how much love they recieve from parents or guardians and no matter how many shrink-sessions they get after getting a dose of this toxic-stress, their behavior pattern would have completely changed  and statistics have shown that it may lead to higher risk of alcoholism, depression, heart and liver disease, and many such problems.

Years of research has shown that if the first two types of stresses(positive & tolerable) are like gusts of wind that may turn and topple a kid’s thoughts, the toxic stress is like a hurricane that will take them off their feet and completely destroy the child’s life no matter what.

After reading all these different issues that can exist within a family and which may adversely affect a kid’s life, one can think that a small cry for hunger or a lust for mommy’s warm hug should be considered a welcome change in life. It is left to us to segregate different events in life into various levels of stresses and happiness, but just bear in mind that a kid looks up to his/her parents to learn and be a good human being. As is rightly said, Home is the first school for a child, where there is plenty of learning and experience being taught during the early years of development and those lessons will always remain with the child throughout their lives.

So what do you think is the most stressful moment caused by your kids and how did you handle it? Did you lose it out or did it make you more mature and understandable to your child’s needs? Do share your experience by leaving a comment below. Thanks for reading this article to understand what is toxic stress in childhood and how we can help address the same.

About the author

Praveen Rajarao

Praveen Rajarao is an Entrepreneur and in his spare time blogs on his website – and His topics range from blogging to technology to affiliate programs and making money online and how-to guides. Daily Morning Coffee is also accepting Guest Posts from Professional Bloggers at this time, take a look at “Write For DMC” page for more details on the same.


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  • Informative post Praveen!

    I can well remember the first baby care book that I had read and followed- Benjamin Spock and he also suggests to let the child cry for a while and they get used to being alone in bed and adjust to fall asleep- if and when they are in a room alone or by themselves. I did try that out but I guess a mothers heart really can’t be all that hard 🙂 I had to change my way to deal with my kids, taking a little of the books lessons and a little of my own judgement and intuition. 

    But hearing about toxic childhood stress sure seems eye opening. I have read many articles and magazines on childhood stress, as I also write for magazines, and all I can say is that parents are the first and foremost teachers and guardians for their kids, where home is their first school. And we need to provide them the very basic of love, security and protection there. It is from what we inculcate in our kids at the very base level, that they carry with them all through their later years.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Harleena – I have heard of Benjamin Spock and his ever-famous book on baby care. There are many differences when it comes to your own kid when you try to apply those techniques to see if it works. 

      The emotional attachment that one develops with their kid is intangible and that is what is the important factor that no book can explain since I do not see a common denominator between various human beings. 

      Thanks for sharing to you too 🙂

  • I think one of the most important roles as a parent is to provide an environment that prevents all of this toxic childhood stress. It is the only stress type that can be prevented by good parenting. If you do your job as a parent, you can ensure your children have safe childhoods. Great article!

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