Children and Toxic Stress


Although children often experience sudden traumatic episodes in their lives, when they have parental support or other affectionate caregivers who can respond to their needs, they can calm down and become more resilient and stress effects can be counterbalanced.

However, children entering the shelters are always in acute stressful or traumatic situations. In most cases, these situations have been lasting for longer periods, damaging the vulnerable child system and causing long-term health problems.

Stressful situations trigger the release of fight-or-flight hormones such as epinephrine, cortisol and norepinephrine. In normal life situations, these hormonal responses help to survive sudden dangers, but once the threat is over, the human system can rebalance its hormone status and return to normal. This response mechanism is particularly sensitive during early development. Unlike other animals, humankind reaches maturity after a long time, which makes parental protection extremely important. Without such protection, when permanently exposed to stressful situations, stress-hormones are constantly produced and remain in the system, alerting the child even in situations without a risk trigger. This prolonged alarm condition acts as highly toxic medium.

When periods of toxic stress last longer and there is no supportive environment that can intervene, it can have long-term effects on children's health harming their body and mind and affecting them at all levels: physical, physiological, mental and psychological; the immune system weakens, the development of the brain is interrupted and the emotional reactions are distorted.

Such situation causes various biological and mental inhibitions, the children's cognitive abilities are blocked and the addictive behaviour is intensified. Finally, toxic stress leads to chronic health conditions, the consumption of sex, alcohol and drugs, school dropout, destructive behavior and involvement in crime.

"...Although children are removed from the traumatic situations without adequate space, their emotional state can trigger collisions with other children or supervisors, leading to a further increase in stress hormones and a limitation of the recovery effects..."

Children’s Shelter tries to rid children of such toxic stress situations and creates a transit environment that eliminates excessive stress and steers the child system in the right direction. Of course, a crowded shelter can not optimally fulfill this purpose. Although children are removed from the traumatic situations without adequate space, their emotional state can trigger collisions with other children or supervisors, leading to a further increase in stress hormones and a limitation of the recovery effects.

Unfortunately, the shelters are not always equipped with sufficient resources and enough space. In such situations, it is most important to teach children how to develop a peaceful inner environment through meditation. With such a tool, children can not only learn to recognize situations that lead to overwhelming stress, but also learn to control the stress response mechanism and thus prevent toxicity caused by the overproduction of stress hormones.

#DoKaFoundation #socialinitiative #children #shelters

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