"Toxic stress can be curbed if we ensure that the environments in which children grow and develop are nurturing, stable and engaging." National Scientific Council on Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
Toxic Stress, Safe Haven, Resiliency
I returned last week from the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) conference and there is session in particular that you need to know about. Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, EdD, from Sesame Street Workshop shared with us the notion of a safe haven, results of a study focusing on the adverse effects of childhood experiences and of course Sesame Street Workshop materials that are designed to help caregivers help children through these stressful situations. The focus? Strategies for resiliency.
Dr. Betancourt spoke for an hour and I don't have your attention that long on this post so these are the three things I want to share with you most.
1) Toxic stress literally depletes a child's functioning brain - it stops their brain from forming the connections it needs to form. This two minute video explains and shows it.
2) Caregivers can curb this phenomenon. Child care providers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, adult in your child's friends lives - you are a difference maker with adverse child experiences. Studies have shown the difference between the child that makes it through stressful childhood situations into successful adulthood and the child that doesn't is ONE, one caring and consistent adult relationship. Dr. Betancourt described these environments or relationships as safe havens. Almost half of our nations children are growing up in poverty - which is a stressful environment and adverse experience all on its own.
3) Resiliency. In addition to a caring consistent adult, teaching resiliency strategies can help. These include teaching self confidence, different ways to express themselves and skills to understand and deal with their big emotions. Sesame Street has a whole toolkit teaching resiliency strategies. Aside from the videos of the muppets showing how to work through these challenges, the PDF toolkits have "Recipes for Resiliency" that are easy to understand, remember and try out with the children. For example: Mean and Aggressive Behavior, the recipe for resilience is "C is for Calm: When children are feeling angry, frustrated, hurt, or even confused, they may act aggressively. When your child is worked up about something, help him to calm down with “Breathe, Think, Do” (see page 3). Encourage him to sit in a favorite place where he can have some quiet time and whisper to himself, “Calm down” or “Slowly take a deep breath.”
Brain Architecture - Easy To See The Impact You are Making.
The above videos along with more information can be found at the website "Center for Developing Child, Harvard University" http://developingchild.harvard.edu/
You, as child caregivers, are making a significant impact on children's developing brains, and many times you are the one person providing the link to success as an adult.
This is a video within the Little Children, Big Challenges toolkit - Showing a strategy for helping Elmo say good bye to Daddy at school.
- Center for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html
- NPR Article "Take The ACE Quiz — And Learn What It Does And Doesn't Mean" http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean
- Little Children, Big Challenges - Sesame Street Workshop Tools for teaching resiliency skills, http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/challenges#0
- Basic Facts about Children under 6 in Poverty, National Center for Children in Poverty, http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_1097.html