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Stress: New Report from National Institutes of Health

We encourage you to read this full piece on Stress and the impact on children’s brains, put forth from the National Institutes of Health.  We have highlighted some excerpts from the piece, and included some suggestions from DCRC resources for helping reduce stress.

“High levels of stress hormones influence the developing circuitry of children’s brains, inhibiting such higher cognitive functions such as planning, impulse and emotional control, and attention. Known collectively as executive functions, these mental abilities are important for academic success.”

“Clancy Blair, Ph.D., of New York University, New York City concludes that this altered stress response and its effect on executive function helps to explain one way in which poverty affects children’s development of school readiness skills and later classroom performance.”

“…finding ways to reduce stress in the home and school environment could improve children’s well-being and allow them to be more successful academically.”

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Stress-busters for all ages:


–          Use gentle, soothing words, touch and massage.

–          Avoid overstimulation (not too noisy, not too bright, not too crowded).



–          Provide be-by-myself time and places.

–          Offer ways to blow off steam by doing physical activities, inside or out.



–          Help preschoolers understand words and feelings associated with stress like: frustration, worry, anger, confusion, nervous, anxious.

–          Ask what helps a child feel calmer.  Offer suggestions if needed like: reading a book together, relaxing by yourself for a bit, or writing words or drawing pictures.


School-Age Children:

–          Listen.  Sometimes children may just need to talk.  They may not be asking for advice or for your opinion.  They may just need someone to hear them, and care.

–          Help children find a creative, athletic, or stress-relieving outlet like learning to play an instrument, taking a drawing class, playing a sport, joining a walking club with their friends, or, something your child would enjoy.



–          Breathe.  Sometimes a few seconds of just stopping everything and taking a few deep breaths can make all the difference.  Take a minute to center and calm yourself when feeling stressed.

–          Get to the root of the stressful situation.  What is making you feel anxious, overwhelmed, or worried?  Once you identify the source of your stress, make a plan to help fix, reduce, or eliminate that source.


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