NDSU Extension Service - Sargent County

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The Future Begins Now

Newborn Baby

 

Last week I got to be a student again.  I was in the audience when Dr. Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist, presented "Raising Healthy Children in an Unhealthy World."   The presentation highlighted new research that has identified nine specific adverse childhood experiences, and their effects.  Unfortunately, these adverse childhood experiences are not uncommon in our society, and they create toxic stress for children in the first five years of their life.  Left unchecked, toxic stress can actually damage the architecture of a young child's brain and lead to lifelong problems with mental health, development and learning, and physical health. 

All of us experience stress.  Sometimes stress is positive, and sometimes it is tolerable.  But sometimes, when it is long lasting, frequent, or of strong intensity, stress is toxic.  The bad news is that when young children experience toxic stress, it can result in potentially permanent changes and long-term negative effects in the child's brain, nervous system, immunologic system, and endocrine system.  Research has found that children who had early life experiences that caused toxic stress  were more likely in later life to experience chronic disease, psychiatric disorders, impaired cognition, obesity, crime, poverty, substance abuse, and problems with attendance, behavior, and performance in school and at work.

The good news is that the effects of toxic stress in a young child's life can be lessened if social-emotional buffering is provided for the child.  Social-emotional buffering includes sufficient levels of emotion coaching, re-processing, reassurance, and support.  These are things that effective parents and caregivers are expert at!  Also encouraging is that some researchers are finding that the social-emotional buffers have a stronger, more profound impact on a young child's life and development than do any specific risk factors or stressful life events.

I left the presentation affirming that the early years in a child's life matter even more than we ever imagined, and reaffirming that every child desperately needs safe, stable, nurturing relationships with his or her parents or caregivers.

Being a mom or dad is a privilege, and it comes with huge responsibilities.   Contact me at the Extension Office to if you have questions about parenting or child development, or to request information, resources, training, or classes to become the parent your child needs and deserves.

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