Children can be, and most often are, quite resilient. That does not mean they are immune to stress, however, or to the resulting responses in the brain and body. In fact, children are highly vulnerable to stress during the first few years of life. As a parent, you can help your children learn how to respond to stressful situations. By teaching them this, you are affecting their perceptions of the world and their future quality of life.

Here is the science behind stress and the effects of stress on your baby . . .

The amygdala is an area in the lower brain that works to understand the meaning of anything and everything that happens to you, and the amygdala has a good memory. So, if something has been threatening in the past, your amygdala will be sure to let you know if you encounter the same “thing” again in the future.

If the amygdala senses something threatening, it communicates concern to another area of the brain, and a cascade of stress chemicals is released to prepare the body for the fight or flight response. At this point, the release of stress-reducing chemicals is blocked so your brain and body can focus completely on the perceived threat.

The functions of the higher brain can calm the amygdala by releasing antianxiety chemicals. The release of antianxiety chemicals relaxes the body and makes you feel calm again. Children who have been helped with intense feelings of distress, including anger and frustration, learn how to engage the higher thinking brain. They can think clearly in any given situation, which results in their being able to figure out what to do next in the most constructive way.

So, comfort and calm your child when he or she experiences an amygdala alarm. You will be helping him or her develop pathways in the brain that connect the higher brain to the lower brain. Over time, these pathways will start to manage stressful feelings without your help. Over time and with your help, your child will learn to think about his or her feelings rather than just react to them.