How Stress Affects the Brain, or Why Is My Child Driving Me Nuts?

How Stress Affects the Brain, or Why Is My Child Driving Me Nuts?

Why does my teenage son repeatedly lose his backpack? I buy him a new one and, boom, he loses it—immediately! It’s driving me crazy!”

“Why can’t my daughter keep her third-grade homework straight? Why does she forget to bring it home every single day? It’s driving me crazy!”

“What makes my 9-year-old foster child such a thrill-seeker? Why is he always the kid at the top of the tallest slide at the water park? I have to say ‘Come down from there’ 100 times a day! It’s driving me crazy!”

If you’ve ever parented a child from foster care (or any child, for that matter), no doubt you’ve heard some words like these come out of your own mouth. The little things that seem so easy for some of us don’t come easily for children who have experienced trauma. But sometimes, when you’re caught up in the day-to-day hustle and hassle of parenting, it’s easy to forget for a minute or two that your kid isn’t driving you crazy on purpose.  Your kid is driving you crazy because of the way trauma has affected his or her brain. Is it any wonder foster and adoptive parents need so much support?

In those parenting “oops” moments when you forget to remember what your foster-adoptive child has been through, try to take a little reminder break by watching this important video. It’s only four minutes, but it could change your life with your child:

We now understand better than ever before how exposure to early adversity affects the developing brains and bodies of children. This video reminds us that occasional bursts of stress—say, when you’re up at bat or taking a math test—can be helpful. But chronic stress changes the brain in a way that can have lifelong implications.

Chronic stress includes the abuse and neglect experienced by children who come from care. Its effect on the brain is why your child can seem moody and overwhelmed for no apparent reason, why he forgets his spelling words the day after he learned them or impulsively makes bad choices when you’re sure he “knows better than that.” It could be why her room is a mess or why she forgets about today’s field trip even though you reminded her before bedtime the night before.

The video reminds us that early lack of nurturing also affects the brain. The good news is that the nurturing love you provide every day is just the ticket to a healthier, happier brain for your child.  That’s why Sierra Forever Families is so appreciative of families who step forward to do the important work of giving children exactly what they need.


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