Protecting Childhood Development

The early years in every childhood are important. From birth, a baby requires two things – love and food. It doesn’t matter whether it is in a tiny apartment, or a palace – if that child receives food and love from an early age then this is the most precious thing anyone can give.

Research indicates that the first six years are crucial for laying the foundation of an emotionally healthy and happy life. A child growing up in a toxic stressful environment will grow and mature suffering from the aftereffects its whole life. If that child is not having its hunger satisfied from an early age, that it is left screaming for food and is not satisfied, then it develops stress hormones.

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Growing up in a toxic environment

Stress hormones that remain in the system for a longer period of time are toxic, have a devastating effect on the child’s development. It not only effects physical growth when the child becomes thin and undernourished. It also impairs healthy cognitive development – brain synapses start misfiring and the branching process that promoted communication among the different areas of the cerebral cortex will become damaged.

As adults it is important to take some degree of control to help reduce upsetting events at atmospheres that could damage a child’s growth and development. Life happens, and no one can live in a vacuum in which nothing bad can happen. However, the more you can mitigate the potentially negative outcome of a stressful period at home, the more your child will navigate the stress and learn to be stronger and emotionally resilient as a result.

If you are going through a particularly tough time, here are some actions you can do to help your child navigate the storms.

Be a calm and soothing presence

While you cannot control the behaviour of others within your family environment, you can choose to be the calming influence. Don’t leave your child alone for long periods of time. Make sure that you sit with them. Read them a book, give them a hug, tell them stories, just keep things low key and calm. Children are very perceptive when it comes to negative and stressful atmospheres and the more you can dissipate that negativity and create a calmer environment, the better it will be for your child.

Keep yourself low toned

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If a child is stressed, they can become hypervigilant and easily startled. Keep your movements to a minimum and don’t creep up on them, or startle them inadvertently. Keep your voice low and calm, get down to their level and make sur that you maintain eye contact. Favourite toys such as jellycat bunnies or teddy bears can provide that source of comfort and security. Do everything you can to ease your child’s anxiety and be a calming influence.

Speak openly and constructively about emotions

Allow your child the time and space to explore their emotions in a safe environment. Talk about similar emotions in a calm and ‘normal’ way to illustrate how it is perfectly normal to experience such conflicting and frightening emotions. Your child might not react openly at first, but the more space you give them, the more they will eventually open up. The younger your child is, the less they will have the language to speak candidly. The more you have open, emotional conversations from an early age, the more emotionally intelligent your child will grow up to be.

Give affection, if wanted

Physical affection, whether that is hugging, rocking or swaddling, is the best way of giving back a sense of reassurance and security.

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