We Have to Protect Our Children from Stress


In these incredibly difficult times, we can easily find our families dealing with stressors that perhaps we didn’t have to confront a few years ago. Financial problems can bring a whole lot of other troubles along with them—marriage and relationship conflicts, family tensions, divorce, abuse, addiction. But the director of the Yale Stress Center advises that we need to try to protect our children from stress as much as possible because they will become more likely to carry it into adulthood.

Dr. Rajita Sinha, director of the Yale Stress Center, did an interview with CNN in which she explained that children who experience significant adversity during childhood become more sensitized to stress and become hard-wired to react more strongly to stressful situations as adults.

As parents, we certainly sense that stress can’t be good for our kids. Our instinct is usually to try to shelter them as much as possible from all the bad stuff that comes rushing into adult lives. But as they get a little older, moving into pre-adolescence and adolescence, we can start slipping a bit, telling ourselves that it’s healthy to let your kids know that the family is experiencing financial hardship, or that Mommy and Daddy are going through some relationship difficulties. After all, we shouldn’t lie to them, right?

Wrong, according to Dr. Sinha.

She says adolescence in particular is a vulnerable time for kids because that is when they are starting to isolate themselves from the family, meaning they have fewer supports available to them. Sinha says we need to give children time to develop their stress systems, which will provide them with the tools to deal with adversity as they become older. But if too much adversity comes at an early age, those tools will remain stunted and not fully available to them, perhaps throughout their lives.

The good news is there are things that we as parents can do to make our children better able to handle stress in their later years. A big one is education. Children who are intellectually challenged in a safe environment like school and who are encouraged by teachers to think abstractly will become better able to negotiate the bricks and mortars that will fly their way later on. Having friends and other supportive family members around can also be enormously helpful, according to Sinha. Giving them other tools to help them control their emotions, such as yoga and an orientation to look optimistically at the world, can also be extremely beneficial. And here’s a good one for rough and tumble dads like me: Safe, playful roughhousing can also give your kids the ability to deal with problems.

And the last piece of advice is surely one that I know would make my own children groan: Getting enough sleep every night is a big must.


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3. A Fathers Painful Reality: It Takes a Village to Protect Our Daughters


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I’m afraid I don’t agree, I learned a lot more from my parents when they were honest with me about family problems but then followed them up with an action plan and sometimes even asking me what I thought about it and how I’d like to help. Not only did it teach me me how to handle difficult situations without getting overly stressed about it but I learned it at a time when I knew that no matter what my parents were going to make sure that I was okay and so it wasn’t all on me. Families that weather life hardships together not only grow closer but they weather them better throughout their lives, I’ve seen it time and again.

  2. I think that there needs to be a balance. I don’t think that it is a good idea to shield kids from all forms of stress. In adulthood, children will need to have good coping skills to learn to deal with loss, death and other traumas. Although this is true shielding kids from unnecessary stress is often beneficial for the child.

  3. I think this is a great post. I think sometimes I tend to put way to much pressure on my littles ones so I need to me more self aware of the effects stress could have on them..

  4. What a great topic. I so agree. I really try to protect my children from stresses. I feel when they grow-up they will have enough to deal with on their own; with that written I do help them cope with the stresses that filter in their life from time to time. But I work on and at making sure they have as few stressful moments as possible. I try to ensure they enjoy life as a whole. We have found camping is a wonderful way of leaving behind the problems of the world. If we could we would go camping every weekend. Have a great day!

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