Usually when we think about toxins, we are thinking about the toxic substances found in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We don’t often think about stress as being a toxin but the truth is that is considered to be a major toxin. When stress is not reduced or removed it will build until it becomes chronic. I think of chronic stress as the mother of all toxins because stress chemistry affects the immune, nervous and endocrine systems. Ongoing stress is also associated with chronic inflammation which sets off unhealthy physiological events that makes the child’s spirit, body and brain vulnerable to all kinds of imbalance and disease.
The list of the relationship between ongoing stress in kids and their health, emotional and cognitive challenges is a long one. For example, the stress, anxiety and fear bubbling inside the child creates an unfavorable environment in the gut which is then more predisposed to parasites, fungus, bacteria or worms. Stressed kids can also be more vulnerable to heavy metal toxicity or food sensitivities and allergies. There is also a link between chronic stress and leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome. Anti-oxidation mechanisms are disrupted by stress – so chronic stress becomes oxidative stress. Basically, stress sets off all kinds of collateral damage that will be different in different children.
If stress is a toxin then we must identify its existence and remove it, just as we would any other toxins we may find in the child’s body. One of the most destructive aspects of toxic stress is low self-esteem. Every child has a Story of Me which is either life-enhancing or stress building. The negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs connected to low self-esteem are extremely toxic.
If your child is grappling with learning, behavior or mood problems, listen carefully to what they say about themselves. Do they speak positively about themselves? Are they proud of who they are, what they achieve and how they fit into their family and social environments? Or do they describe themselves in negative terms? Do they say things about themselves suggest that they believe that they are not ‘good enough’ or not as special as others? If this is the case then you will need to:
- Realize that the stress of low self-esteem is a powerful toxin that is affecting your child.
- Identify whether your child is hearing negative messages about himself from others in his world? If so, from whom? Remove your child from any such toxic environment.
- If the ‘I’M not O.K.’ messages are not coming from the outside but rather from within the child herself, begin the process of rewiring your child’s Story of Me, from a negative and Not O.K. self-esteem to a positive one that is happy, confident and robust.
- Become informed about neuroplasticity and the skills that you as a parent can use in your daily interactions with your child that will rewire the way your child thinks about himself.