Consequences of Stress on Children’s Development
I can’t even imagine what some families and children go through in the new times of life! There are SO MANY – TOO MANY major stressors for all children over the world. Just a few we can name: war, poverty, racism, natural disaster, isolation, hunger, noise, chaos, disease, environmental pollution, violence, and these are just the TIP of the ice burg.
I find myself EXTREMELY fortunate to not have experienced any of these personally. Not as a child and well, the world is changing so much that I am coming in contact with a few of the points, but mostly I try to turn a blind eye. In my environment, these stressors are -THANK GOODNESS- mostly absent!
“My grandchildren have never had a beautiful day in their lives,” says the grandmother of Fatima, 4. “The older girls barely talk, and when other children cry, they curl up with their hands to their ears and rock.” Photo by Jon Warren
Even though the article I read was written in 2014, things have even gotten way worse now. In times of war children are among the most vulnerable groups. When a child survives the conflict physically, the immediate and long-term well-being of children remains a serious concern. This “war” we are constantly in exposes children to extremely stressful and terrifying events. Things that children should not even be experiencing EVER. With interviews they did, children told them about daily challenges they faced living with those who love them, who are/were dealing with personal experiences of war and displacements themselves and were/are unable to be as supportive or loving as they once were. These ongoing stresses can have strong and lasting effects on children’s social-emotional well-being and their growing brains.
Research done through World Vision, suggests that the physical consequences of conflict on a child’s brain development can have adverse and marked consequences – with the potential for permanent changes to the brain’s platform. These experiences lead to a generation of children experiencing mental health, social and economic problems. It is a common misconception that young children do not understand the events happening around them like adults do. But their young minds process much more than is often credited. World Vision has often observed this in children affected by crises: their developmental milestones can be delayed, their capacity for higher education attainment is jeopardized and their behavior, emotional attachments and social environments are also impacted.
These “toxic-stressors” leads to elevated levels of the cortisol stress hormones in the brain. This impacts the brain’s hippocampus and leads to children having learning difficulties, problems with short-term memory and difficulty controlling emotions.
What’s being done? Well, the news sure cover up well for all the mistakes being made….but there are a few organizations that help with food and shelter…but this is not enough!!! Those children will never get their lives back. You can never unsee what have been done!!
What is happening to our world? Our nature? Global warming? There has been a lot of news recently about disaster risks in the Asia-Pacific region. Reports of earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis just appear out of nowhere.
Even when hazards do not impact thousands of people, they can increase children’s vulnerability, and pressure on parent’s ability to provide for their children and families’ capacity to survive and thrive. Many governments in the region have strong records in disaster risk reduction and management and Unicef is always there to support when requested, in case of a disaster. Unicef, I have found to be the most “available” company to work with children, communities and governments to reduce the likelihood of such storms and earthquakes leading to disaster. “Our disaster risk reduction work, in schools and communities across the region teaches children to identify risks, and work with their families and communities to address vulnerabilities, for example, extreme weather.
Before, during and after disasters, Unicef is there for children working to support children, families and communities to keep children safe from danger – in the Asia-Pacific region, where geophysical and climatic hazards are commonplace, it’s a crucial part of Unicef’s role in keeping children safe.
Millions of children die every year as a result of environment-related diseases. Their deaths could be prevented by using low-cost and sustainable tools and strategies for improving the environment. In some countries, more than one-third of the disease burden could be prevented by environmental changes. According to a WHO study carried out in 23 countries, more than 10 percent of deaths are due to unsafe water and indoor air pollution, particularly from solid fuel used for cooking.
Children make up almost half the population of developing countries. Most of the deaths are among children under five, and are attributable mainly to intestinal and respiratory infections. People living in industrialized countries are also affected by environmental factors such as pollution, occupational factors, ultraviolet radiation, and climate and ecosystem changes.
Environmental factors affect children’s health from the time of conception and intra-uterine development through infancy and adolescence. These factors can even exert an influence prior to conception, since both ovules and sperm can be damaged by radiation and chemical contaminants.
It has been widely demonstrated that children are more susceptible than adults to environmental factors because, among other reasons, they are still growing and their immune systems and detoxification mechanisms are not yet fully developed.
A series of measures being taken at the local level are having a significant impact on improving the environment. Dr. Laila Iskandar Kamel’s work in Cairo is widely known. She has implemented innovative social and environmental projects working with garbage collectors or Zabbaleen. These projects have helped garbage collectors break the cycle of exploitation and receive proper compensation for their work. In addition, she has organized girls from the community in reviving the most ancient of Egyptian crafts, weaving on a handloom using discarded cotton remnants and using the profits for improving their education and providing them with a livelihood.
In Qatar, few natural resources, climate change and the quality of the air are serious challenges faced by the authorities. The Ministry of Environment has taken a series of measures to improve the environment. Among those measures, creating awareness in the population, particularly among the mothers, is an important task. At the same time, a new school curriculum has been completed, placing emphasis on environmental issues.
Children, in particular, increased their awareness about the environment and their role in improving it. The planning, design, monitoring and management of the physical environment have proven to be an ideal terrain for children’s inputs and participation.
Such initiatives are taking place worldwide with the aim of improving the environment and, as a result, people’s health. More actions should be carried out in the main cities worldwide to protect all people, but particularly the most vulnerable. To curb pollution is expensive. More expensive, however, is the price paid in children’s lives.