A relationship with your child is the heart of healthy child development.


Healthy social and emotional development in children include a child’s ability to:

  • Maintain friendships and enjoy the company of others
  • Manage feelings of frustration and disappointment
  • Take care of someone who has been hurt
  • Feel confident

Helping Your Child Respond to Stress

Children can experience stress too! Learning how to deal with everyday stress in a healthy way is an important and a normal part of your child’s healthy development.

Every child experiences stress differently and its effect may depend on your child’s temperament and the kind of support they receive. Your child may not be able to know and tell you when they are feeling stressed. Some signs of stress in children:

  • physical symptoms (headaches, stomach aches)
  • emotional and behavioural changes (anger, whining, worrying, withdrawing)

A normal part of life. Your child needs to experience beneficial stress in order to develop skills to cope with stress later on in life. Examples of beneficial stress include, starting day care, meeting new people, getting immunization and learning to accept rules and limits.

You can help your child by:

  • Providing a supportive environment
  • Being aware of situations and events that may be stressful for your child
  • Preparing your child for new experiences
  • Keeping consistent routines
  • Planning your schedule based on your child’s temperament

Happens for short periods and it is often connected to a major event.  For example, death of a loved one, serious illness of a family member, divorce or separation

A nurturing and caring relationship with your child can provide the support your child needs to get through and recover from the stress.

  • Help your child understand the situation. Provide a simple explanation that is appropriate for their age
  • Have open communication and encourage your child to talk about their feelings. This promotes their sense of safety and wellbeing
  • Help your child eat well and get regular physical activity- physical activity reduces stress
  • Watch for changes in your child’s behaviour
  • Talk to a professional when signs of stress continue or worsen

Happens if your child experiences repeated, long lasting stressful situations. For example, abuse or neglect, parental addiction, maternal depression, living with parents who are experiencing ongoing stress.

Your child may not be able to cope well with toxic stress on their own. Children need your support.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Monitor your own stress level. Children learn a lot by watching how their parents manage stress
  • Be aware of ongoing stress and encourage your child to express their concerns, worries, or fears
  • Talk to a professional when signs of stress continue or worsen

Remember: Supportive and stable relationships with parents can help to protect your child against the damaging effects of toxic stress.

Video: Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development

To learn more about the effect of stress in young children visit the Centre on the Developing Child  or register for the Kids Have Stress Too program.