We are millions of Quebec families to bring their child to the
daycare every morning, usually running, not to be late for work. We
leave are children in places filed up with noise and screams and we pick
them up 8 to 10 hours later. Are we still contributing to our child’s
stress? Recent studies have shown that we did not contribute to are
child’s stress and that the educator had an important role to play. The
studies show that educators who are very sensitive and that listen to
our child’s demands are more likely to diminish the secretion of stress
hormones in are children. Once more, it is the adult’s behavior (in this
particular case the educators) that help kids to manage novelty,
unpredictability and to increase their sense of control. Many educators
will tell you that Monday’s are harder then Wednesday’s at the daycare.
Every Monday represent a transition in a kid’s life, from a weekend
spent at home to the daycare on Monday morning, which increases the
unpredictability and diminishes sense of control. This is why it is very
important that in daycares there is stability in the staff for the
child to be reassured that the transition from home to daycare is not a
path filled with novelty and unpredictability.
What comes out in most studies measuring stress in children is that
parents are very important actors to manage their child’s stress.
However, they can also be an important source of stress for their kids. A
couple of years ago, I conducted a study where I demonstrated that
children exposed to poverty secrete more stress hormones then children
in a higher socioeconomical situation. We also showed that when the
mother shows depressive symptoms, the child reacts by secreting an
abnormal level of stress hormones. In both studies, the effect of the
environment was present only in children aged 6 to 10 years old and
disappeared in adolescent aged 12 to 16. It is clear that the importance
accorded to parents diminishes at adolescence to make place for
friends. Also, when growing up, kids develop cognitive capacities that
allow them to establish a better sense of control over their
environment. It is then possible that a child exposed to a stressful
family environment at adolescence will benefit of diminishing of stress.
What is important to remember as for stress in children is that
stress is relative. Its presence depends on a multitude of factors
starting with the family environment, the age, the personality of the
child and their social environment. However, the only thing that does
not change with stress are the causes: novelty, unpredictability and
absence of control. Working on this point, is to assure yourself and
your family a good harmony.