This is a sponsored guest post.
Children feel the presence of love and the absence of stress well before they’re able to grasp your undying love for them. Kids are sponges, as they say, and they soak up the emotions of their parents. So much so that a parent’s stress strongly affects the development of their brains. Mothers who are chronically stressed during pregnancy increase the chances of their child developing autism and ADHD. Even after birth, stress levels in the household continue to impact brain development.
Bake Your Bun In The Oven With Love, Not Stress
When you’re stressed, your adrenal gland produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. Heightened cortisol levels are beneficial during an emergency, but chronically elevated levels can have negative long-term effects on hormonal development and brain chemistry for both the mother and child. Whereas earlier in evolution the developing fetus would only be exposed to stress hormones in short bursts, stress in mothers is now more chronic than ever before.
When a developing fetus is exposed to elevated cortisol levels, it initiates what’s called the Predictive Adaptive Response. Stress hormones get injected into the placenta and absorbed through the umbilical cord. The fetus is tricked into thinking it needs to prepare for a stressful event, activating its stress response. Studies show that overexposure to cortisol in the womb may increase the risk of ADHD and autism in children.
Parental Stress and Anxiety In The Household Continues To Impact Brain Development
In 2011, researchers conducted the first longitudinal study documenting how stress levels of the mothers can influence how the child’s genes are expressed well into adolescence. The study found that a mother’s stress increases the chances of children developing various mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Researchers call this area of study epigenetics, which investigates how genes can be turned on or off by various environmental cues.
Parental Stress and Rates Of Obesity In Children
Does a stressful household make your kids obese? According to a cross-sectional analysis conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the answer is yes. The data was based on a 2006 survey where 2,119 parents answered questions about stress in the home, eating habits, and the weight of their children. The study concluded that a strong correlation exists between rates of obesity in children and household stress.
Having kids is stressful. Research shows that this stress gets passed onto children through the expression of their genes and the development of mental health disorders. Being conscious of the impact your emotions have on the health of your kids is essential, but actually reducing stress and anxiety is another challenge altogether.
Meditation, yoga, regular exercise, the right supplements, and sneaking in a little time to treat yourself are important for protecting your children from the cascading effects of parental stress.