Toxic stress management in children

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A hospital in California is giving kids the tools to tackle their stress. At 10 and 11, brothers, Mickel and Malachi King are in tune with themselves in a way that most adults haven’t achieved. Deep breathing and meditation are part of their daily routine. But, it wasn’t always that way.  

Iesha James, Mickel and Malachi’s mom, explains, “Mykel and Malachi were dropped off at my doorstep. They were one and two at the time.” 

Iesha decided to raise her cousin’s children along with her son.

She continues, “I was unaware of what type of issues they would have, you know PTSD, separation anxiety.” 

Dr. Dayna Long, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, says, “I think that the boys had been in the Emergency Department ten to fifteen times for their asthma. They were really difficult to console.” 

Once at the hospital, the boys were diagnosed with toxic stress. In other words, they were in crisis.

Karen Daley, MA, Licensed Marriage/Family Therapist, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, explains, “That child could end up with a number of diseases, disease processes, or be set up for those diseases because all that stress has no place to go.” 

Instead of more trips to the ER, the boys enrolled in a clinic that teaches how to build resilience by spotting the source of their stress and learning how to cope with it.  

Daley adds, “So that those kids grow up not just acting out but actually aware of their bodies and their minds and their different states.” 

Malachi says, “One of the tools that  learned was the meditation so that calmed me down a lot.” 

Mickel says, “When I’m having a bad day, I just close my eyes for about five seconds and just belly breathe.”                 

Dr. Long adds, “I see the boys now and they are so strong and vibrant. That is extraordinary.” 

According to an earlier landmark study, 64 percent of the population has been exposed to at least one significant adversity in their childhood. That is enough to initiate toxic stress in U.S.    

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