How to reduce bad stress

Jane M. Healy, PhD, shares advice for parents on the effects of bad stress on a child's brain and explains ways to reduce it
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How to reduce bad stress

It’s really important to try to reduce sources of bad stress for your child, because bad stress, which activates the brain’s defense systems, fight or flight, actually can shut down those thinking centers. And it makes learning really hard for kids. And a lot of the learning problems that we have in schools today are actually a function of children who aren’t able to use their brains to their fullest capacities, because they’re preoccupied with fears and with being overstimulated. So what I would suggest is, first of all, you do make sure this child has a healthy environment in every way that you possibly can, but there are several active steps you can take. One is to participate more in outdoor activities that are natural in the natural environment. The research is very clear that the human body and the human brain need grass and trees and free activity in a natural setting. This doesn’t mean a soccer league where kids are out there being told what to do or watched all the time. It means free play, maybe out in the park, or out in the woods or wherever you can find that actually gets your child in touch with some greenery and some of the natural qualities of the world. The next thing you can do is to try to reduce all the sensory stimulation that’s coming in. And by all means, please, keep that media use down to a very minimal level and keep your eye on your child. If you think that there’s too much electronic stimulation in this child’s life and he or she is having problems in school, that’s one of the first things you need to attack.

Jane M. Healy, PhD, shares advice for parents on the effects of bad stress on a child's brain and explains ways to reduce it


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Jane M. Healy, PhD

Educational Psychologist

Jane Healy is a teacher and educational psychologist who has worked with all ages from pre-school to graduate school.  Her major research interest has been in finding practical applications of current brain research for teachers and parents.  A graduate of Smith College, she holds a MA from John Carroll University, a PhD from Case Western Reserve University, and post-doctoral work in developmental neuropsychology.  She has served on the faculty of Cleveland State University. Her many years of experience include: parent, classroom teacher, reading/learning specialist, elementary administrator, and clinician.  She is recognized internationally as an author, lecturer, and consultant. She has received international media coverage, including Nightline, Good Morning America, the Today Show, CNN and NPR, for her ideas about the impact of technology, media and culture on children's brain development and learning.

Although Jane has received many honors, including being twice named the "Educator of the Year" by Delta Kappa Gamma, she claims that she and her husband have learned most of what they know from the process of raising three sons (and now their six grandchildren).

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