Stress in Infants and Toddlers

Therapy can help.

Like older children or adults, infants and toddlers sometimes have problems with their behavior or emotions when they experience stress. Stress can include such things as seeing family members fight, being separated from important people, not having enough to eat or not having a place to live. Babies who were born early or have had medical problems sometimes experience stress during the hospital stay or doctor’s visits.

In the hospital, babies might be touched often by different people, feel too hot or too cold, hear loud or scary sounds, feel pain or sickness, or may be hungry. Sometimes they have medical procedures that are scary or painful. They are also often separated from their parents or caregivers. These experiences can also affect the parents’ and cause them stress, fear, and sadness.  Young children are not able to talk about their feelings like older children and adults do, which is why people often think that babies and toddlers do not “feel” or “think about” stress or pain. Stress and pain at a young age is remembered, and puts babies’ brain development and growth at risk. When the stress affects the parents, the relationship between the baby and the caregiver can be affected. Babies and toddlers that have experienced stress and pain may have difficulties with eating or sleeping, fears; aggressive behaviors, loss of skills they had already learned, and they may be hard to calm or be easily startled. It is important to identify problems like these as early as possible to help babies and their caregivers receive the help they need. Even young babies can benefit from therapy with a child psychologist. Therapy with a child psychologist can help parents support their baby and bring baby and caregiver closer. Therapy is also good to help the family process the stressful event and feel more relaxed. As a child psychologist, I will help you support your young child in feeling safe and happy again. Therapy for young children can also focus on regulating sleep, eating, and soothing. Please contact me today if you think therapy with a child psychologist can help your young child.

Dr. Lauren Pasqua, Psy.D.

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