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As parents we agonize over every mistake we might make that will potentially "ruin our children for life". Now there is evidence to suggest that our worries might not be so unfounded, afterall. According to one study, the stress that children experience while they are young can stay with them for a lifetime and shape their future reactions to life stressors.

Dr. Rijita Sinha, director of the Yale Stress Center, says that major childhood stressors (PDF) such as pain, illness, or injury have the power to permanently shape children's brains to overreact to stress later in life. In particular, witnessing parents struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, physical violence, divorce, abuse, or a serious financial crisis are among the stressful situations that can increase a child's stress level to "severe" and literally hardwire the brain to react more strongly to stress. While Dr. Sinha admits that children and humans, in general, are adapative creatures, children's ability to adapt to stress is limited if they haven't fully developed the capacity to deal with stressors.

Nevertheless, most families will experience a major stressor during the course of a child's life. There are ways to cope with stressors that will help you child to cope. For example, Dr. Sinha suggests that parents seek social support from others facing similar situations, that children engage in school where they can learn to navigate complex situations through lessons, and that parents teach children how to deal with complex emotions through optimism and other mechanisms such as yoga and getting plenty of regular sleep.

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