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Children who have undergone trauma learn to deal with stress

Posted at 7:13 AM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 17:09:48-05

Adults are often quick to share the stress in their lives, but experts say children are often stressed as well.

Half of children have faced at least four traumatic events in their young lives.

A hospital in northern California is attempting to help children like 10- and 11-year-old brothers Mickel and Malachi King.

"Mickel and Malachi were dropped off at my doorstep," said Iesha James, the boys' mom. "They were one and two at the time."

James decided to raise her cousin's children along with her son.

"I was unaware of what type of issues they would have, you know, PTSD, separation anxiety," she said.

"I think the boys had been in the emergency department 10 to 15 times for their asthma," said Dr. Dayna Long of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital of Oakland. "They were really difficult to console."

Once at the hospital, the boys were diagnosed with toxic stress. They were in crisis.

"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," said Karen Daley, licensed marriage/family therapist, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital of Oakland.

Instead of more trips to the emergency room, 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.

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

"One of the tools I learned was meditation so that calmed me down a lot," Malachi said.

"When I'm having a bad day I just close my eyes for about five seconds and just belly breathe," Mickel said.

Dr. Long says she sees the boys now and, "they are so strong and vibrant. That is extraordinary."

A Landmark study found 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 anyone.

As a result, more hospitals and clinics across the country are screening for warning signs in children.