Stress Detective Checklist
The checklist includes examples of common early childhood stressors. Not all can be prevented, and not all will have the same impact on a child at any given time or across children. However, being aware of what can be a stressor is the first step in reframing "misbehavior" as "stress behavior" and understanding that there are times when children are under too much stress and are unable to show us all they know and can do.
Stress, as defined by Dr. Stuart Shanker, is anything "that requires us to burn energy to remain operating at our functional best." Anything from having to regulate our temperature, deal with strong emotions, to remembering a set of directions.
A state of functional best is when our brain\s registers that we are balanced or stable in our ability to regulate temperature, deal with emotions, and process information etc...that we are in a state of homeostasis. In other words, the brain registers that we are "safe" (i.e., no internal alarms are going off).
Our brains are constantly "surveying the scene" to keep our systems in a state of homeostasis (i.e., balanced and stable) and to determine if we are safe. The brain uses current information, memories from past experiences, and our own temperament to determine if we are "safe" and/or if it needs to burn energy to return to where we can function best.
For young children, because their brains are underdeveloped and often unable to take in information and correctly determine if they are "safe", they can become hyper or hypo-aroused by the stressors. This causes a shift from social engagement to fight, flight, freeze, or faint mode. The brain makes this shift to "help" the child's systems return to a state of what their brain registers as "safe, balanced, and stable. Children need us to help them interpret all the input to their brains and to help recognize and reduce stressors whenever possible.