GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Stress is a natural part of life, for both children and adults especially this time of year, but normal stress can turn toxic for children which can lead to long-term harm to children's brains and bodies.

Developmental psychologist Dr. Marti Erickson, host of Mom Enough, says that at any age, stress triggers the production of stress hormones (such as cortisol) in the adrenal glands, and that triggers the body's "fight or flight" response. That is not harmful unless it happens too often or for too long.

Erickson says that ordinary stress experiences actually can be positive, allowing children to learn to manage challenging situations and keep going even when they feel fearful or anxious. It can also build confidence, showing them they can handle life challenges.

Stress becomes toxic for a child when it happens too often, for too long, and in the absence of caring adults to support the child, Erickson says.

Toxic stress has devastating effects on a child's brain development, with serious consequences for the child's learning and development. Research also shows a strong link between toxic stress in childhood and serious physical and mental health problems throughout adulthood.

To learn more about toxic stress and how parents can help their children, go to