NATIONAL (NBC) - Let's face it, stress is pretty much a part of life, but for children, it shouldn't have to be. Doctors say you could be passing your stress on to your kids, and it could be making them sick.
Kylynn Arthur and her mom enjoy relaxing together, but a few years ago, a family move freaked everyone out.
Justine Lathan-Arthur said, "We ourselves were feeling the pressure of it, and I think our kids picked up on it and specifically Kylynn, 'cause she's very sensitive."
It was during this time that Kylynn came down with 'everything.'
Justine says, "She had ear infections. She'd get sinus infections and the fevers, and there was more frequent trips to the doctor's office."
This all coincided with their enrollment in a study at the University of Rochester Medical Center about family stress and kids' health.
Dr. Peter A. Wyman said, "Stress occurring in families, and in particular in the parent, also is contributing to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases."
Families logged illnesses, and blood samples were tested for immune cells called natural killers, 'N-K' cells.
Dr. Wyman says "it's one of the front line defenses that the body has against, you know, pathogens."
In adults, chronic stress suppresses N-K cells, but this study found family stress increased those cells in kids, without making them healthier.
Dr. Wyman says, "An immune system that might be kind of on hyperdrive, or on somewhat overdrive, what that could do is affect the balance and the ability to respond effectively to new challenges."
Now that Kylynn and her family are settled in their home, stress and illnesses are down and contentment is up.
The doctor says day-to-day stress isn't going to cause this immune effect in kids. But if you're worried about "stressing out" your children, there are some things you can do to help:
- Monitor your own stress. If you're experiencing high stress levels, chances are your kids will too.
- Talk to your kids often. Children feel better about themselves when they have a good relationship with their parents.
- Encourage close friendships. Try scheduling play dates, sleep-overs, and other fun activities.
- Build child's schedule around their temperament. Children's tolerance for stimulation can vary.
- Give kids time to play and relax.