Human beings – including very young and vulnerable ones – have enormous capacity for resilience, or what developmental scientists call plasticity. Children can bounce back. We can help them recover from the toxic stress they experience in infancy and toddler-hood. – Lawrence Aber

A recent University of Cape Town study confirmed the importance of emotionally healthy developmental years. The study proved the existence of  “toxic stress” caused by a cycle of violence, uncertainty, and lack of nurture from parents. This especially effects children who live in extreme poverty, are refugees or suffer from abuse.

This study highlights the significance of the work that we do with mothers and children in high-risk places around the world. Where the risk of toxic stress is highest, we work to transform lives with community-based interventions.

Previously, it was believed that the resiliency of children could carry them through stressful early years and that primary school years were of more consequence to development. However, the first three years of a child’s life have now been demonstrated to have great effect on an individual’s self-regulation and can be a deciding factor on how well they interact with others later in life.

The toxic stress young children face where we work can change the way their brains function from a creative, problem solving mindset to a survival-oriented mindset. Children who develop this mindset are more likely to become addicted to drugs, struggle financially and be a single parent. In addition, this problem is inter-generational. Children who endure toxic stress are more likely to subject their children to toxic stress.

While this research is sobering, it is also good news. It gives us even more urgency and insight into how trauma has affected young children as we bring healing, growth and the love of Christ to them. Children are open to receive the nurture that has the potential to bring them and their parents to a healthy way forward.

This powerful new insight will be used to help save even younger children from lives of abuse and exploitation. She Is Safe will continue to help children by providing education, nutrition, and nurture in safe environments as we introduce families to Christ. All the while, we strengthen efforts to reach and equip mothers of young children in high risk areas.

Read the study:

Learn about She Is Safe’s work with children: