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Kids are suffering from toxic stress. Here’s some advice on how we can help them heal

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Stress and upheaval are harmful at any time, but the pandemic has forced many families onto a roller coaster ride that seems unending. Families and caregivers are concerned about what this period of great instability means for their children, so we turned to psychologist Jennifer Vargas Pemberton, who has worked with children and teenagers for decades, for some answers.

Pemberton is an associate professor of educational psychology and counseling in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Cal State Northridge and the faculty liaison for Strength United, the CSUN charter center that provides trauma services to the community and on campus. In addition, she has a private practice and is director of training and manager of the crisis program at the Child & Family Guidance Center’s Balboa Boulevard offices in Northridge.

Overall, Pemberton said she believes that families, schools and our communities should embrace a “trauma-informed” approach, which means having an understanding of traumatic experiences can impact our children’s overall wellbeing.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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