How Does Your Child Respond Under Emotional Pressure – Freeze, Fight Or Flight?

Often parents are so intent on getting their message across to their kids, (whether it be getting them to cooperate or bringing them into line), that they are only focused on what they are saying. Often in these times they lose their sensory acuity (the ability to notice what is going on around them and how the other person, their child, is feeling).

Kids need to have clear boundaries and guidelines. It is how we go about enforcing them, that is important too!

When human beings feel threatened or unsafe there is a natural instinct we have. It is a survival strategy built in, to keep us alive. It is called Freeze, fight or flight. We all have it. You may have heard of ‘fight or flight’. In fact there is 3 stages- ‘FREEZE, FIGHT OR FLIGHT’ When humans feel physically threatened we will always do at least one of these 3 things. We will either ‘FREEZE’- become paralyzed and go into shut down, or ‘FIGHT’- turn around and meet it head on and fight for survival, or our third instinct is to go into ‘FLIGHT’-which means to get out of there as fast as you can: to run away. When we feel emotionally threatened and unsafe, we instinctively go through these same three options. We react in a spit second and have no control over our initial spit second response. It happens before we have time to think.

Think of yourself and how you respond under emotional stress. What do you do? Do you shut down and withdraw, or do you go into defensive mode and fight back? Or do you walk away, get out of there, and leave as quickly as you can? Your children also instinctively do one of these 3 things too, when they feel threatened or unsafe. I am sure you have noticed how different children have different responses when they feel they are emotionally being attacked. Some children go quiet and become withdrawn, while others will meet their parents head on by throwing a tantrum or screaming and yelling back. And others will run away and hide. Do you recognize your child’s response here? When parents fight and yell at each other, it causes children to feel emotionally unsafe, and they will respond in one of the 3 ways. Parents often don’t notice what is happening with their children in such times. They often mistake “the child that seems untouched by what is going on around them” as being unaware of the tension. They may in actual fact, be in a highly stressed state and be responding from the ‘Freeze’ state, which makes them appear to be indifferent.

As loving, conscious parents it is our job to guide and nurture our children’s spirit and to create a safe haven in our homes for our children.

Think of your children. How do they react under emotional pressure? What do they do? Observe your children and notice what their strategy is. Think of a time when there was conflict in your house, and think back to how your children responded. Understanding your child’s natural instinct and how they react in ‘FREEZE, FIGHT, FLIGHT” moments, empowers you, the parent, to notice and understand (with empathy) that the approach you are using in that moment isn’t working (Instead it may have detrimental effects on your child’s self-esteem if you were to continue). In these times, you must adjust and change the way you are communicating. This is being a conscious parent! When your child goes into ‘FREEZE, FIGHT OR FLIGHT’ it is a sign that your child is in distress. This is not a time to keep forcing the issue, yet this is what many people do because they are not aware in that moment, that their child has gone into an automatic response of ‘FREEZE, FIGHT, OR FLIGHT’ and feels threatened and unsafe in his or her world. In this moment it is essential you bring them back to a safe place emotionally, before you continue and change your approach. There is no point in doing things in the same way if it is not working. The definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results. Our aim, as conscious parents, is always to make our children feel safe, respected and loved.

Being a conscious parent means always looking for more empowering ways in doing things to support our children.

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