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Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn?


As a parent in modern society, it can be easy to feel drawn into meeting the 'social norm' when it comes to parenting, children, and other peoples' perceptions of who we are as a family.

For children with neurological differences (including trauma), situations that invoke emotions can cause the brain to respond in a way that does not fit society's expectations.


Firstly, and most importantly, we need to remember that our role as a teacher, parent, mentor or supporter, is to guide these young people towards being the best version of themselves and this is not possible without first prioritising their mental health. We all need a strong foundation in order to feel stable and secure.

If the emotional response is to go into fight mode, then the reaction is to defend oneself against a perceived threat. This can be either physical or verbal aggression. In these situations, it is vital to remain calm and make the young person feel safe, these emotions cannot be dealt with in the moment. Once calm, it is important to identify triggers, minimise them as much as possible, and encourage your child to come up with ideas and strategies to deal with these difficulties as and when they arise.

Flight mode can be equally distressing and worrying. It is vital to work on making the young person feel safe, and work to minimise anything that invokes such a feeling of unease. It can take a long time for young people to feel safe, but with a therapeutic approach and a secure support network, it is possible.

Freeze and Fawn are arguably the most damaging, due to the fact that the negative emotions are being suppressed or held back. Over time, this in itself can cause trauma. Forced compliance is not healthy for any age group, and if we allow this to continue then we are potentially raising young people who are unable to voice their opinion or be assertive in later life. Building confidence and self esteem, and allowing young people to have a voice and feel heard is an important part of becoming well-rounded as they grow.

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