The survival state is the body’s alarm system. It asks “Am I Safe?” This state is activated when a person feels they are in danger or there is a perceived threat. Once we enter this state we go into flight, fright, or freeze.
The behaviors we notice in this state are as follows:
Flight: hit, push, bite, scream
Fright: withdraw, run away, hide
Freeze: surrender by compliance, give in or give up by crying
We will also notice a lack of eye contact, resistance to questions, touch, or understanding, a tense face ando/or body, and the feeling of being powerless.
For optimal brain development, children need to feel emotionally, socially, and physically safe. In order to help children out of this state and become receptive, caregivers must make the child feel they are safe in those ways.
Tools for creating safety are:
Noticing- Look at the child and fill in the blanks “Your body is (explain and show how their body looks)” “Your face is going like (make the same face)” Then add “Something must have happened. You are safe. Breathe. You can handle this.”
Assertiveness- Your voice should be firm with no doubts.
Routines- The brain seeks routine. Being predictable will allow your child to feel safe.
Composure- Take deep breaths. Have the child breathe with you. If your child is too young to understand deep breaths,allow them to sit on your lap, hold them close and breath for them.They will feel your body calm down which will help them to calm down.
Safe Space– A safe space is a place where your child can go to change their brain state.
You can learn more about the safe space here.
Once out of the Survival State, the next state will be the Emotional State.