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One of the cornerstones of Self-Reg thinking and practice is safety. We’re not just safety from physical danger or bullying, but a holistic concept of safety that is felt emotionally and also felt in the brain and body. We call this cueing safety.

Neuroscience research has revealed that there are systems deep inside the brain that are constantly on the lookout for threats. Threats that make us feel unsafe. It’s not just that we consciously know/think we are unsafe, it’s also that brain mechanisms that we don’t consciously control, detect (rightly or wrongly) that we are unsafe. The brain responds in ways that contribute to how uneasy, anxious or downright threatened we feel consciously.

These unsafe brain/body feelings trigger our stress response systems and can make those systems overactive in ways that negatively affect our behaviour, moods, learning and relationships, particularly in children.

One way we can turn off a child’s stress systems is to “cue safety,” by mindfully adjusting, not just what we say to children, but also our manner, facial expression, tone of voice and body language in ways that help to regulate the child’s physiological state, and turn off their stress alarm. In other words, co-regulation that helps the child feel safe, not just physically, but also emotionally, socially and culturally. When children feel safe, they are best able so develop, learn, grow, engage socially and flourish.

This poster adapted from the work of TMC’s own Paula Jurczak, remind us of the important aspects of cueing safety through co-regulation. It is discussed in greater detail in Self-Reg Schools: A Handbook for Educators, by Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins.

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