(847) 579- 9317 support@copingpartners.com

Dr. Michelle CutlerDr. Michelle Cutler is a licensed clinical psychologist and the Founder of Michelle Cutler, Ph.D. and Associates. She has over twenty years of experience working with children and families and specializes in helping children and adolescents who have experienced trauma – particularly abuse and neglect.

Dr. Cutler received her PhD from the University of Toledo, completed her internship training at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center.

Aside from her private practice, Dr. Cutler is an Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where she teaches doctoral-level classes, including Child Trauma.

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 Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Dr. Michelle Cutler answers parents’ questions about the July 4th mass shooting
  • The most important factor in helping kids recover from trauma
  • Dr. Cutler’s tips on how parents can help their kids process their emotions and heal
  • What is the “grounding” exercise?
  • How parents can help their kids transition back to school
  • Dr. Cutler answers the question “At what point should I be seeking out a therapist for my child?”
  • Dr. Cutler’s best resource for parents dealing with a child’s trauma

In this episode…

The recent Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, will forever be remembered — not because of the joyful celebration, but because of the trauma it has left on the residents. For most of them, the nightmare continues in the aftermath of the tragedy, with parents struggling to properly explain to their children the violence that occured.

So, what are some of the best ways to talk to your children about a traumatic incident? How can you help them process their emotions and heal?

Dr. Michelle Cutler says it’s okay for parents not to have all the answers. The most critical factor in helping kids recover from trauma is the presence and response of supportive adults and caretakers. After giving children a safe space to talk, parents can help them understand what’s going on by validating their fears and reassuring them of their safety. You can also practice grounding exercises at home to help your kids manage anxiety. Dr. Cutler urges parents to check in on themselves before speaking with their children, and if needed, consult with a therapist to help your child work through the trauma.

In this episode of The Coping Podcast, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Leigh Weisz is joined by Dr. Michelle Cutler, the Founder of Michelle Cutler, Ph.D., and Associates, to discuss how to talk to children after a traumatic event. Dr. Cutler talks about the mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, explains how adults and children can process their emotions, and shares tips for moving forward.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Coping Partners.

Coping Partners is a mental health practice dedicated to helping children, adolescents, and adults manage various challenges including anxiety, divorce, behavioral issues, relationship problems and much more in the Chicago suburbs.

Our practitioners are devoted to building on our clients’ strengths and bolstering weaknesses.

To gain insight and tools for getting unstuck check out our website at CopingPartners.com, email us at support@copingpartners.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01  

Welcome to The Coping Podcast where we share strategies for coping with the stressors of life, especially the difficulties of parenting. And here is your host, Dr. Leigh Weisz.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  0:15  

This is Dr. Leigh Weisz. I am the host of The Coping Podcast, where I feature top experts on topics like raising healthy children, parenting and so much more. This episode is brought to you by Coping Partners. Coping Partners is a mental health practice in the Chicago suburbs dedicated to helping children, adolescents and adults. We help manage various challenges including anxiety, divorce, behavioral issues, relationship problems, and much more. Check out more episodes of our podcast on our website at copingpartners.com And you can contact us with any questions you have. Before introducing today’s guest I have a quick disclaimer. The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only. This is not intended to provide mental health treatment and does not constitute a client therapist relationship. The information provided is not a replacement for being assessed and evaluated by a licensed professional and is not intended to replace mental health or medical advice. And finally, today’s guest is Dr. Michelle Cutler a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Cutler has over 20 years of experience working with children and families. Dr. Cutler has specialized training and working with children and adolescents who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, neglect or other trauma. She has specialized training in the field of pediatric psychology and children exposed to trauma. Dr. Cutler did a number of fellowships working with children and families who experienced physical and sexual abuse and even helped develop programming for the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. Dr. Cutler works in private practice, but also teaches at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, teaching doctoral level classes, including Child Trauma, among others. For more information, check out her website at Dr.Cutlerandassociates.com DR. DR. Cutler, cu T, L, E, R and associates.com. So, on July 4, this year, instead of our usual community parade and festive celebrations in the town of Highland Park, Illinois, members of our community instead suffered a trauma, a mass shooting. And as you know, those who were in attendance were largely families with young children. So to say, Dr. Cutler, I wanted to pick your brain and ask you some of the many questions that I’m hearing from concerned parents in the community who are understandably really worried about their kiddos. So my first question, I’m going to dive right in first question from parents is, how do I possibly answer the why question? Why did this happen? Why would someone want to hurt us?


Dr. Michelle Cutler  2:55  

Yeah. And I’m so glad you brought that up. Right. So before we talk about the actual response, I just want to kind of name what’s going on for our kids and for us right now. Right, which is we ourselves as parents might also be asking ourselves that question. And I just became aware of as, as we started talking, that, really we’re recording this the day after the month anniversary, right? So things are still really very raw. And trauma symptoms are probably still very heightened. And while the crisis state has diminished a bit, right, things are settling in, we’re certainly not out of it. So it’s very normal, it’s very common for not only kids to be wondering about how they can be safe again, but for us as parents to be feeling that same way, right, which makes it so tricky. That’s one of the horrific things about this experience is that we have to be here to help our kids and we ourselves are also experiencing great distress because of what happened. And not to put you know, I think the burden is already just from what you’re saying and can feel like it’s on parents that have these answers. And both things are true, right? The first thing I’m going to say might sound like it’s contrary to stereo. But the next thing, which the first thing is what we know about helping kids who are trauma is the most important factor. And this is across years of research across my own clinical experience. And and the things that I’ve that I’ve that I’ve seen in front of me is the most important factor in helping kids recover from a trauma is the presence and the response of supportive adults and caretakers, right? Which means that we’re the most important people and helping kids get through this. We can feel like you’re exactly right, I can feel like more responsibility. But at the same time, here’s the flip side of it. You know, it also means that by trusting our instincts that and by doing the things that we know in the past have helped our kids already. That’s going to go a long way All right, so just by and then we’ll come back and talk about how to answer your question is how do I help my kids feel safe again, but just by our kids knowing that, that we’re there to help them and to try to find answers or to try to find ways to self to feel safe again, that in itself is gonna go a long way for them. We don’t have to have all the answers. Many times when kids ask us questions, they’re really just saying, I’m scared, and I need someone to know that and to reassure me. So that’s the first that’s kind of like the mindset we want to have when kids are coming to us with questions.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  5:37  

It does alleviate a little pressure, just saying, you being there for your children, is a huge piece of what’s going to protect them. Yeah,


Dr. Michelle Cutler  5:45  

yeah. And and much of that is, is what’s going to come natural for parents to know their kids well, right. And we’ve been able to help them in the past. And it can feel like we have to have all the answers to these really difficult questions that we ourselves might not even know the answers to. We don’t that we just have to help our kids know that they’re being heard. Right. We can talk a little more specifically about how to help our kids feel safe, if that would be helpful.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  6:11  

Absolutely. Especially because a lot of the kids that, you know, a lot of the kids who are around here are hearing a loud noise, let’s say, you know, from a thunderstorm, or who knows why in their house, and they’re having this kind of bodily reaction. Again, I think it’s understandable in the context of a gunshot a month ago, but I just I hear a lot of parents going, what do I What do I do when they have that reaction? How do I, how do I tell them they’re safe?