(847) 497- 8378 drweisz@copingpartners.com

Dr. Michelle Cutler  6:40  

So I’m gonna say two things, right? And I’m assuming now let’s make sure I come back to both of them, right. The first is going to be education, helping our kids to understand what’s going on and making sure that we as parents know what’s going on. And then reassurance right, some things that we actually can do to help kids know that they’re, they’re safe or to feel that they’re safe, even if they cognitively know it, because those are two different things. So education, education, education, understanding what’s going on in the moment when they have that reaction to a loud noise, right, that six weeks ago would never we wouldn’t even registered, but now we do. Right. And that is helping kids to understand that basically our bodies because what we went through is so extraordinary, right. So horrific, something we never could have expected. never would have thought would have happened never could have prepared for. It has thrown our bodies out of whack. Right. And we have an alarm system, our bodies that when there are lots of ways to explain this to kids. But you know, I think about the alarm system that we might have in our homes, right, that goes off at something isn’t safe to to alert the authorities to alert us that we need to take care of something. And when we go through something as horrific as this shooting was about his alarm system gets out of whack, right? It becomes oversensitive as it should, because we needed to be protected, right? So it kicked into gear that day. Exactly. Right. And it it helped us survive in the moment. And that was our body doing what it needed to do, right. And kids can relate to that parents can relate to that. And somebody might look and say like, how the heck did I do that thing? And looking back, it doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense. Right? Tamas don’t necessarily make sense to us. Because we’re not supposed to happen. That’s what makes them so horrific. And so in our body’s response to survive, our alarm system got a little oversensitive, right or a lot oversensitive. And it is that still hasn’t been shut off, right. And it’s still trying to keep us safe. And so what that means is when it gets reminded of something from that day, if it’s something that hears or something that smells or something is thinks about or a feeling that that reminds it of that day, those alarms are gonna go off, right to keep us safe. And there’s nothing wrong with us because that happened. That’s because that’s happening. In fact, it’s supposed to, but we just don’t need it. Right? We need to just say to our body like, Okay, thanks. Thanks, alarm system, right? Like, I know, you think something scary here is going on. But I’m actually okay.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  9:17  

It’s just a loud noise from the thunder or


Dr. Michelle Cutler  9:19  

exactly right. And the body and the brain or the body and the brain are two different processes. So that’s the thing, right? So it’s, you might cognitively know that this just some thunder, but the body is still back there on the day that it happened, right? And we can help our kids understand that. And then we’ll talk about the second piece is what they can do. But so when they’re saying, I’m so scared, I’m so scared. Name what’s going on right here. It’s your alarm systems going off. Your body’s acting like it happened again, because it got reminded of it. There’s the cognitive piece, but it’s not happening again. Right, but you are safe,


Dr. Leigh Weisz  9:56  

reminding them of like the present moment.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  9:59  

Yeah. Yeah, the past. Correct, right. So that’s the cognitive piece. So helping them, right. Okay, here’s what’s happening, educating them. And we as parents got to do the same thing for ourselves, right? And then what else? Do they need to feel safe sometimes, because if they get it cognitively, their body might not be on board with that yet. So that’s when we can try pairing that I’m sure you and your therapist work with clients on about calming the nervous system down, doing deep breathing, doing some mindfulness connecting with things around them, right? And isn’t that big brings them back to the present moment more than just saying, I’m safe? Or are my parents telling me that I’m safe? Connecting at a deeper level and knowing that they are that they’re actually not back there? They’re here with their parents? And they’re okay.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  10:44  

Could you give us an example of like one of those exercises, something that parents maybe you could even use at home with our kids?


Dr. Michelle Cutler  10:51  

Sure, sure. So the easiest one to describe over a podcast of against it, so you physically have to do it’s called grounding, right. And grounding is, is really the term that means just bringing us back to the present moment and feeling connected with that present moment. And there are things you can do to physically ground yourself, which are hard to explain over a podcast. But the other things that you can do, which is connected to physical sensations is by and it sounds silly, and it sounds obvious. But it’s really, really helpful because a trauma response is about the future, right? What’s going to happen, being worried about what’s going to happen next, and then the past, right, like, here’s what did happen, the moment the present, that’s where they are safe, and we want to help them feel connected to that. So just by looking around, and you can do a number of different things you can have your kids describe five things that they see around them. And if they’re in their room, you can say, tell me five things about your dresser right now, and have them name and it sounds silly. But five things it’s mu, it’s got different books, what’s your favorite book on there, right looks like it’d be hard when you think it would sound like if we not, okay, now, look out your window and tell me five things you see outside of your window. And you can do this just the sight. It’s also super helpful if you can do other senses, because that also connects on a deeper level with the nervous systems. And that is what you see, but it’s something that you hear. If it makes sense, it can be telling me something that you smell. And then here’s the physical piece that can be super helpful with calming the nervous system down, is just having them put their hands on something and tell me what it feels like, right? So a soft pillow or fuzzy pillow, or a hard thing and connecting their hands to that to that object and describing what it feels like can take us out of the past out of the future and big effects.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  12:44  

It’s so simple, but it sounds like it would be so effective.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  12:47  

Yeah, yeah, it is. And that’s, that’s what many of these things are right. It’s it is just and that’s what I mean, when I say we don’t have to like overthink it. We don’t have to have all those answers. But look where you are now you are safe now. And I’m saying that to the parents and to kids. Right. We are safe now. And that’s what we want to keep our focus. That’s where we want to keep our energy. Right. That’s,


Dr. Leigh Weisz  13:11  

that’s extremely helpful. Good, good. So I guess, you know, going, going to another related topic, a lot of the kids, you know, are again, only a month out a lot of the kids had attended the parade, and they’re nervous about returning to school. Yeah. And I understand because some kids were not there and may not be able to even relate and other kids were affected quite profoundly. How do you kind of coach parents around helping their kids with the idea of returning to school?


Dr. Michelle Cutler  13:45  

So first thing is the advice that applies pretty much anytime when our we’re talking to our kids is start with listening, right? So first, pay attention to ourselves, how are we feeling? Okay, I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling like I have to have all the answers. I don’t know what I’m afraid I’m gonna say something wrong. Take a deep breath, right? regulate ourselves, okay, because that’s the most important thing that our kids know that we’re okay. So that’s the first piece of it. We don’t have to have all the answers. And in fact, the best way we’re going to help our kids is by actually letting them talk and not giving them the answers right away. So that’s the first thing I would say is just listen, reflect what you think they’re feeling, right. So name, it sounds like you’re feeling really nervous about it. Pause. Give him a minute, then you might feel antsy. keep pausing, right, give them some time. Because sometimes, if we jump in, then that’s going to shut kids down right before and then we want to hear what they’re really worried about. So you want to reflect how they’re feeling and then give them the chance to share. And then you can ask questions, right? Is there anything specifically that that you’re worried about? And many, many times again, just by A giving them the chance to say how they’re feeling that’s going to be enough for them. And then if there are specific questions, or there’s certain things that you think parents are hearing about the return to school that would be helpful to plan for,


Dr. Leigh Weisz  15:18  

you know, parents are trying to be extra sensitive to the different situations. So some families were just much more kind of front and center of this trauma, physically wounded, emotionally wounded, whereas again, others weren’t even there and, you know, are just hearing the very bare minimum upon return to school. So I think the parents are worried that they want their kids to be extra sensitive and helpful to the kids who are more at the front at the center, and kind of how how they can talk to their kids about being a good friend, what does that look like in the context of this trauma?


Dr. Michelle Cutler  15:55  

And how wonderful in the context of all of this right that parents are? Still, which has been the case, since this happens, thinking about how to be supportive to other kids and other families? Right. It’s a close


Dr. Leigh Weisz  16:06  

community. And I do think that it’s got to be a protective factor that people really are showing up for each other. But yeah, this is one of those tricky ones. Yeah.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  16:16  

And the, and again, we’ll come back and talk about what to say to your kids. But the other piece I want to help parents to remember, they don’t have to manage this on their own right, one of the wonderful things about this community is not just the people that have come in to support each other, but the resources that are there. So the school is going to be there to help with these types of things. Right. The challenge, and the advantage of that is that the community experienced that together. Right. And that means it is going to be on everybody’s mind. Right? Nobody has to explain what’s going on. Everyone’s everyone’s going to know that everyone else has had dealt with it. Right? secrets in that sense.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  16:55  

Like an isolated.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  16:57  

Exactly right. Yeah, exactly. Right. And it’s a shared, so people know that they’re not alone in what they experienced. So the school is going to the school counselors and specific teams that have come in to help will be there to help kids navigate some of these difficulties. And if parents want to be proactive, I would again, just first check in and see, is this really something that my child has already asked me about? Or does my child have have issues with being a good friend? Anyway, before this, you know, or is it my own anxiety? That I’m just worried about it right? And if it’s the third, then I would just say, let’s wait to see, right? If and if you want to be proactive, it can be just about naming it for your child, right? And checking in how are you feeling about going back to school? And this is probably going to be on everybody’s mind? And yes, you’re you might see some people who you know, are physically different because of this, certainly emotionally different, different because of this, maybe even just different about how they’re able to do schoolwork, right? Everyone’s been affected in their own way. And then just like parents are already talking to kids, to just remind them, that part of being a good friend is thinking about how the other person would feel right. And so


Dr. Leigh Weisz  18:15  

I’ve ever met, reminding them of basic empathy.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  18:18  

Yeah, exactly. It’s basic empathy, right? And even though they might have questions, they might be very curious. They might be really interested, especially if they’ve heard things about these kids, that it’s best to just follow their friends lead, in terms of bringing things up. Because that’s going to help them make them a good friend.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  18:37  

Right. I love that. That’s, that’s just a kind. That’s just the kind of thing to do in generals to


Dr. Michelle Cutler  18:42  

fall out. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, it’s that little lesson that like, we’re kind of always learning, like, Who is it for? And so, although the kid might be curious, it, which is okay, right, this is why this conversation before it can be helpful. We don’t want them to satisfy their curiosity at the expense of someone else’s feelings.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  19:02  

Right. Right. That makes sense. That makes sense. And I know a lot of the parents are wondering, are they going to do this, this active shooter drill in schools? And, you know, I’m kind of hopeful maybe they’ll push it off a little bit, but I think they’re going to still do these things. And in fact, it’s reported who were at the parade feeling like they actually knew what to do, which was kind of like comforting and alarming at the same time, you know,


Dr. Michelle Cutler  19:25  

yeah, you’ve been exposed to Yeah, and I think that’s, you know, you and I was making this dislike sad, upset some was disgusted, horrified. Okay. So what are your What are kids are are having to prepare for in the world right now? It can feel like Right. And that’s our stuff. Right? And I think I’m just validating that for kids that this is hard and this is scary. And no, I don’t know what so it sounds like they’re they’re moving ahead with a regular drills, but


Dr. Leigh Weisz  19:55  

we just, you know, people are just kind of wandering around and worrying a little bit about


Dr. Michelle Cutler  19:59  

counsel, yeah, and all of that is still about the same thing that was before right keeping helping us to be prepared. And, again, something, the chances of something like this happening are so so, so, so, so rare, right. And I, as your parent would never send you to school, if I didn’t think that it was safe enough for you to go because school is so important. And I know how much you love school, and know how important your friends are right? And we were extremely unlikely, right? And then however old your kid is you, you multiply the number of varies and very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely unlucky, we were that this happened to us. And how very, very, very, very small of a chance there is that something like this would happen again. And that’s why I’m your mom, and I love you. And I know that it’s best for you to go to school. And And here’s where again, we have to check in with ourselves. And then yeah, exactly right. You got to find the words that work for you. Right? If you don’t want to say something you don’t feel right. So it’s okay to say of course I do a little bit nervous to, and I know that what’s best for us is to keep doing the things that we need to do. Right, that makes us happy. And again, I wouldn’t put you in that situation. If I didn’t think it was important enough, right.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  21:26  

And parents can just remind kids to have all the different levels of security and safety that were held up so much. One of the toughest questions, I would say that I was asked that, I don’t know that there’s a great answer for honestly, to your to your point was at the parade, there were, you know, firemen and police who had just marched through before this incident happened. And so the kids were kind of wondering if this could happen, where there’s so many beliefs, how am I safe? So again, that same question, which there’s probably not a great answer to but I’m just curious again, what what you would recommend a parents saying, or teacher saying if the kids bring that


Dr. Michelle Cutler  22:09  

up, I’m gonna say the same thing, right to we got to address the body and the brain here, right? So your body is telling you that you’re not safe at these things because of what happens, right? Good. That’s your body trying to protect yourself, but your memory, your body still has that super sensitive alarm system. But to your brain, right, and then we go back to how unlikely something like this is to have happened, right? And that, yes, it did happen with all of these people there that that were designed to keep us safe. And that you know, ultimately did keep firing people safe and did help. So of course, that feels scary. And we know that the rest of life is so important that that we’re still going to keep living in that.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  22:59  

So I’m hearing again, that reflection of their, you know, their fears, right. It’s really, really scary. It is so so so, so rare. And And again, this is kind of what we do to keep you safe. And and I actually think that the fact that the police were able to respond, you know, I can focus on that piece of it to the helpers were there. But yeah, but yeah, these questions are, are triggering for parents, because I’m safe to it’s understood. Yeah,


Dr. Michelle Cutler  23:29  

yeah, miracles are saying what we’re thinking, right. And I love what you said about kind of where you put your focus, right. So that’s what we’re, we’re going to reflect and validate and then slowly help to shift that focus, right? Because, sure, you can stay in this place where by all these, these police were there and this horrible thing happened, and your body and your brain, but then we can also what happens then when we think about how quickly people came in to help, right? And do you remember what they did to tell us how to stay safe afterwards. And they were right there a day and we listened to them. And then we help the kids to kind of stay in that space. And that even just shifting that focus shows them to that they are able to do that. Right. So now we’re talking about a coping skill is shifting out to just shifting the focus out of the place where their alarm system is going off, and then into a place where they can feel cared for and protected and connect with that too.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  24:28  

So helpful. I think one one pressing question for most parents is, you know, again, four weeks after this trauma, we expect that their bodies are not regulated the way that we hope they will be one day, but at what point do you feel like they should be seeking out a therapist like you with expertise and trauma point is this not you know, not a normal response to stress and more problematic.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  24:55  

So, in general, okay, what we what we know in general is At the highest period of symptoms, symptoms of meeting like diagnosis for that, yes, some some sort of mental health disorder. But that’s not even you don’t even need that to kind of be affected here, right. But the most acute post traumatic symptoms do abate after about a month to six weeks, okay in many, many cases, particularly with a tune. Caring, resourceful parents that have resources, typically, four to six weeks, many of the symptoms should should improve, is after that point, or before that point, if the symptoms are really interfering with daily functioning, that they might need additional support to help help cope with them. Right. And that being said, of course, like, I’m always going to say counseling can be helpful, right? It’s ever going to be harmful day. No,


Dr. Leigh Weisz  25:54  

but but people really should consider a counseling.


Dr. Michelle Cutler  25:57  

Yeah, yeah, because it is normal, we would expect, we would expect difficulty sleeping, right, we’d expect more anxiety expressed in that expressed on how it comes out with kids eating patterns, or somatically. Right. All of those things, even even nightmares, intrusive symptoms, or avoidance, we have the opposite of of that, right, where they don’t want to go to the place where it happened. And if it’s interfering with daily life, then that’s also a time when we want to get them some additional support. So you know, thinking about avoidance, as understandable as say, and we want to avoid things, some direct things, right, like the place where it happened, or things that remind us about where it happened crowds or schools, right or big outside events, understandable why they would want to avoid those places. And we would do it right, and our body’s ALARM SYSTEMS gonna go off and cognitively, we have seen that they might not be safe. And bit by bit, right, we can help them to feel safe again. Because the thing with avoidance is, and you know, that’s looking with anxiety, and it does help in the short term, right, it does help us to feel better and to feel safer. But then in the long term, it just shows our kids that they really should be avoiding these things, right, and they can’t handle the anxiety that that goes along with it. If they have, they should be staying away. So bit by bit looking for opportunities to try the things that are making them scared, right that set in their alarm systems off. So they can learn to cope with it right learn to regulate themselves, when their alarm systems do go off and see that they can tolerate it, they can do these things to get back to doing the things that are going to help them restructure the routine, the activities, right, all of those things. We trauma that made them who they are. We’re who they are. Right? You want to be.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  27:48  

You You know Central Avenue where and Walker brothers. Parents intuitively have been saying like, I didn’t want them to go the next day, I understood that. This would be difficult, but we needed to get back there so that


Dr. Michelle Cutler  28:01  

you guys put down. Yeah, yep. And and it’s bit by bit, right. So it doesn’t have to be we’re gonna go and spend the whole day there, right? Oh, no, no, no, you go when you say like, let’s give us an hour and see how you’re doing. And if you want to go back home. Cool. If you’re okay, staying, that’s fine, too. All right. So you don’t it doesn’t have to be all at once. But you don’t. If you’re able to avoid avoiding things all together that is going to help with that anxiety.


Dr. Leigh Weisz  28:31  

This is so helpful. I was going to ask if there is just any general advice that you know, maybe I didn’t ask about that you would like to impart to us, or favorite resources, books, podcasts, anything, websites, anything that you would recommend parents, you know, get familiar with?


Dr. Michelle Cutler  28:49  

Sure, sure. So I mean, I think I think I’ve said this, but just to reiterate the important role that parents play, which is again, not meant to put pressure but more to instill confidence in parents, right that if you’ve been able to help your child in the past, you can help them through this skill, right, you know, your child’s best, and we don’t have to have all of the answers. But we do have to take care of ourselves so that we can be there for them. Right. So I think that’s kind of the biggest, if people take one thing from our conversation that I hope it would be something like that. And in terms of resources, there are so many out there, you know, and even just talking to people in the community, I know there’s been a lot of sharing the resources with books about trauma, and even some specific ones about mass shootings that have come out which are so helpful. So books for kids to see that they’re not alone. Help with that experience and then also gives them a little bit of distance. If they’re not able to talk about their own experience. They can see it through someone else’s experience. And then I think the best resource for parents and this is kind of the, I would say like the landing site for The depths experts in the field, I’ll say the acronym first and then the organization, but nctsn.org, I want to double check that now, but might be .com. But it’s the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. And, you know, one of the things, and I’ve been saying this for the last appearance, unfortunately, dramas always been happening, right? It’s always been here. So it hasn’t become more prevalent, but we’ve gotten a lot better at talking about it. And we’ve gotten a lot better at knowing how to help. And we really do you know, how to help kids and families who have been exposed to trauma, their research steps. I mean, the research has just blown up in the past 10 to 20 years, right and more being done every day, and, thankfully, actually more being funded every day to figure out how to best help kids and families. So parents don’t have to feel like they have to fumble their their way around this. There are therapists out there that can help and there’s organizations that can help and NCTSN is a great landing page for that they’ve got resources for parents resources for schools, resources for professionals. And I think that’s a great place to start. So nctsn.org or .com, whichever one is okay, well,


Dr. Leigh Weisz  31:17  

we’ll find it for sure. We’ll put it again, you know, thank you so much, Michelle, we want to point everyone to your website, and is drcutlerandassociates.com. And if you have any questions, you can go to her website and contact her and Dr. Cutler is available for clinical work. And so if you’ve been impacted by this trauma or any trauma and you’d like an expert reach out to her, she and her group of therapists are ready to support and help our community and we’re so grateful for all your consultation and your your support and guidance. Also, check out more episodes of our podcast, you can go to copingpartners.com and click on the podcast page to listen to more episodes. Thank you for listening.


Outro  32:02  

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