Archive of ‘Emotional Regulation’ category

How to Talk to Your Children About the News

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Rogers

The news is everywhere, and children are becoming consumers of the news at younger and younger ages. Not all information is factual, and children might have a difficult time distinguishing between what is real and what is false. Children might also be frightened by things they hear from peers or news outlets. By age level, here are the things parents should focus on when discussing the news with their children.

Children Under 7
  • Keep the news off – children in the age group developmentally do not need to be seeing the news. Wait until children are in bed to get your nightly fix. Keep any pictures that might be violent or distressing out of sight of children, that includes things on the internet! Make sure your computers and tablets have child protections in place that include news channels. 
  • Emphasize that your family is safe – If your child does hear about a tragedy in the news, highlight to your child that your family is safe. Clear up any misconceptions that your child may have about what happened. Although we as adults know that chances are low, your child only needs to know that this won’t happen to them. Children are very black and white at this stage, and might be fearful if they think there’s even a tiny chance of something bad happening to them. 
  • Teach basic safety skills – 
    • Beginning at age 4, knowing how to call 911. Children should know how to call from a parent’s cell phone, and know to answer questions as best they can, without hanging up. 
    • Know address and phone numbers at age 3. Children can best learn this through a made up song. 
    • Know names of parents. 
Children 8-12
  • Ask what they know – they’re getting a lot of information and misinformation at school at this age, so ask first what they know, and correct any misconceptions. 
  • Allow them to ask questions – and answer in an age appropriate way. Take into account your child’s sensitivity. What is right for one child is not for another child.
  • Talk about the news, but filter coverage – Children of this age do not need to see the grisly photographs, but they can know about what is going on in the world in a discussion. 
  • Talk about what you can do to help – they can send politicians post cards or attend an event with you. Encouraging them to help will let them feel as though they are making a difference in the world. 
  • Have a plan – making a disaster or safety plan with your child will give them a sense of control. 
  • Acknowledge feelings – Big feelings during tragedies are a normal and valid reaction. Allow your child to mourn and question when bad things happen. Be comforting but also accepting.
Teens
  • Be open – check in with them and allow them to express their opinions. It’s ok to state yours, as long as you’re not shutting down your teen’s ideas.
  • Let them develop – Teenagers are creating their own morality at this stage, and it’s important for them to question and challenge ideas. Within this questioning is growth, and identifying who they are as a person.
  • Encourage activism – Teens can participate in their world even more than younger children. They can attend meetings and events, and raise awareness about issues that are important to them.
  • Do the same things you would do with younger children, but at their developmental level. Some teenagers might need reassurance from their parents. Some might need an action plan. Be open and aware of your teen’s feelings so that you can do what’s best for them.

No matter what the age of your child, watch for significant and lasting behavioral change from your child when they’ve heard about a tragedy. If these steps are not working to reassure and help your child feel safe, it might be time to seek some professional help. 

Questions? Contact Michelle at [email protected]

By: Michelle Beyer, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Karen Burke, LPC-S, RPT-S


EMDR 101

Maybe you have heard about EMDR and you are curious about what it is or if it may be a good fit for you? EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It essentially mimics the processing that occurs during REM sleep to help your brain reorganize and heal difficult memories and “unstick” negative beliefs. This is done by administering bi-lateral stimulation through eye movements or tappers – helping both hemispheres of your brain to “turn on” at the same time while processing a memory.

Now, if you are like me, this may sound too easy or maybe just too woo-hooey for you. I felt this way also when I first heard about EMDR… and I am a trained professional in this field! But let me bring you some support as to why this works. For the ease of understanding, let’s think of your memory network like a filing cabinet and the information your brain gathers as pieces of paper. In “normal” daily situations, our brains take in mass amounts of information and filter it through a process to collect necessary data, file it where it needs to be accessed appropriately, and gets rid of what we do not need to keep. However, when we are under threat or a high stress event occurs, the processing gets interrupted and information gets stored incorrectly. When this happens, it causes distress, flashbacks, dysfunctional beliefs, and triggers.

In a controlled manner, EMDR allows you to bring up the triggering pieces of paper, encourages the brain to look and re-identify it, and then correctly files it where it needs to go. By reprogramming the traumatic memory, you remove the upsetting emotions that come with it and it will become neutral or even positive!

Please understand that this does NOT take away experiences or make lessons learned from the event non-existent. It simply removes the real-time distress and anxious responses from it. This is still part of your story and part of what has shaped the positive aspects of who you are- but the negative effects no longer need to follow you.

EMDR is a gentle option to treatment. It is most known for working with traumatic memories, but it is also great for when you feel “stuck” and can not seem to get around harmful patterns or negative beliefs. If this is you, EMDR might be perfect to refile those papers and get you back on track!

By: Grace Shook, LPC


Domestic Violence Affects Children

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in light of that I would like to take time today to talk about the red flags of abuse in regards to children. Research has shown that children who grow up in homes in which domestic violence takes place experience the effects of the violence, even if they don’t always see it or experience any direct abuse themselves. Today I’m going to discuss the ways in which domestic violence affects children and how these are often expressed in children.

Violence Affects Children Emotionally


  • Guilt
    – Children may feel responsible for the violence.
  • Shame – Children often believe that it does not happen anywhere else.
  • Fear – of expressing feelings, of divorce or separation, of injury.
  • Confusion – Children feel confused as to whether to love or hate the abuser, and often vacillate between the two.
  • Anger – about the violence, about the lack of safety in the home.
  • Grief – over family loss issues.
  • Burdened – over appropriate role as caretaker. With this role reversal, often an older child is forced to accept responsibility for the care of younger siblings and of the household due to the parents’ inability to fulfill these functions. The child may never have the opportunity to participate in normal childhood activities.

Violence Affects Children Behaviorally

  • Children may act out or withdraw and isolate.When it comes to isolation and withdrawal, this behavior seldom attracts attention, so these children may not be identified as troubled.
  • Children may overcompensate by overachieving or underachieving.
  • Children may refuse to go to school – They may believe that if they stay home their presence will keep the fighting under control, or that peers will recognize the physical abuse, emotional deprivation, or sexual abuse.
  • Children may exhibit care taking behaviors – they worry about the needs of others more than their own needs.
  • Children may become aggressive or overly passive.
  • Children may have rigid defenses – being aloof, sarcastic, blaming, or defensive.
  • Children may engage in attention seeking behaviors.
  • Children may start wetting the bed or have nightmares.
  • Children may appear chaotic and it may be hard to set limits with them. This is often because their emotional state is so chaotic and disregulated due to not knowing what is happening at home or when the violence will occur.
  • Children may run away, viewing this as their only alternative for escaping an unbearable home situation.
  • Older children from violent families may engage in excessive use of alcohol or drugs. This behavior is often, but not always, modeled after their parents’ behavior and is viewed as a psychological escape from their problems.
  • When these children become adolescents or adults, they may turn on their parents and become aggressive towards them. Also, when they are adults, they may abuse their own children or spouses.

Violence Affects Children Physically

  • Children will often exhibit somatic complaints, such as headaches, stomach aches, and asthma.
  • Children may appear nervous, anxious, and have a short attention span.
  • Children may be lethargic and this may appear as laziness.
  • Children may get sick often with colds, flu, etc.
  • Children may neglect their personal hygiene.
  • Children may regress in developmental tasks – bed wetting, thumb sucking, clinging, etc.

Violence Affects Children Socially

  • Children may isolate, either having no friends or they may be distant in their friendships.
  • Relationships with friends may start intensely and end abruptly.
  • Children may have difficulty trusting others.
  • Children may exhibit poor conflict resolution skills.
  • Children may be excessively socially involved (to stay away from the home).
  • Children may be passive with others and/or seek power to be the aggressor.

Violence Affects Children Cognitively

  • Children may learn to blame others for their behaviors.
  • Children may believe it is okay to hit others to get what you want, to express anger, to feel powerful, to get their needs met.
  • Children may have a low self-concept.
  • Children may learn not to ask for what they need.
  • Again, children may learn not to trust (because of unkept promises to change).
  • Children may believe that to feel angry is bad.
  • Children may come to believe in rigid gender roles.

Domestic Violence Affects Children

It is not necessary for all of these to be present, but these are certainly some of the red flags to look out for if you suspect a child may be in a violent home environment. It is important to be on the child’s side. More often than not when many of these behaviors are exhibited, especially those that are viewed as unacceptable and disruptive at school, the child gets punished and their parents are called. It is important to be there for the child and to talk to them about how sometimes when there is trouble at home, children respond in this way. This may give you an opening for the child to be vulnerable enough to trust you that these behaviors are not necessarily their fault – that they are reacting to chaos and danger at home. This can also help them let go of some shame they might have about how they are behaving and interacting with the world, giving them understanding as to why they are responding so.

If you believe that a child might be in danger or might be witnessing or experiencing violence at home, do not hesitate to contact the following resources:

9-1-1 – your local police department.

Lifeworks – http://www.lifeworksaustin.org

Safe Place – http://www.safeplace.org

The Center for Child Protection – http://www.centerforchildprotection.org

Child Protective Services – https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/child_protection/


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