Local social workers create children’s book to help those who witness domestic violence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police continue seeing more calls for domestic violence during the pandemic. Channel 9 has been covering the uptick since March. In many cases, children are hearing or seeing the abuse.

Eyewitness News anchor Brittney Johnson spoke to two local social workers who wrote a children’s book to help them navigate what can be a very scary and confusing experience. It’s called “Your Feelings Matter.”

The main character is a hippo named Riley. Riley opens up to a school social worker about witnessing domestic violence at home. The book helps kids and the adults in their lives recognize the signs of trauma.

“They’re losing sleep, not able to concentrate at school, not having an appetite, and a lot of times they’re having nightmares,” social worker Amber Holmes said. “I hear a lot of children say they’re afraid to say how they feel about what happened. A lot of times when a tragic situation happens there is a lot of stress going on in the home, so kids don’t want to tell their parents how they’re feeling because they’re scared they’ll be an extra burden on the situation.”

Holmes and Tiffany Sanders are social workers with Mecklenburg County. When CMPD responds to crimes including domestic violence or accidents that children have witnessed, they’re called in to provide counseling and resources.

They say failing to acknowledge a child’s feelings could lead to many long-term issues and behavioral challenges including aggression and for some, it could lead to them continuing the cycle of violence.

Holmes and Sanders demonstrated some of the exercises in the book like the “Wanding” method, an interactive way to get kids to open up. Sanders knows how hard that can be because she witnessed domestic violence as a child.

“They’re humans too and they need to be able to talk about the hard things too. That’s one of the reasons amber and I wrote the book. It makes it easier to talk about the hard things when you are talking about Riley in the book versus little Tiffany at home that may have experienced this,” social worker Tiffany Sanders said.

The book focuses on domestic violence, but the social workers say it could be used to help children deal with any kind of stress or trauma. They say it’s also important that this book is only introduced to children who have been safely removed from a domestic violence situation.

Holmes and Sanders offer free sessions to community groups. You can learn more about the book and other resources here.