Archive for Anxiety & Stress

Is Your Child Modeling What They See vs. Telling How They Truly Feel?




Christina Matthews, MA MS Licensed Professional Counselor.  Certified Teacher
Think Learn Change
(815) 342-1224


Children learn by imitation, especially of those they to whom they are closely attached. Sometimes children are attached to positive models, other times, less positive.

First and foremost, it is important to rule out any type of physical condition or injury. Physical conditions could include orthopedic, neurological, or even allergic reactions or food sensitivities.

Environmental conditions could indicate the need for a new mattress, clothing restrictions, new shoes, or some other physical factor.

Does the child complain of back pain across settings? If not, where does the complaint occur most often?

Young children have a hard time separating fantasy from reality. Are they just pretending? Does the child imitate any other behaviors of those to whom they are attached?

Young children have a hard time taking on more than one perspective at a time. Does this child spend an inordinate amount of time with a caregiver or other who talks about back pain?

Young children seek attention. Is it possible that the child is feeling lonely or neglected and is just trying to be noticed? Regularly giving 5-10 minutes of your undivided attention to your child can give them a lot of reassurance.

Is your child concerned about someone who is in pain or distress? The worry that this person might leave them might be causing them to feel anxious or scared and their pain is a physical indication of this stress.

Has the child had an injury like falling off a bike or skateboard? Did they appear to be OK afterward? Sometimes, an accident that does not result in injury is still traumatic and the reactive part of the brain stores this trauma. This can manifest in physical pain. Using a professional therapist to get in touch with this trauma to resolve it can be a way to alleviate symptoms.

It is always helpful to seek counseling for your child so they can discuss issues that may be on their mind that they do not feel comfortable discussing with you. Counseling gives them an opportunity to process their issues in a confidential way and learn coping techniques for their fears, anxieties, or sadness.

Unfortunately, sometimes child complaints of pain indicate abuse. It is important to investigate the environments and the people with which your child spends time to make sure they are safe when they are outside your care. Negative findings such as this definitely indicate the need to seek professional counseling.

Parents Matter Too! You are the protector, teacher, and role model for your child. Yours is the most important role in shaping their outlook about life. Take your job seriously.




Posted in: Anxiety & Stress, Family & Relationships

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When Is It Time for an Out of Home Therapeutic Program for My Child?


Kim Jenkins, MSW, CADC
One Oak Educational & Therapeutic Placement Consulting
(773) 288-9156

When Is It Time for an Out of Home Therapeutic Program for My Child?

Choosing to place your child in a therapeutic program outside of the home is incredibly difficult. It is a painful decision to have to make and can be frightening and costly. When parents are broached with this decision, they have often attempted to intervene several ways that have proven unsuccessful. Or, there has been a crisis so serious where maintaining a child’s safety at home is in question. Additionally, some psychiatric disorders require 24-hour treatment in a highly structured setting that could not possibly be recreated in a home environment. There are many reasons why parents may choose to place their child in a therapeutic program and below are a few signs that may warrant consideration of a therapeutic placement:

• Substantial decline is academic performance
• Refusing to attend school or participate in other age appropriate activities
• Severely oppositional or aggressive behaviors in the home
• Disrespect of rules, laws and authority figures
• Threats to harm self or others
• Self-harming behaviors
• History of suicidal ideation or attempts
• Persistent use of alcohol or other drugs
• Sexual acting out or promiscuity
• Lack of emotional regulation and/or severe mood swings
• Frequent episodes of aggression or anger
• Threats to run away, running away, or consistent disobedience of curfew
• Obsessiveness about weight gain, excessive dieting, binging, purging or restrictive eating to the extent that one’s health is suffering
• Obsessive Compulsive behaviors that impact daily functioning
• Resistance to participating in therapy or outpatient treatment
• Previous behavioral health hospitalizations or short term treatment experiences that haven’t been successful

Some of these behaviors alone would not necessitate placement in a residential program or school. However, the intensity, duration, and frequency of some of these issues should be considered, along with the complexity and co-occurrence of issues. Additionally, it is important to pursue the least restrictive options as a first step, which may include seeing a therapist or attending an outpatient program. If these options have been exhausted, and there continues to be an exacerbation of symptoms, it may be time to consider a therapeutic placement.

If placement in a program or therapeutic school is recommended, it is important to choose the right program for your child. An educational or therapeutic placement consultant can be an important resource as they have firsthand knowledge of hundreds of therapeutic schools and programs nationally and can help to ensure that your child is placed in an environment that will clinically and academically meet their needs. Placement consultants are creative thinkers who work in collaboration with parents, home treatment providers and schools to match a child to the right type of program, which could include:

• Acute Stabilization and Crisis Intervention Programs
• Short Term Residential Treatment Programs
• Addiction Treatment Programs
• Wilderness Therapy Programs
• Therapeutic Boarding Schools
• Transitional and Independent Living Programs
• Summer Programs

Posted in: Anxiety & Stress, Depression & Self Harm, Drugs & Alcohol

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What Is Resiliency? How Can I Model It for My Child?


Dawn Neylon
Power of Choice 6-8th Grade Coordinator
360 Youth Services
1305 W. Oswego Road
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 961-2992 ext. 232

What Is Resiliency? How Can I Model It for My Child?

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”.

Being resilient doesn’t mean our children won’t face adversity or stress, but resiliency skills will help them process these challenges and grow stronger.
Resilient individuals are also less likely to abuse alcohol or drugs and more likely to experience success in all aspects of life.

Five factors that influence resilience:

1. Sense of humor- being able to laugh in the face of difficulty lowers stress levels and allows a child to overcome the situation more quickly.
2. Problem solving skills – looking at a difficult situation as a problem that can be solved allows a child to feel empowered.
3. Sense of future- when a child can imagine life beyond current circumstances and see himself in that future situation, it makes those circumstances less daunting.
4. Social competence- children who feel comfortable navigating social situations are less likely to find themselves in confrontational situations.
5. Mentors- positive adult role models present in a child’s life help to model appropriate responses to situations. These don’t have to be long-term contacts; they can be people who are influential for days, weeks, months or years—all positive adult contacts have benefit.

We can all cultivate resilience, both in ourselves and in our children. As parents we model healthy coping and resiliency on a daily basis.

Posted in: Anxiety & Stress

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My Child Needs Professional Help. How Do I Find a Good Therapist That Matches My Child’s Needs?


Kim Jenkins, MSW, CADC
One Oak Educational & Therapeutic Placement Consulting
(773) 288-9156

How Do I Find a Good Therapist That Matches My Child’s Needs?

Education and experience are important factors as you consider a therapist for your child. However, there are additional considerations that can impact the type of connection your child will have with the therapist that you choose.

First, a therapist should be as invested as you are in making sure that it’s a good match. Most therapists are willing to offer a brief introductory session or interview before you commit to regular sessions. This will allow to you determine if the connection feels authentic, if you like his or her style and if their approach aligns with your goals.

Factors to consider in choosing the right therapist for you child include:
• What are his credentials and how long has he been in practice?
• What type of therapy does she specialize in?
• It’s important that the issues you are seeking treatment for are within therapists range of expertise and interest
• Do you feel like your child will find the therapist friendly and approachable?
• What is the therapist’s policy in communicating with parents? Will the therapist meet with parents in addition to the child?
• Is your child’s therapist willing to collaborate with other providers (psychiatrist, school personnel, etc.)?
• Is your therapist covered by your insurance provider?

Keep in mind the following:
• Ask for recommendations from people who know your child and know the resources available in your community. For example, seek recommendations from you pediatrician, teacher, school counselor or school social worker.
• In order for therapy to work, there needs to be a level of rapport and connection between your child and the therapist. Finding a therapist who connects with your child and who your child feels they can trust is important. It may be helpful for your child to meet with a couple of therapists and allow them to select the one they feel most comfortable with. This may empower them to commit to the therapeutic process.
• Find a therapist who works from a strengths-based perspective. Pointing out faults and weaknesses will put kids on edge and create resistance to therapy. A good therapist can build on a child’s strengths and find balance in addressing a child’s struggles.
• If your child is struggling with substance abuse or addiction related issues, find a therapist who has had addiction specific training.
• As you are exploring the reasons why you are beginning therapy with your child, discuss the types of therapies that have been proven to be most effective. For example, some adolescents may benefit from:
o Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT)
o Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
o Family Therapy
o Play Therapy
o Art Therapy
o And more…

Posted in: Anxiety & Stress, Depression & Self Harm

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How Can Animal Assisted Therapy Help My Child Who Finds Counseling Very Stressful?


Elizabeth Duke, Psy.D., TRI, ESMHL, Registered Therapy Animal Handler
Post Doctoral Resident
Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center
(630) 357-2456 ext. 112

Most often you hear about Animal Assisted Therapy, or AAT, associated with dogs visiting people in hospitals, or doing Reading with Rover programs. These are incredibly beneficial services today about animals in AAT in counseling has two basic requirements, a mental health professional and a certified therapy animal.

AAT can be a non traditional way help kids and teens get the benefits of therapy by lowering the anxiety and stress around coming to “therapy” or “counseling.” First and foremost, research has shown that petting a dog increases happy bonding hormones in both dogs and humans! So when there’s a dog in the room, your child is likely to become more relaxed just by sitting down and petting the dog. You can imagine how helpful this can be when a kid has to talk about something that really makes them nervous – just pet the dog and you have an automatic stress reducer; that way we can talk about the difficult things sooner and with more honesty. Often having a dog or horse present is a great way to break the ice, for kids that are on the shy side, talking about the dog is a great way to start building a trusting relationship.

Maybe your teen has some negative ideas of what it means to go to therapy? AAT can provide the opportunity to move therapy outdoors and into nature; Some kids and teens might find taking a therapy dog on a walk (which by the way can give therapists tons of information to work with) or heading out to the barn to work with a horse in the arena much less intimidating than going to the office for traditional therapy.

My favorite part of AAT is how it provides the opportunity to practice what we talk about. Relationships with animals are transparent and feedback from animals rarely offends us; with the help of a skilled therapist animal-human interactions can be used to promote healing and growth in your child.

Posted in: All Categories, Anxiety & Stress

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How Can I Effectively Parent My Child Who Has School Anxiety and/or School Refusal Issues?


Jackie Rhew, MA, CADC,LPC
Assistant Director, School Refusal Program
Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital
(847) 303-4980

I work with many schools, and I often hear that students are having a difficult time managing stress and using avoidance and/or refusal behaviors to cope with anxiety. Some students also experience somatic symptoms as a result of their anxiety and/or depressive symptoms. In addition, the growing technological advances with smart phones and other devices overwhelm us with data and information and promote instant gratification, and as a growing sense of entitlement that adolescents need to be “happy” all the time and everything “has to be fair”, has led to many adolescents struggling to experience any displeasure or discomfort. It is all right for the adolescent to be “unhappy” especially if the goal is maturing into a healthy young adult.

Key skills to teach adolescents to cope with school anxiety and school refusal include goal setting; distress tolerance; self-assessment of strengths and weakness; learning to cope with disappointment and failure; and self-advocacy skills.

As a parent, be mindful and aware of your own anxiety and how it manifests in parenting. Every individual has anxiety, but it is critical that as a parent you understand how your anxiety impacts your responses to your child.

Identify goals and objectives for parenting (e.g. assisting your adolescent in becoming more self-motivated, self confident, independent). Write out clear expectations, privileges and consistent consequences and review them with your child (keep expectations simple and consistent). Avoid a lot of talking and reassurance with the anxious and/or avoidant child, this will only lead to increased anxiety, especially around placing expectations and could reinforce more negative behaviors instead, focus on goals for parenting and outcomes. It will be important to move from emotionally reactive parenting to a more goal centered approach. Also, avoid rescuing your child when he/she is uncomfortable and/or not feeling well, rather allow your child to work through discomfort and/or somatic symptoms by setting expectations and reinforcing belief that your child has an option to manage discomfort and can manage. Review expectations regularly.

Some key tips when dealing with school anxiety and/or school refusal:

1. Make school attendance mandatory unless your child has a fever or contagious illness. A child’s anxiety will increase the more school is avoided.

2. If a child is struggling with school anxiety or refusing to go to school, contact school personnel and do not call in (creating an excused absent).

3. Establish and maintain open communication with school personnel regarding your child’s feelings about school, difficulties with school, etc. Avoid negative comments or statement about school or school staff in front of your child; this may reinforce negative thoughts/feelings about school.

4. Create an environment at home that fosters structure and consistency. Expectations should include rules, chores, privileges and limits. This will allow children to learn to structure themselves, as well as understand rewards and consequences. Likewise, expectations should be clear regarding school attendance and homework, as well as privileges and consequences given for not meeting expectations. Based on research, structure, routine, and consistency, work to alleviate anxiety in children.

5. Encourage children to enroll in school extracurricular activities to feel more connected to school. Have child choose at least one activity per school term.

6. Provide positive feedback for successes made at school.

7. Seek support from school and/or external resources when your child first starts displaying symptoms of school anxiety/school avoidance.

8. If patterns of academic failure are present, psychological and/or neuro-cognitive assessment and/or intervention may be needed due to possible learning disabilities or neuro-cognitive deficit issues that may be present.

9. Negative peer relations may result in school avoidance/anxiety issues. Contact the school social worker if your child is struggling with peer relations, ie: bullying, difficulty getting
along with peers, etc. Therapeutic intervention on the school level may be needed.

10. Make sure the child has gone to your primary care physician at least once a year to rule out medical causes.

Posted in: Anxiety & Stress, Schoolwork & Competition

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How Can I Help My Daughter Develop Better Eating Habits?


Kate Davis, MS, RD, CCSD, LDN
Owner, RDKate Sports Nutrition
1740 Quincy Ave, Naperville, IL
(989) 906-2459

The best way that you can help your daughter develop better eating habits is by starting with your own. What foods are you purchasing at the grocery store? What types of foods do you eat at mealtime? What do you snack on in front of your daughter? By showing her what is it to eat well, she will have a good role model to follow. Your job as a parent is to choose the food that is brought into the house and provide those foods at meals and snacks. Her job is to decide what she will eat from what you have provided and how much she will eat. If you are dissatisfied with what she chooses or how much, do not make any comments. Regardless of the motivation, this will only cause stress surrounding food and eating. Instead, seek the help of a professional. A registered dietitian can be a great source of education who is – most importantly – not a family member. A registered dietitian can help her better understand how to make good choices most of the time, but also have that pepperoni pizza once in a while because it is just so tasty.

If your daughter is stressed about her weight and appearance – again, the best thing you can do is to be an example of acceptance of your own weight and appearance. Love your body. Compliment your appearance. Whether you are a mom or a dad, avoid making negative comments about your appearance and weight around your daughter. By hearing you compliment your own body she will more easily do the same when she looks in the mirror. Compliment your daughter for the things other than appearance. Is she a great dancer? Does she have a fantastic sense of humor? Is she a loving and caring person? Show her by your comments what is truly important.

Posted in: Anxiety & Stress, Family & Relationships

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How Can I Learn About and Respond to Mental Health Problems Students Are Facing Today?


Janice Rubin
Director of Family Life – Student Ministries
Good Shepherd Church
Naperville, IL 60565
(630) 961-9220 ext. 3014

Mental Health issues affect all of society in some way, shape, or form. It’s estimated that one in four Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their lives. That’s right, ¼ of our population. It is extremely likely that you will encounter someone in your family, workplace, school, church, or community who lives with a diagnosed mental disorder. The truth is that mental health problems are more common than heart disease, lung disease, and cancer combined.

Wouldn’t you love to:

  • dispel the stigma and discrimination of mental illness
  • and be able to offer support to someone in distress
  • be a source in helping person seek further assistance

Gaining knowledge and skills is valuable. It is important to understand that wellness and recovery are possible. If this seems like a daunting task, let’s think about it in terms of basic first aid.
Knowledge and skills serve us well in navigating an emergency and can potentially prevent a medical emergency through early intervention. In 2001, MHFA Training and Research Program was
developed in Australia and since has been updated for use in the U. S.

Mental Health First Aid is a groundbreaking public education program that helps the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
MHFA is an 8 hour training course designed to teach lay people methods of assisting someone who may be in the early stages of developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis.

I encourage you to become certified in MHFA by going through the interactive 8 hour course that:

  • presents an overview of mental illness & substance use disorders in the U.S.
  •  introduces participants to risk factors & warning signs
  •  builds understanding of their impact, and
  • overviews common treatments.

Those who become certified as Mental Health First Aiders learn a  5-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to help an individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional,
peer, social, and self-help care. Check out the MHFA website where you will that the course is offered in many locations and times. Wellness and recovery matter. You can be a part of the solution.
To register for the MHFA course, contact:
Barry Groesch, Mental Health First Aid Community Liaison
Linden Oaks at Edward Hospital, Naperville, IL
(630) 646-5154
Click Here for MHFA Course Info Online

Posted in: All Categories, Anxiety & Stress, Depression & Self Harm

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How Do I Help My Child Learn How to Manage Stress Naturally?


Diane Overgard
Professional Coach & Certified Family Life Educator
45 Degrees Coaching
1717 North Naper Blvd.
Naperville, IL 60563

It’s true that many kids are so stressed these days – too scheduled , too busy, too worried, and too anxious. Actually many adults are pretty stressed too. How can we all learn to de-stress NATURALLY?

First, accept that stress is a normal part of life. Accepting that reality can help us see that we are not unusual and take the pressure off.

Secondly, add natural STOP moments into your life with quiet and stillness. When does your teenager leave her brain alone to rest, be quiet, and decompress? Rarely, right? You can teach him/her! This is one of those times when the most effective teaching comes from modeling the behavior we want to see in our kids.

We all do that differently, but the most important thing is to do it regularly so it becomes a healthy habit. Allow your children to see you taking a break. Perhaps you like to sit by a fireplace and just relax. Do you enjoy a brisk run or a walk in the fresh air to re-group? Let your family see you making these choices as a valuable part of your life and they will learn to copy you.

For Life Coaching to understand and make a plan to deal naturally with stress – both your child’s and your own – and coaching for other challenging episodes of life, please contact me.

Posted in: All Categories, Anxiety & Stress, Family & Relationships

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Are Cutters Just Seeking Attention?


Julie Nelson-Kuna, PhD, LLC
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
800 W. 5th Avenue
Naperville, Il  Suite 101 B
(331) 472-7313;


Are Cutters Just Seeking Attention?

Cutting is frequently a secretive, hidden behavior that makes adolescents feel very
ashamed. For others, cutting may be a ‘cry for help,’ because they are unable to
express their pain more directly. Any parent that becomes aware of their child
experimenting with self-harm should immediately initiate a conversation with their
adolescent regarding these behaviors. It is likely your adolescent will need help
understanding her own emotional world, and may benefit from talking to somebody
about how she is feeling. Life is stressful, and we as parents can model for our
children positive stress management strategies.

Posted in: All Categories, Anxiety & Stress, Depression & Self Harm

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