Archive for Family & Relationships

How Can I Help My Teenager Transition to College Life?

Michael Kuna, MD
Genesis Clinical Services
Wheaton, IL
(630) 653-6441
I believe that the concerns that you raise apply not only to students who are matriculating to college, but to any boarding school.  How do we parents deal with the transition of our children from living at home, to living away?  Of course, each child is different; some are more willing to have regular contact with their parents, and some are less willing.

The good news is that your child has already been living more independently than you may think, as he has gone through the natural progression from elementary school through high school.  Don’t forget that you have been teaching him life-skills and he has also been learning from your example all of those years.  He is not as naïve as you may believe.

It is not uncommon for emerging adults to have less contact with their parents, but I feel that it is reasonable to expect at least a weekly check in with mom and dad.  Real phone calls can often a yield a lot more information than an “I’m OK” text message.  If you keep the phone calls short and arrange to have them at a time that is convenient for your student, he’ll likely agree.  Listen to how he sounds on the phone.  It is OK to ask questions, but interrogations will likely shut down the conversation.

You can check other indicators to see how you son is doing.  Are his grades up to his normal standard? Does he sound like his old self, or does he sound anxious and depressed?  It is normal to be a little homesick during the first weeks of starting a new school, but more extreme feelings should raise your concern.

Reading the school’s on-line newspaper can give you a sense of life on campus, and you can even subscribe to the town’s paper to feel more connected to local happenings.

Your child may try new behaviors along with his new independence.  Remember that this is normal, as long his actions are within the norms of his peers. Please don’t forget that the university’s staff works hard to help students with this important transition.

If you convey to your son unconditional love and support it is more likely that he will be more open and honest with you. If you try to control all of his actions, he’ll likely shut down. Shipments of chocolate cookies and funny cards can also keep those phone calls coming!

Posted in: Family & Relationships, Schoolwork & Competition

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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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Is a Suggestion of ADD/ADHD at Age 5 Appropriate?


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


There are many things to be considered when a suggestion of ADD/ADHD is made for your child. This is a serious diagnosis that will follow your child throughout life, so it is important to be correct.

Most psychologists and psychiatrists agree that assigning the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD at such a young age is difficult for many reasons. Physical, brain and social development vary from child to child, as do language and comprehension skills. These factors make it difficult to get an accurate assessment. They can more accurately assess cognitive deficits and guide you if your child needs specific accommodations in the learning environment such as retention or an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and help you consider the emotional and social consequences of retention, being placed in special education, or just being given time and coaching to improve skills as they mature.

For the parent to consider:

How does the child act across situations? Is the school setting the only place where this kind of behavior is occurring? Have a MH professional visit the school setting to observe what is happening and determine:

  • Is the teacher experienced working with children who have ADD/ADHD/LD?
  • What are the specific behaviors that suggest ADD/ADHD?
  • What kind of relationship exists between the teacher, other staff members and the child?
  • What types of relationships occur between the child and other peers? (personality conflicts, bullying, etc.)
  • Is the environment over-stimulating, noisy, cold, hot, cluttered, physically uncomfortable, restrictive, etc.?
  • Is the child able to comprehend the curriculum and other expectations? If not, cognitive testing should be conducted to assess learning difficulties before making a decision to hold the child back in school.

Parents should also consult a physician to rule out physical symptoms that may be affecting the child (allergies, physical pain, vision and hearing, or other sensory deficits)

In the home setting:

  • Is your parenting style effective?
  • Is your child’s room clean and organized?
  • How does the child relate to other siblings? (As an Adlerian, I also think it is important to consider where the child falls in the birth order, as this can affect how quickly a child matures.)
  • Has something sad or traumatic happened recently (death, divorce, re-marriage, step siblings, recent move, auto accident, physical injury?)

A licensed mental health professional can explain the Conners Scale for Assessing ADD or ADHD and collect evaluations from the 2 teachers, and both parents (caregivers). These results can then be used as a benchmark when the child has had more time to mature to evaluate progress or help confirm the diagnosis. This person can also give assistance in behavioral techniques that will help the child learn to manage social and cognitive behaviors, suggest effective parenting techniques, and coordinate with the child’s school to monitor progress.

Parents Matter Too! This is especially true because the brain continues to develop until age 21 or so. During this process, you, the parent, must model and guide the child on how to control the impulsive part of the brain and engage the frontal lobes where reasoning and executive functioning (impulse control, task initiation/completion, planning/organization, persistence, and working memory) takes place. Your active involvement as a parent is extremely important and continues through to adulthood!

Posted in: Family & Relationships, Schoolwork & Competition

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How Can I Encourage a Toddler to Stay in Bed Until Morning?



Lisa Eaton, MSW, LCSW, CADC
Agor Behavioral Health Services, Inc.
(630) 621-5824


How Can I Encourage a Toddler to Stay in Bed Until Morning?

The bedtime routine with toddlers is a common struggle for many parents.  This situation can be extremely exhausting for parents, and for children too.  Especially those of us who have to get up early and go to work all day the next day.  In the end, we often feel like just giving in to whatever our toddler’s demand are, because it is often easier than fighting the nightly battle with them.  But, then we know that just perpetuates the cycle, and we are then back to square one – often more tired, frazzled, and sometimes hopeless.  There is hope – I promise, but it does take some work on the front-end.  However, what I know to be the case is that if you put in some extra work on the front-end, it will pay dividends in the long-run, and everybody should sleep better!  That means you have to be firm and consistent.


First, we have to look at potential underlying causes, as there are many reasons that a toddler will struggle to stay in their own bed all night long.  Let’s review a few steps to get you going on finding some relief in this process:


Step 1:  Explore potential reasons why your child continues to get out of bed.

– Talk with your child in an age-appropriate and exploring kind of way about potential fears and other feelings your child might be experiencing at bedtime.

– Remember, young children developmentally cannot talk to us about feelings like adults talk about feelings – they need us to be patient with them and help them to feel safe when talking about feelings.  Sometimes, using toys or drawings can help children communicate how they are feeling.

– If your child shares with you they are scared about something and this is why they continue to get out of bed, spend some time talking to your child about these fears, again through the use of toys and art.

– Sometimes, just expressing their fears and getting reassurances from you can help your child feel better.


Step 2:  Plan ahead.

– Allot some time in the bedtime routine for a last potty break or last water break, etc.

– This can help eliminate the validity of later requests, and well as let your child know that these type of breaks will not be allowed at a later time (e.g., after they are in bed).


Step 3:  Establish expectations for your child.

– Using age-appropriate language, explain to your child what is expected of them at bedtime (i.e., that they stay in bed until it is time to get up in the morning).

– Children need tangible things to help them understand time and space, so the use of pictures and a child-friendly alarm clock can be helpful to let them know when it is time to get out of bed, and when it is still time to stay in bed.

– Continue to ignore their requests if they get out of bed (unless, of course, there is a true need or safety issue).

– Stay firm with this!  Children will test you the first several times, even for the first many times.  However, when they learn that their requests will not result in any attention from you, they will return to their beds.


Step 4:  Reward compliance.

– Some children will need extra motivation to follow the rules related to bedtime.

– If this is the case for your child, create a sticker chart (again, we want to be visual with our toddlers), where the child earns a sticker for each night they stay in their bed all night long.

– Identify a reward your child can earn the next morning or during the day for following the rule to stay in bed.

– This reward should not be anything that you have to buy, but rather things that your toddler likes or likes to do at home that you know will motivate them.

– Keep in mind to keep the rewards fairly immediate for toddlers.

– If the child gets out of bed, they do not earn a sticker for the night, and, therefore, do not earn their reward.


Try to have fun with this!  Make the bedtime routine fun, and their sleeping environment a safe, cozy place to be.  Sell the idea to your child that staying in their bed all night is what “big kids” do.  Make a big deal out of staying in bed all night, and you could very well change the tone of bedtime.  And that way, the child may feel less like they are missing out on something that the grown-ups are doing, and more excited about falling asleep in their own room.

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How Do I Carve Out Time for Each Child When I Have Multiple Kids and Two Have Specific Needs?


Lisa Eaton, MSW, LCSW, CADC
Agor Behavioral Health Services, Inc.
(630) 621-5824


How Do I Carve Out Time for Each Child?

A common dilemma faced by almost all parents is how to find time in our busy lives to give each of our children special, quality time.  This is especially difficult when you are the parent of children with special needs.  But we also know that this special playtime can be invaluable to the parent-child relationship, and to the child’s self-esteem – all of which impact behavior in the home and the quality of family life for everyone.  What I often tell parents is this – carving out time for each child does not have to be long and complicated.  Often, spending 10 minutes each day or a few times each week can impact our children in powerful ways.  We often think that we have to devote long periods of time, or take our children out of the house to do special things, for this time to be considered “quality time.”  Not so!  In fact, this particular mindset often creates a lot of guilt and feelings of being overwhelmed in parents.  Let’s review a couple of strategies that hopefully you will find to be realistic and manageable for you and your family.

– 10 minutes goes a long way!

–Provide undivided attention to your child for 10 full minutes; no screens or other distractions.
– Schedule special play times that make sense for your family.

–These 10 minutes can be anywhere – in the car, at bath time or bedtime, while waiting at the doctor’s office; anywhere you can give your child 10 minutes of your full attention.
– Identify an appropriate distraction for your other children.

–This is key to creating 10 minutes of undivided attention for the specific child.

–Create a situation where the other children can be safe and entertained while you are providing one-on-one attention to the specific child.

–Provide clear instructions ahead of time to the other children about what the expectations are during this 10 minutes.
– Allow your child to lead the play and choose the activity during this special play time.

–This is a time to show your child you are interested in what they are doing and who they are.

— If you are at home, sit on the floor to build Legos with them or draw with them for 10 minutes.

— If you are in the car, allow them to pick a song on the radio to sing together.
– Get excited about this special play time!

–Announce it to your child each time you are deliberately engaging in this special time with them.

–Get excited about it, and they will too!


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My Teen Doesn’t Want to Spend Time with the Family. Is This Typical?


Cheryl Frommelt MS LCPC LMFT
Clinical Director, Fox Valley Institute for Growth and Wellness
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Fox Valley Institute for Growth and Wellness
640 N. River Rd. Suite 108
Naperville, IL 60563
(630) 718-0717 x 210

My Teen Doesn’t Want to Spend Time with the Family. Is This Typical?

The teenage years are the time when most parents feel like their relationships with their kids become distant. It is appropriate for kids to have a fierce need for independence throughout their teen years. That does not mean they do not want to stay connected to you. It is critical for parents to remain involved and connected in order to be their teen’s moral and emotional compass.

Let’s discuss 5 ways for parents to stay connected to their teen.

1. Listen, empathize and keep advice to a minimum, no matter how good.
2. Be available when THEY want to talk, even if it is inconvenient for you.
3. Welcome your teen’s friends – you want them hanging out at your house, right?
4. Keep your relationship in “goodwill” balance. Fill your relationship with positive interactions.
5. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. This is not about you but their need for independence.

Remember: your teen really does want to spend time with you. They just want to spend time with you when they want to spend time with you.

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My Partner and I Disagree About Parenting. What Can I Do?


Kathleen S. Powell, LCSW
Counseling for Individuals, Couples, Families
1717 N. Naper Blvd., STE 200
Naperville, IL 60563
(630) 369-2494

My Partner and I Disagree About Parenting. What Can I Do?

A frequent conflict between spouses has to do with differing parenting styles. A good place to start in resolving this conflict is to set aside time for an in-depth conversation where each partner has the opportunity to share his or her perspective. It is important for the speaker to speak openly and share deeply and for the listener to be fully present, curious and nonjudgmental. It is also helpful for the listener to periodically provide a brief summary of the speaker’s perspective to ensure that you understand it.
The following questions can be helpful to guide and help deepen the discussion:

Please tell me all about your approach to parenting. (When the speaker pauses, you can ask: “Is there more about that?”)
What do you hope to accomplish with your parenting a style? (Positive outcomes.)
What do you hope to prevent? (Negative outcomes.)
How is your parenting approach related to your experiences as a child in your own family of origin?
What was your mother’s parenting style? Your father’s? Other caretakers?
Did your parents agree or disagree about parenting?
What were the positive effects of their parenting for you? The negative effects?
How did your parents’ style(s) affect each of your siblings?
What do you wish you had gotten more of from your parents in terms of guidance and care?
What do you wish you had gotten less of? What was missing in their parenting of you?
How does your parenting style accommodate the differences among our own children?
What is your greatest fear/concern in parenting our children?
What is your greatest desire in parenting our children?
Is there more about that?
When your spouse has finished their sharing, then switch so that you can share.

When both of you are done, take a moment to identify the following:
One thing I learned about myself in this discussion. One thing I learned about you. Share with each other.

Hopefully, this will open up the possibility for further conversations about how to join your parenting styles or co-create a joint parenting approach that works for both of you and your children.

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How Do You Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure?


Dan Peterson MS LCPC
Certified Trainer for the Nurtured Heart Approach
Owner of The Compass 4 Life
(630) 420-2596 ext. 2

How Do You Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure by Building a Moral Compass?

The process of building a moral compass is occurring 24/7 whether you know it or not. You can’t not teach your children about values, character and how to treat others. Every conversation, interaction and moment you are in their presence you are modeling to them what you value……simply by what you notice.

Unfortunately when it comes to teaching children about character, morals and values, our timing is pretty poor. Generally, conversations about these important words occur right after one of them have been violated. Think about it. When do you talk to your child about respect, honesty and hard work? Most parents admit that it is after their child has been disrespectful, has lied or is being lazy.

How open to your words of wisdom are your children during these moments? Do they take in what you are saying and aspire to be more respectful? Do you realize that in these moments you are actually teaching them the opposite of what you want? The more you talk to them about respect after they have been disrespectful, the more likely your message becomes “I believe that you are a disrespectful person (because this is where you are spending your time and energy as the parent). As a result, your child is vulnerable to believe that they are disrespectful, lazy and dishonest, resulting in more of the same behavior.

Consider a complete 180 degrees shift in your time, energy and attention. Identify your top 5 core values…..the character traits you want to emulate and see your children demonstrate. Once you have these identified, begin to confront your child with in the moment evidence of when they are demonstrating those qualities. Take the words from above (respect, honest, hard work) and specifically point out to your children when they are showing these qualities. Your children will be more open to hear what you have to say, will begin to believe that they possess these qualities and as a result will demonstrate more and more behavior congruent with their beliefs. This is the point where they have a solid internal moral compass that will help them resist peer pressure…..especially when they need to the most.

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My Child Is Moody, Argumentative, and Making Poor Choices. What Can I Do?


Beth A. Packer, MSW, LCSW
Social Worker for the Class of 2015
Neuqua Valley High School
(630) 428-6863

One reason for seeing argumentative and moody child is that developmentally, teens are changing physically, socially, emotionally:

How their brain works is expanding so their understanding of things is becoming greater which then leads to more questioning

One of the main characteristics of this time is the development of their identity or sense of self. More influence from peers, moving away from family/parents influence which may lead to more conflict with your teen or why you see some of these changes

It is important to understand some of these changes while also maintaining the following:

Clear expectations
Clear and consistent consequences (logical, fair, age appropriate – follow through)
Structure and routine (family and theirs)
Encouragement to try new things and accept outcomes
Empowerment that they have the skills to handle different situations


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My Children Won’t Stop Fighting. What Should I Do?


Camila Salvisberg, MA, LPC
Bilingual Therapist
Edgewood Clinical Services
2948 Artesian Rd, Suite 112

Naperville, IL 60564
(630) 428-7890 ext. 324

Parents need to remember that occasional fighting and arguing among siblings is normal. There are many ways in which parents can deal with sibling rivalry; here are two simple but important rules that can keep fighting to a minimum:

• Whenever possible, do not intervene in the children’s fights. Give children the chance to try and use conflict resolution skills.

• Do not ask children “Who did it?” When parents do not focus on blaming or punishing they are giving their children an opportunity to take responsibility for their own actions.


Camila Salvisberg, MA, LPC
Terapeuta Bilingüe
Edgewood Clinical Services
2948 Artesian Rd, Suite 112
Naperville, IL 60564
(630) 428-7890 ext. 324

Los padres deben recordar que las peleas y discusiones entre hermanos son normales. Hay muchas maneras por las cuales los padres pueden lidiar con las peleas entre hermanos; estas son dos simples pero importantes medidas que pueden tomar para fomentar la paz en su hogar y ayudar a que sus hijos se lleven bien:

• Siempre que sea posible, no intervenir en las peleas de los niños. Dar a los niños la oportunidad de resolver el conflicto.

• No le pregunte a los niños “¿Quién lo hizo?” Cuando los padres no se centran en culpar o castigar al niño, le están dando la oportunidad de asumir responsabilidad sobre sus propias

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