Archive for Q&A

What Is Sexting?

Julie Nelson-Kuna, PhD, LLC
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
800 W. 5th Avenue, Suite 101B
Naperville, Il 60563
(331) 472-7313;


Yikes! Help me understand the appeal of sexting.

First, a note of reassurance that not everyone is doing it!  Surveys vary, but it seems that about a third of teens report that they have sent selfies that include nude body parts, in a sexually provocative pose.   Sexting generally occurs in the context of a relationship, and in this situation, it is likely parents will not know this is occurring, unless they are regularly monitoring their adolescent’s text messages.    It appears that both boys and girls send these images in about the same frequency, but girls are much more likely to be asked to send a sext.

It is the pressured sexters, who are likely girls, that are much more vulnerable to being exploited. Girls believe these nude images will help them get a boyfriend, or make them more popular because they are so ‘edgy.’ A small minority of girls will send these sexts, unsolicited, as a way to gain popularity with a boy. But sexting rarely works, and these girls appear to more susceptible to mental health problems, risky sexual behavior, and self-cyber bullying, which is a disturbing phenomenon in which teens post mean things about themselves on social media sites, to generate sympathy or attention.  Our girls need to believe that they have so much self-worth, beyond their physical appearance.

Teens have always been about exploring their emerging sexuality, and since more and more of their socializing is occurring through social media, it is not surprising that sexual exploration is also found on social media.  As parents, we need to include sexting as part of our family values discussion regarding responsible sexual behavior.  It does appear that sexting is related to increased sexual activity.  Parents should seek to understand their teen’s understanding of why teens sext, and this will help parents better understand the digital world in which their teenagers live. We need to remind our children that sext messages, like all messages, cannot be retrieved, and can easily be shared.  Some individuals who sext, have been subject to criminal investigation by the police, as sexting is defined as self-production and distribution of pornography.


Posted in: Teenage Sex & Pornography

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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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If a Teen Relapses After Rehab, How Do I Help Without Enabling?



Claudia Evenson, CAADC
Community Relations Coordinator
Rosecrance Health Network
(630) 849-4295


Kids who relapse after a treatment episode need much support and encouragement. They need to get back on track stat as this relapse may become regular use very quickly Remember that you are not alone, and neither is your teen, seek help immediately.

Posted in: Drugs & Alcohol

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What Should Parents Say to Their Kids About Medical Marijuana?




Claudia Evenson, CAADC
Community Relations Coordinator
Rosecrance Health Network
(630) 849-4295


Many parents today are confused about what to say to teens about marijuana when they learn about the compassionate care act.  This video can offer you some practical answers that can keep the conversation going about this often statement from teens, “if marijuana is going to be legal what’s so bad about it?.”

Posted in: Drugs & Alcohol

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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.

Posted in: Family & Relationships, News

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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!


Posted in: Family & Relationships

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What Can a Parent Do If a Jr High Student Is Addicted to Pornography?


With the Internet now easily accessible through mobile phones and the growing number of mobile porn pay sites, photo/video apps, and sexting, teens view porn through so many mediums that it is almost impossible to monitor everything. Parents are less able to police their teen’s access to porn than ever before. The dangers become more serious when teens go from “curious” viewing to regular, daily use and addiction. Porn addiction meaning that with prolonged exposure and tolerance increase, it leads to general loss of control, the compulsiveness to seek out pornography despite negative consequences, and withdrawal when it goes away.

So here are six proactive action steps parents can take to help their teen who is struggling and addicted to pornography.

Stop ignoring or denying the problem, avoid tiptoeing around the subject and treating pornography as a secret sin that only a minority of people are struggling with. Many kids who are addicted to pornography deal with their struggles in secret, which just adds fuel to the fire. View pornography addiction similarly as other addictions so open up honest, multiple conversations about your teen’s pornography struggles. Be proactive by approaching your teens and openly discussing porn’s addictive dangers, reasons for viewing pornographic images and videos, and their emotions/thoughts connected to what they view on the Internet and visualize later. A key to your teen’s willingness to open up and accept their addiction problem is your supportive attitude.

Shame, guilt, confusion, embarrassment, and humiliation are emotions teens experience during their addiction. For many teenage boys and girls who are entangled with pornography, feel unbearable amounts of shame for it, feel fearful to tell anyone, and become caught up in the web of addiction, avoid shaming. Shaming and stigmatizing their struggles will shut them down emotionally and verbally. Compassionate love and understanding will likely lead your teen to disclose the full story.

Compassion is also transparency. Share with them your own past struggles with pornography as a teen or even in your adulthood. Talk specifically about the temptations you faced, the negative feelings you dealt with, and the problems it caused you. Disclose the personal battles you fought and ways you overcame. Teens seek out understanding as much as attention. They seek out someone who can relate more than someone who constantly lectures can. Transparency will help them understand that they are not alone with their emotions and struggles.

Better acquaint yourself with the technology that gives your teens access to porn. Understand how they get it, where they store it on their mobile devices, and the filtering services that can help control it. Have your teens cite and explain the websites that are not all as known in the social media world. In addition, do your own research on the effects of porn addiction. Learn about the long-term dangers of porn include desensitizing and dehumanizing women, unrealistic and perverted views of sexual relationships, and sexual problems for adults. Understanding these and other consequences plus the technological world that captures teens will increase knowledge and ability to support your teen.

4.) BE PATIENT: “It’s an illness.”
Many parents view pornography as a behavior that should be punished and will go away easily rather than a serious illness that takes time to recover. Understand that this addiction will not go away immediately and realistically expect difficulties and relapses occurring in recovery. Just as you may encourage and support a teen going through the trials of cancer, view pornography addiction in the same way-in the good times of abstinence or the worst times of relapse, support your teen through patience.

Take a leading role in encouraging an environment of loving accountability in the home, showing sympathy for present struggles while setting appropriate limits on mobile devices and home computers. Install necessary filter software on all mobile devices with a clear expectation that there is no room for privacy when it comes to harmful content online. Set together specific rules and limits such as computer use outside homework, cell phone limited use, internet use only in shared living areas in home, and reviewing history of visited websites. Boundaries and rules should also be set and discussed with addictive behavior outside the home. Consequences through a behaviorally contract is one way to uphold an agreement and demonstrate accountability.

Accountability also entails having regular talks with your teen- checking in on their progress. It also means getting them involved in support groups in the community, treatment agencies or at school. Remember that dialogue does not begin and end with one discussion, but it is a process without a timetable.

Professional help with a licensed therapist is also critical. Parents can do all the above but will gain tremendously by a therapist’s expertise on addiction and recovery. The skills and insight gained through therapy whether individual, group, and even family, can be a needed and effective resource. Therapists can also provide you the knowledge and education on how to better support and help your teen.

Mark A. Molina MA LCPC
Fox Valley Institute For Growth and Wellness
640 N. River Rd, Suite #108
Naperville, IL, 60563
Ph (630) 718-0717 ext. 204 Fax (630) 718-0747

Posted in: Teenage Sex & Pornography

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What Can Parents Do to Battle Internet Pornography?


Parents are often not aware of the increasingly accessible sexually explicit content through the internet pornography sites and cyber sex outlets. The discussion of sex and sexuality is an uncomfortable topic. Furthermore, sex is often learned and understood through the media, social media, and children’s peers. Parents may be naïve or be in denial that sex sites, such as pornography sites can lend themselves to create an addiction among children. As a result of avoiding the potentially awkward conversations concerning sex, the behavior is enabled and in effect reinforced.

Internet pornography can be actively combated through parents and children seeking to open communication channels regarding sex, sexuality and curiosity concerning sex through holding conversations about sex and how to maintain a safe internet exploring environment. Creating a safe internet environment can be achieved by consistently monitoring child internet activities or asking child if they have questions or concerns regarding material that may exist on the internet. Talking about sex and its various manifestations on the internet and various outlets can create anxiety among parents, but opening communication and establishing an atmosphere of trust about sex can function as a combatant against pornography addiction and sexual predation.

Unawareness concerning pornography addiction and sexual predation that occurs via internet access stems from:
• Parents lacking the knowledge and awareness of how easily accessible sexually explicit sites are for children to access.
• The avoidance of conversations concerning sexuality and sexual curiosity between parents and their children.
• Lack of censoring the children’s computer usage.
• The issue exists from the reality that sex is learned through media outlets such as television, social media, or is learned and understood through peer conversations.
• This is a topic that at the present time families and society are reluctant to further discuss the topic and how sexualized society has become.

Roberto Peña, Jr., MSW, LCSW, CADC
Fox Valley Institute
640 N. River Road, Suite 108
Naperville, IL 60563
t. 630.718.0717 ext. 220
f. 630.718.0747

Posted in: Teenage Sex & Pornography

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