Archive for Schoolwork & Competition

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 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!

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How Do You Help Your Teen Manage Peer Pressure in High School or College?


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

How Do You Help Your Teen Manage Peer Pressure in High School or College?

Peers naturally influence our teen’s lives. The influence can be either positive or negative in nature. It is human nature to listen to and learn from
others in their age group. As kids get older, in high school and college, negative peer pressure can get in the way academically, behaviorally or

Let’s discuss 5 ways to help your teen manage peer pressure in high school
and beyond.

1. Encourage your child to take part in positive activities with positive
people that they can feel good about.
2. Listen to your child when they talk to you about peer situations. Don’t
overreact, lecture, shame or blame them.
3. Teach your child to foresee potential situations that may lead to trouble
and role-play saying “no”.
4. Get to know your child’s friends.
5. Develop a back-up plan when your child is in a situation they can’t handle.

Posted in: Peer Pressure, Schoolwork & Competition

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How Do I Help My Teen Navigate High School and Become an Independent, Resilient and Confident Learner…..Without Becoming Too Involved?”


Social Worker
Neuqua Valley High School
(630) 428-6872

Helping Your Teen Navigate High School to Become an Independent, Resilient, and Confident Is a Process – for Both Parent and Student
• Establish expectations during freshman year—sets the standard for 4 years
• Guide your adolescent in how to communicate with teachers: face-to-face, email
• Teachers prefer to hear from the student, not the parent
• Parent’s role changes as adolescent takes responsibility for their own learning
• Manager to Consultant

• Take ownership for their own learning
• Accept responsibility and consequences of their decisions/actions
• Communicate directly with their teachers

NO SET PLAN TO FOLLOW, Use your school resources:
• Guidance Counselor – will be with your child for 4 years
• Have experience in guiding and encouraging students to take responsibility for their education
• Ask counselor if they feel you are becoming over involved
• What’s developmentally appropriate for each grade level
• Social Worker – will be with your child for 4 years
• Also have experience in guiding/encouraging students to take responsibility for their education
• Provide social-emotional support as students navigate their social world
• Consult with them on how to handle problems at home and school
• Teachers
• Don’t be afraid to ask them what they expect from the students and what they expect from you as a parent

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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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What Do I Do if My Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School?


Jamie Little, MSW
Class of 2017 Social Worker
Neuqua Valley High School
(630) 428-6418

What Do I Do if My Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School?

It’s normal if your child doesn’t want to go to school once in a while. It becomes a problem when they are refusing to go to school. Most of the time, there is some type of anxiety behind refusing to go to school. That anxiety can be for many reasons. A good person to initially contact at the school if you feel that your child is refusing to go school is either the school social worker or guidance counselor. Sometimes, just having a meeting with that person, yourself, and the child can help. Getting the student into the building is very important. If for some reason the child continues to refuse, there are different programs out there that will do an assessment to see the level of anxiety/refusal; places like Alexian Brothers, Central DuPage Hospital, and Linden Oaks are just a few.

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How Do I Help My Child Balance
Commitment to Academics and Athletics?


Barb Barrows
Athletic Director
Neuqua Valley High School
Naperville, IL
(630) 428-6849

Student Comes First as a Student Athlete!
Know that choosing to participate in a sport and athletics comes with a large commitment. Students will need to make sacrifices and adjust in becoming more responsible, diligent & organized. Developing good habits, setting priorities & good time management is KEY!

Good Study Habits
Planning ahead in using a calendar or assignment book, carve out time on weeknights and weekends to study. Study in chunks of time, so as not to cram the night before. Eliminate the distractions. Studies have shown, multitasking while trying to do homework results in twice as much time to complete the task. Stay FOCUSED!

Prioritizing time means there will be less time for socializing, watching TV, twitter, video game, etc…. Cut the excess or limit the amount of time viewing TV, games, computer, etc….

Time Management
Athletes in season tend to be more organized and balance time than in the off-season. Use down time for specific assignments or reviewing notes. Take advantage of resource room during the day, PLC Wed. afternoons to work on homework and / or use time while on the bus. Ask for help from the teacher, study with teammates, and let your coach know if you are struggling in a class. They may be able to assist and can provide extra time if needing to study.

Parents establish parameters with your son or daughter. Helping develop a good routine at home is essential. Keep communication open and checking grades regularly will keep you informed.
If the demand of sports appears to be too much, look for ways to improve habits before quitting. Keep line of communication open. Empower your son and daughter in the process and while insisting that academics are a priority, guide your child in changing habits. He/she is responsible for his/ her academic success. Learning how to find balance will add to the positive experience of being a student athlete.

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How Do I Help My Child Manage
Performance Expectations in Sports?


Barb Barrows
Athletic Director
Neuqua Valley High School
Naperville, IL
(630) 428-6849

What are the expectations/goals of the Child?

ATHLETES work with your Coach in setting reasonable goals and acknowledge that goals are achieved over time. Focus on only what you can control, do your best and have no regrets. Enjoy the experience.


Parents communicate with your child about his/ her goals. This will help to avoid unrealistic expectations that are different from your child. The lack of communication and or extra pressure of unrealistic performance or season expectations can make the season very stressful and unproductive. Student athletes know their role on the team and what is expected of them. Support your child by encouraging him/her to do their best and be proud of their best efforts. Do not compare your child to other players. Do not use playing time, statistics or words in a newspaper or lack of in qualifying your son’s/ daughter’s experience.


Approach sports as an opportunity / experience for your child to get close to a group of people, build friendships, develop skills, improve fitness, learn discipline, how to manage adversity and how to work towards personal goals. These experiences carry over to real life. If the purpose of playing sports is to get a D1 scholarship, then the end result could be disappointing and the student be clouded to all the benefits that sports have to offer.


Participation in sports allows individuals to see what they are made of and how they will react to different situations. How an athlete manages the ups and downs of emotions, stress, time management, accountability in working with others, etc…
Sport can bring the best and the worse out of individuals. If a student athlete is being encouraged and supported to work through challenges this will allow him/her to enjoy their experience greater and grow as a person.

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How Can You Motivate A High School Student to Do Well in High School When They Just Aren’t Interested in School?


Neil Gorman, MSW, LCSW
Psychodynamic Therapist
Edgewood Clinical Services
2948 Artesian Rd, Suite 112
Naperville, IL 60564
(630) 428-7890

While often overlooked, the importance of simply being a receptive listener can help increase a child’s motivation. Listening is especially important when a parent has asked a question. Frequently it is very tempting to interrupt a child answering a question we have asked, however motivation can be significantly decreased by interruption.

In addition to this it is very important for parents who are listening to remember that there’s going to be much about their child’s experience on which they are not experts, but one of the best ways to become more informed as to listen to the child speak.

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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.

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