Getting Really Ready for School

More and more girls come into our counseling offices worried about the start of school.  As the summer winds down and conversations come up about lunchboxes and lockers, they get a little teary.  They have more frequent stomach aches or headaches.   Each August, we see an onslaught of elementary aged children who have anxiety around school starting back.  Sometimes, it’s that they’re afraid of throwing up.  Sometimes, it’s performing poorly on tests.  Sometimes, it’s making friends or having a strict teacher.  Regardless of what they attach their fears to…

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How to Help Kids in Light of the News Today

A CBS News article today said there have been at least 11 school shootings in the U.S. since January 1.  And the one that happened yesterday was very close to our community here at Daystar, with our camp being an hour or so away, and Melissa having her first youth director job at Calvert City, Kentucky.  With at least 11 this month only, the likelihood is that one has been close to your community, as well.

What do we do?  How do we love and protect the kids we love so dearly?  What do we say, in light of such tragedy, especially tragedy that was perpetrated by someone close to their age...

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How Does Your Child Feel About Shots?

In the past, we’ve talked about anxiety and kids on several different occasions.  Kids can have anxiety around all manner of issues, from going to school to spending the night out to shots.  In fact, shots are one we see many kids (and adults) struggle with consistently.  If your child has trouble with shots and those dreaded vaccinations are looming on the horizon, check out this article...

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Single Parenting Pitfalls

“I never pictured doing this by myself.”

In twenty-four years of counseling, I’ve heard this sentence more times than I can count.  Last week, it was a mother of three teenage girls whose husband died of a brain tumor.  Yesterday, it was a father whose wife had just relapsed again, deciding that life with alcohol was more important than life with her husband and nine year-old son.  Today, it may be you, with another story, both sad and unexpected of how you’ve found yourself in this role of single parent.  You never pictured doing this by yourself...  

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Could My Child Have Anxiety?

Just a few weeks ago, we wrote about the anxiety so many kids were facing as they started back to school.  It’s no surprise to any of you, if you’ve read our blog before, how concerned we are about the prevalence of anxiety today among kids.  Fifteen years ago, we were only seeing a handful of kids with anxiety in our counseling offices.  Today, a majority of our sessions with school-age kids and their parents are over this very issue.  It’s considered the most common form of “mental illness” among children.  It’s also the most treatable.  And, as you may have noticed, we put quotes around mental illness. 

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The Going Back to School Blues...or Worries

How’s your son doing as the school year is beginning? Is your daughter teary during carpool? Just last night I was with a dear friend with five kids, who told me stories of two of hers sobbing on the way to or from school the first week.  It’s completely normal.  And, as a side note, the melt down she had after drop off was normal, too.  These first few weeks of school are a lot…for all of you.

Last year in September, I had five different girls I was counseling between the ages of 8 and 12 who were at Daystar for anxiety.  Some were afraid of throwing up at school, some failing a test, some making new friends...

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A Teen's Perspective On Our World

At, we love kids.  Obviously.  We also love to feature kids’ voices.  When we speak at parenting events, we always remind parents that it’s not so much that we’re experts.  It’s just that we sit with kids, day in and day out, and learn from them.

These wise words are written by a high school friend of ours, and one who has struggled herself.  They’re from a school project written in response to a piece in the New York Times.  Her words serve as a reminder…of how the culture has changed for kids today and what they want from their parents.  Talk to your kids.  Use feelings words—around the house and around the dinner table...

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How Do I Talk to my Daughter About Sex and Masturbation?

For many girls, there is a sense of shame bound up in being a woman. As a mother, you may be lost for how to talk to her about it.

Girls don’t want you to tell them about what’s changing about their bodies. They don’t want you to talk about sex. They become awkward, walk away, and even resort to toddler tactics like plugging their ears and humming loudly.

We could talk at length about the origins of shame for girls. In the Fall, a significant part of Satan’s curse attacked our identities as women: “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you’” (Genesis 3:16).

Media has, historically, valued women consistently and primarily for their appearance and sex appeal. And it’s only gotten worse.

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Talking to Kids about Difficult Current Events: Part 1

Your child walks through the family room as the sound of gunfire spills from the television, and he inquires about images of soldiers and civilians.  

“Why are those children crying?” A question a mom is forced to answer as her daughter looked at the front page of USA Today while standing in line at Walgreens.  

Your sleepy-eyed first grader peeks over your shoulder as you scan CNN on your ipad with morning coffee, and he is confused by the images that appeared before you had time to scroll forward. 

The news is everywhere.  On our television screens.  On the newspaper stands of every grocery store, drugstore or Starbucks.  On our tablets and phones.  We want to stay connected with the world and we have little eyes and ears around us at all times. 

Our kids overhear conversations at school, at home and in a dozen other settings where we exist as families.  It’s becoming more and more difficult to selectively expose them to age-appropriate content about current events in our media-saturated culture.  

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One to Watch This Year's Open…a Hero for Our Girls

Taylor Townsend is the youngest U.S. Woman to advance to the third round at the French Open since 2003.  It’s an impressive feat for an 18 year-old.  And, especially so, given that the U.S. Tennis Association tried to keep her out of the U.S. Open just two years ago until she lost weight.

What we—what our culture does to girls (and to boys) is tragic.  I am astounded to hear girls in my counseling office talk about coaches and teachers who make comments about their weight and weight restrictions still in place for a variety of sports.  We are living in a weight-obsessed society.  And we are living in a society where up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).

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Q&A Thursday: How Can I Help My Child Prepare for Summer Camp?

As a Director of a summer camp, I have a lot of conversations with parents about their children going away for the first time.  I also see more than a few homesick tears come June and July.  We wanted to give you a few tips to help prevent—or at least provide comfort in the midst of them.

Many children who struggle with homesickness have never spent the night out.  As simple as it sounds, they need practice.  You will do your child and the camp a tremendous favor if your child has a gradual experience of staying away from home before they’re thrust into a high-energy/highly stimulating environment with dozens or even hundreds of other children.

  1. Start with a family member.  Have your child pick a grandparent or an aunt or uncle to stay with for the first time.  Have dinner with them in their home and then leave early enough before bedtime that they have another enjoyable activity to look forward to.  If you leave at bedtime, their tears may be more from tiredness than true homesickness. READ MORE
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I'm Worried My Child May Have An Eating Disorder...PART 2

We’re glad you joined us as we talk through eating disorders among kids today.  This is an issue we feel passionate about.  It is one of the most addictive struggles a child (or adult) can ever face and there is much you can do as a parent to help:

  1. What you model in your home in regard to food and body image is of the utmost importance.  We tell parents often that your issues are often going to show up in the life of your child.  If you struggle with your own body image or some type of eating disorder, get help—for your sake and theirs. 
  2. Don’t make food an issue around your home.  It is unhealthy to use food as a reward.  But it is also unhealthy to focus on the fact that you are eating healthy all of the time.  Eating disorders manifest themselves in a preoccupation with food and eating.  Don’t further this by being preoccupied by food as a family.  It is important to teach your child healthy eating, but not obsessive healthy eating... READ MORE
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I'm Worried My Child May Have An Eating Disorder...PART 1

 “I think the problem is that food and I just don’t get along.”

Her struggles with food started right around the age of 11.  As a young girl, she was petite.  She had the body of a little athlete…long legs, flat stomach and teeny muscles.  But, then, as it does in the life of every girl, puberty reared its hormonal head.  At 12, she felt like a different person.  She worried about what other people thought.  She felt insecure.  And, much to her dismay, she believed that she looked “round”.  Her stomach had taken on a new shape, her breasts, her bottom and even her legs were more curvy.  And she hated it.

At 15, she sat in our counseling offices and pointed back to the age of 12 as the onset of a struggle with food that continued to plague her.  “I used to hear all of the time how cute I was.  And then it just stopped.  No one said I was attractive…or little.  No one said anything.”  So, I thought, I must be fat... READ MORE

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How Can I Help My Child With Anxiety?

What do I do when she’s afraid and I can tell the thoughts have become looping? 

That she won’t go upstairs to take a shower if I’m not upstairs with her? 

That she won’t go to school for fear of throwing up? 

That she won’t spend the night at a friend’s house? 

If you were to bring your son or daughter to Daystar, these are a few of the places we’d start:

1) Make a worry list.  Here’s an example.  When he’s afraid, the blood in his brain is literally rushing to his amygdala, which controls a fight or flight response.  This also means its not circulating as well in his pre-frontal cortex, which enables executive functioning.  In other words, he is not thinking with the part of his brain that helps him organize his thoughts, differentiate between good and bad, think through consequences, set goals, and control his impulse.  He is thinking in survival mode.  His heart rate elevates.  His autonomic system is on alert.  Basically, he is not reasonable.  (You probably know this much better than we do.)  In order to help him reason, we need to help slow down his nervous system….to come down from a 10 to a 2 or even a 4.

With many of the kids I counsel, I’ll help them come up with a “Worry List”-a list of things they can do to help calm themselves down when they start to get anxious.  Basically, they’re coping skills.  Make one of these lists with your child.  Have them tell you what makes them feel better and more peaceful...

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If you are, or know someone in great pain...

Just a few weeks ago a fifteen year-old girl told me she was thinking about ending her life.  She wasn’t only thinking about it.  She knew how.  She got the idea from youtube.  And she told a group of ten other fourteen and fifteen year-old girls and me.

“It wouldn’t matter to anyone.  My mom and dad would probably be relieved.  My friends wouldn’t miss me.  And it would open up another slot for someone to be in counseling at Daystar.”

As I looked around the room, all I could see was pain registering on every other girl’s face.  Their concern—no, their fear was palpable.  She, however, didn’t see it.  She didn’t want to.  They fell under the category of “My friends wouldn’t miss me.”

After the girl left with her very strong and kind mother, I went back to the group to talk and pray for this sad young girl.  Another girl’s comment was “This is everyone’s go to these days.”  And every girl with the exception of one said she had at least one friend who had considered ending her life. READ MORE

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Stress and Consequences for American Teens

Turns out the new data is in, and adolescents have officially passed adults.  The most stressed Americans now are American teenagers.  

The data tells us that teens have 50% less free time than they did a generation ago, get an hour less sleep, and spend 53 hours a week interacting with screen media...

Take a listen to this discussion titled Stress and Consequences for American TeensREAD MORE


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Raising Courageous Daughters (Today's Christian Woman Article by Sissy Goff)

You remember the feeling, don't you? Playing a sport you couldn't really play in PE, trying out for the school musical or the cheerleading squad, or even just having to give a speech in class. The sweaty palms, the nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach, the feeling that all eyes were on you and critiquing everything you said and did.

Losing her voice

Girls are self-conscious. In our seminars with parents, we talk often about how girls lose their voice around middle school. Dove claims that 6 out of 10 girls stop doing what they love because of the way they look. As a counselor who has worked with girls of all ages for more than 20 years, I would say it's also because of who they are—or, more importantly, who they believe themselves to be.

Research suggests that when something goes wrong in a boy's world, he blames someone else. (Moms, unfortunately, that's most often you.) But when something goes wrong in a girl's world, who does she blame? You guessed it, because you did too (and maybe you still do). She blames herself. READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: When is my child’s “fear” really anxiety?

Anxiety is considered a childhood epidemic in America today.  We see the results of this in our counseling offices weekly.  In fact, daily, I see a child between the ages of 6 and 12 who is struggling with some type of anxiety:  fear of throwing up, separation anxiety, fear of failing or making any kind of a mistake.

So, when is fear really anxiety?  What’s the difference?  We would say when the fears become debilitating.  I talk with kids all of the time about how every one of us has fears.  But what happens most of the time is that we have a fearful thought and pass right by it.  For a child (or adult) who is struggling with anxiety, that thought becomes what we call “looping.”  It’s a little like the roller coaster that is only one loop and goes over and over and over.  And my experience is that these types of loops also follow typical developmental trends. 

Tamar Chansky, who has written our favorite book called Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, has said the following about normal childhood fears in different stages of your child’s life: READ MORE

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Q&A Thursday: How Do I Help My Child Who Is Grieving?

When I walked into the room, all three of them were sitting on one couch. Their expressions were varied. Two immediately spoke and introduced themselves. One was quiet. But all three were in the middle of a tremendous loss in their lives - their parents were getting divorced. These sisters were 12, 14 and 16, and were all handling their grief very differently.

As I started counseling them over the next few months, I realized just how different each of their griefs was, and how it was a powerful picture of where each sister was developmentally. The youngest, at 12, was devastated. She was quiet in her grief and didn't know quite yet how to put words to her feelings. She was afraid that her sadness would "make her mom more sad," so she bottled it up, with it growing inside of her in ways that made it hard to concentrate and enjoy the things she loved most.

The oldest sister who was now in high school was very angry with her father. She kept trying to understand why he made the choices he had and was worried and protective of her mom. She had tears in her eyes during our conversation, much like her younger sister, but her grief had enlarged in her awareness of the family around her. READ MORE

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Where Did Our Joy Go?

I set out this morning to find my joy.  Somewhere, along the way, I seem to have lost it.  Nothing’s bad.  I just don’t feel much joy these days.  Not in the places I normally do like relationships and work and my cute little dog.  Not even in the places I sometimes do like exciting upcoming trips.  Just couldn’t seem to find it.

So, I set out to.  I stayed home from church.  Cried a little and then decided it was time.  If I’m not finding it in the places I normally go, it’s time I really looked for it…looked in the only place I really trust.  I wanted to know what my Bible said about joy.  Not just “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” and all of the other verses I’ve read a million times (although just that could have been a hint to me.)  I wanted to do a study on joy.  And, as I looked in verse after verse, I realized they all said the same thing.  And didn’t say the same thing.  The resounding answer is that our joy is in Christ.  Period.  It never said, “You will find joy in your closest relationships.  Your favorite things.  It did not say we find our joy in anything—ANYTHING—apart from Christ.  But oh, how desperately I try.

And then I thought about you... READ MORE

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