“I hide my stress ball in my coat for school and squeeze it whenever I get nervous. It really does help.”
A freshman in high school showed me the ball she had, literally up her sleeve, last week in counseling. I told her she was brilliant. As you may know, anxiety is a childhood epidemic in America today and we are seeing evidence of this daily in the families walking through our doors. Anxiety is at an all time high and coping skills are at an all time low. Kids just don’t have them. And so we celebrate any opportunity to help kids find their way to things that can help alleviate their stress. Stress balls is one… Read More
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... Read More
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 Read More
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 Teens. READ MORE
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 Read More
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 Read More
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 Read More
Q: What are some ideas to help my child cope with anxiety?
A: The Don’t Worry, Be Happy List
As we talked about recently, way too many coping skills are available for our kids today…coping skills which inevitably hurt them and hurt us as we watch them struggle. We had a group of 8th and 9th graders at Daystar who came up with a different list (named by them, as well)…a list of things they have found that help them when they’re anxious. We thought you might enjoy reading (and even doing) some of the following. Put it on your fridge. Share it with your kids. We believe you’ll be a little less worried and a little more grateful by the end. READ MORE
Last week, we talked about the emotional world of teenage girls. Here are just a few of the statistics:
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Illicit drug use has declined significantly since its peak years in 1996 and 1997
- Alcohol use among teenagers has also decreased since that time
- Alcohol, however, is still the most widely used drug among young people
- Marijuana and tobacco use have remained the same since that time
- The use of prescription drugs such as Ritalin, Vicodin and OxyContin have increased
- The use of inhalants has increased
From Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (ANRED)
- The Journal of Abnormal Psychology reported that 14 to 39 percent of adolescents participate in some kind of self-harming behavior
- Eating disorders affect almost 5 percent of young women in America
- 1 percent of female adolescents are anorexic
- 1 to 3 percent of middle and high school girls are bulimic
- 15 percent of young women have unhealthy attitudes and behaviors about food
As we said before girls fall apart often from the outside in. They develop struggles such as eating disorders, self-mutilation, addictions to drugs and alcohol, and other issues as a way to numb—or control this newfound pain that feels so out of their control. Each of these issues warrants a different response, but each comes from the same source—an intense dislike, or self-hatred, of the girls themselves. How do we help, as adults who love them? READ MORE Read More
She may be a fifteen year old dressed in black who writes dark poetry and wears thick terry cloth bands on her wrists to cover the scratches she made last night with her paper clip. She may be a straight A student who uses her toothbrush to make herself throw up after every meal. She may be the girl in your Sunday School class who acts as if nothing bothers her, but you know is smoking pot on the weekends to forget about the pain in her family. Or she may be the daughter—or student—or granddaughter you see every day who has learned to say with her actions what she is terrified to communicate with her words.
In our counseling offices, if we had to name one word that girls struggle with the most—it would be self-hatred. For many girls, it begins in middle school. Up until then, they lived in a state of glorious naivete. They were unaware, for the most part, of what others thought about them, or how they were "supposed" to look…or talk…or act. Their spirits, and their confidence were unfettered. But, then, seemingly overnight, things changed. READ MORE
“I don’t even know why I did it. I’m sad some. And I definitely get mad at myself. But it’s just that I’ve heard lots of people talking about it at school. It’s like it’s almost cool to be sad. Why in the world would cutting be trendy?”
These words were actually spoken by a teenage girl to one of our counselors at Daystar recently. And, the sad truth of the matter, it has. Probably close to twelve years ago, I heard my first instance of a teenager cutting. She was severely depressed and had been using a razor to cut marks on the tops of her legs. READ MORE Read More
A Parent's Guide to Anxiety
by Sissy Goff
"I can't go to school. One of the kids was sick yesterday and I might throw up."
"You're going out to dinner? Where are you going? When will you be home? Who is babysitting? I don't think I can do it. You can't go!"
"I can't go to the sleepover."
"I can't leave for school yet. My hair doesn't look perfect."
"I can't play soccer!"
Do you hear the common word in each of these sentences? Can't. Whether it's about school, sports, academics, or social life, anxiety is often debilitating for kids. It moves past the normal childhood and adolescent fears and becomes crippling, to the point where they are unable (please read that carefully—unable, not unwilling) to participate in any given activity that other kids enjoy.
Anxiety is the most predominant mental-health problem among children and adolescents today... READ MORE Read More