How to Help Your Child Overcome Symptoms of Anxiety

When we imagine childhood, often thoughts of being carefree and happy flash across our minds. We hope for the same things for our children, yet more kids are showing symptoms of anxiety.

Unfortunately, they aren’t immune to anxiety. They enter this big, scary world and face many mountains of their own. Think about moving towns, changing schools or even having to participate in a spelling bee when there’s a learning or attention issue. Anxiety can be crippling at any age.

What Do Symptoms of Anxiety Look Like in Children?

All children get stressed at some point in life. They might have a test coming up or a tryout for a sport that turns their tummy into knots. If that’s the case, how do you know if your child is overly anxious? Children struggling with anxiety may have frequent stomach aches, headaches, completely stop eating and stop playing with other friends.

If your child is worried about an activity months or weeks in the future, this is a major indicator anxiety is consuming him. Children can also worry about catastrophes that are unlikely to happen and ask many ‘what if’ questions like, “What if our house catches on fire during the night?”

A child’s anxiety can extend beyond himself and affect his family. Some parents plan their vacations around finding a place that won’t disturb their child and trigger anxiety.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel helpless when your child is facing anxiety, but when you remain steadfast and calm you can be fully present to guide your child through their everyday anxiety.

To help a child overcome anxiety, it’s important to first understand what’s going on in their mind. Children form anxious thoughts after sensing a threat and lacking the ability to cope. It derails them from daily activities when they get stuck in this pattern of thinking. The things that cause your child anxiety might not appear major, but it’s crucial to understand and empathize with your child’s struggle.

How to Keep Your Child From Worrying

Make sure your children feel heard and understood when they begin to worry. Don’t dismiss or minimize their feelings. To them, the feelings and thoughts are as real as you are and they need your reassurance. Next, teach them about two different paths the mind can take. Your anxious child automatically goes down the worry path without realizing that another option exists.

Help your child understand how the body changes when experiencing fear and anxiety, so he can begin to recognize the signs. Teach your child to talk back to their worries and fears. Imagine worry as a big bully or monster that can be conquered by telling why it isn’t welcome in your world.

The worry bully exists to keep everybody from enjoying life. Parents and siblings can even gang up on the worry bully together so that one child doesn’t feel isolated in this. The worry bully is an enemy we all must face together.

Show your child how he has the power to change his thinking. Give an example of a situation that could potentially cause anxiety for your child. Maybe even the thought of riding a school bus without you would cause him anxiety. The thoughts and feelings might range from, “What if nobody sits by me? What if the bus driver leaves me somewhere wrong? What if I get picked on? The bus is scary.”

Instead, you can think of it this way, “The bus driver is a professional and cares about the kids. My classmates show up every day to school without getting left somewhere else. My good friend Robby would sit with me if I asked him. My classmates even talk about how much fun it is to ride a bus.” The thoughts slowly shift to ones of excitement and confidence.

Don’t Give Up

Rewiring the brain to externalize anxiety takes time. If the family continues to focus on working together as a team to fight the worry bully, your child will experience different ways to overcome those anxious thoughts and not allow worry to wear him down. Talking with a counselor can help the family navigate through anxiety and brainstorm strategies for overcoming its influence.

“Girl,” Courtesy of greekfood-tamystika,, CC0 License; “Worried,” Courtesy of Eneas De Troya, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Afraid,” Courtesy of Joseph Gonzalez,, CC0 License; “Plea”, Courtesy of Bkrmadtya Karki,, CC0 License

ADHD Treatment Options: Beyond Medication

If you’re looking for ADHD treatment options that go beyond the typical medication solutions, this article is for you. First, let’s get a better understanding of what ADHD really is and what the symptoms include.

ADHD: What is it?

ADHD is a common disorder. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual, 5th Edition of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5) refers to Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a “Neuro-developmental Disorder” and calls it a neurological disease. Thought the disease is more common in children, the manual notes that it can occur in people of all ages.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines ADHD as “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”

The NIH specifies three essential types:

  • Inattention – the person easily gets off task, fails to persist, has trouble focusing and staying organized.
  • Hyperactivity – the person is always on the move, regardless of whether it is appropriate or not. They may fidget non-stop, tap, or talk. In adults, this may be exhibited as acute restlessness or causing others to become worn out with the non-stop activity.
  • Impulsivity – the person may be prone to making snap decisions without thinking through any potential consequences or ramifications. They may feel a strong need for immediate gratification and display an unwillingness to delay gratification. They may constantly interrupt others and may make crucial decisions without giving them proper thought.

The Mayo Clinic’s website calls ADHD “a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior … children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. Symptoms sometimes lessen with age [but] some people never completely outgrow their ADHD symptoms.”

The Mayo Clinic also lists several different real-life scenarios as examples to demonstrate the difficulties that those who suffer from ADHD will often experience:

  • The tendency toward classroom difficulties, which can be the cause of academic failure, judgment from others, and low self-esteem
  • The tendency to being accident-prone and suffering more injuries than non-ADHD children
  • The tendency toward low self-esteem
  • The tendency to struggle with interpersonal interaction
  • Greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse

Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, ADHD children are much more likely to suffer from such conditions as:

  • Learning disabilities, especially with communication and understanding
  • A variety of anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, seen in irritability and easy frustration
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), marked by a habit of defiant, negative, or even hostility toward those in authority
  • Conduct disorder, demonstrated in antisocial behavior like fighting, stealing, vandalism, or causing harm to animals or people
  • Bipolar disorder, which is characterized by both depression and mania
  • Tourette’s syndrome

What Causes ADHD?

CHADD and the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) state that even after a plethora of studies, the sources of ADHD are still relatively elusive. NIMH suggests that “like many other illnesses, a number of factors can contribute to its development,” such as:

  • Genes – more than 20 genetic studies indicate clear evidence that ADHD runs in families.
  • Smoking, alcohol consumption, or use of drugs while pregnant
  • Environmental toxin exposure while pregnant. or for the child, at a very young age
  • Over-consumption of sugar
  • Low birth weight
  • Various brain injuries

CHADD also lists the following items, which while they are not known causes, are believed to intensify ADHD symptoms for some:

  • Excessive watching of television
  • Excessive sugar intake
  • Stress in the family (e.g. – conflict, poverty)
  • Trauma

There is a mixed bag of opinions when it comes to the distinct “causes” of ADHD, though most experts would agree that it is rooted in a neurological chemical imbalance.

ADHD has, like many mental disorders, been medicalized, and serious efforts are underway to reassure parents that ADHD is not as a result of bad parenting, family issues, bad teachers, or improper socialization. Lacking well-tested evidence one way or the other, ADHD is currently viewed as a brain-based medical/genetic disorder.

ADHD Treatment

Both the Mayo Clinic and NIMH are convinced that certain treatments can drastically reduce ADHD symptoms, improving quality of life.

A variety of medications are prescribed and combined with various therapy approaches:

  • Behavior therapy: Parents and teachers can adopt behavior-modification techniques, such as reward systems or timeouts.
  • Psychotherapy: Older ADHD children are encouraged to discuss the things that are bothering them, exploring inappropriate patterns of behavior, and learning appropriate and healthy ways to manage their condition.
  • Skill Training for Parents: Parents develop and put into practice ways of understanding and guiding their child into right behavior.
  • Family therapy: This nurtures the family dynamic and will assist both the parent and child in understanding the challenges they face.
  • Training in Social Skills: Children are helped to develop acceptable social behaviors that will serve them well in adult life.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends some alternative treatment methods:

  • Meditation or Yoga: Regular practice of yoga or meditation can help children learn relaxation and discipline, which can help them learn to manage their ADHD.
  • Special diets: The diets typically recommended for those suffering from ADHD require them to eliminate foods that are rich in sugar and fat. Experts would also advise avoiding additives and coloring. However, studies so far have not discovered a substantial link between ADHD and diet. It is recommended that those with ADHD stay away from caffeine, which can trigger many of the symptoms associated with this disease.
  • Vitamin or mineral supplements: While there is no conclusive evidence that they can actively alleviate ADHD symptoms, vitamins can be good for one’s general health. “Megadoses” of vitamins – doses that are in excess of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) – can cause harm.
  • Herbal supplements: To date, no evidence suggests that herbal remedies are of help in managing ADHD, and on the contrary, some can even be dangerous.
  • Proprietary formulations: Made of vitamins and micronutrients, as well as other ingredients, there is little evidence to suggest they can do any good.
  • Essential fatty acids: These fats, which include omega-3 oils, are necessary for the brain to function well. Research regarding their efficacy is still ongoing.
  • Neurofeedback* training (also referred to as electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback): a child is taught to focus on performing a specific task while employing a machine which displays brainwave patterns and activity, keeping brain wave patterns active in the front of the brain, and thereby improving ADHD symptoms. Additional research is required to determine the efficacy of this treatment.
  • Regular exercise, alongside its general health benefits, may also positively affect ADHD children’s behavior when supplemented by other kinds of treatment.

Christians and ADHD Treatment

The Medicalization of ADHD

The medicalization of ADHD has been occurring for some time. Current estimates by CHADD suggest that more than 1 in 10 U.S. children, ages 4-17 have received a positive ADHD diagnosis and that more than 15% of elementary school-aged children are routinely diagnosed as having ADHD. These numbers alarm many people who call into question the APA’s contention that ADHD should be classed with the neurobehavioral diseases.

Additionally, it is important to treat the medicalization with caution. It can become too easy for difficult children to be broadly defined as suffering from ADHD and quickly medicated as a result. This may not be dealing with their root problems and simply numbs the neurological problem without adequately treating it.

A 2012 article in Der Spiegel magazine quotes Dr. Leon Eisenberg, a pioneer in ADHD studies, who eventually distanced himself from the over-diagnosis of ADHD. “ADHD is a prime example of a fabricated disorder,” Eisenberg said. “The genetic predisposition to ADHD is completely overrated.” Instead, child psychiatrists should investigate much more thoroughly the psychosocial reasons that can lead to behavioral problems, said Eisenberg. Are there fights with the parents, do mothers and fathers live together, are there family problems? Such questions are important, but they take a long time, said Eisenberg, adding with a sigh: “A pill commits itself very quickly.”

Too often, a purely medical diagnosis misses the holistic nature of the condition. Plus, the ADHD label can become very stigmatizing. Author Kati Li claims that “by diagnosing kids with ADHD, biological factors have come to override what used to be considered moral problems under the jurisdiction of the family.”

Li asserts that the medicalizing ADHD fails to hold children responsible for their own actions. Rather, it relegates unacceptable behavior to the realm of disease, and families are not considered responsible for their failure to discipline, socialize, and protect their children.


The medicating of ADHD is also a cause for concern for many. Many of the drugs prescribed for ADHD treatment closely resemble amphetamines (speed), a narcotic in the same class as cocaine and one that is often used in a recreational context. Many argue that ADHD medication can also lead to nervousness, addiction, anxiety, decreased appetite, insomnia, headache, nausea, stomachache, heart palpitations, and dizziness.

Anthony Martignetti, critical of prescribing medication for ADHD treatment, believes that “talk therapy” is a much better way forward. He emphasizes the role of the parent in effectively treating ADHD, pointing out that they may “interpret discipline, age-appropriate accountability, and boundaries to be forms of psychologically damaging abuse…which creates children without boundaries who are unresponsive to parental controls and who act and appear to be what we would have referred to in another time as ‘spoiled brats.’”

Secondly, he argues that ADHD can be made worse when parents lack sufficient time to actually parent their kid. Parental fatigue and guilt may be one reason that children are lacking boundaries and struggling to listen to instructions.

Third, Martignetti points the finger at societal and cultural shifts that interpret aggressive behavior, “roughhousing,” competitiveness, and other kinds of “acting-out” as actually detrimental to the self-esteem development process.

Religious Considerations

According to Ms. Li, the medicalization of ADHD appears to only offend certain Christian groups (i.e. Catholics and Conservative Protestants). Conservative Protestants rightly believe the Bible to be God’s word (and therefore infallible and inerrant), and that human beings possess a sinful nature which predisposes him to rebel against and disobey God’s laws. On this basis, they also discourage behaviors that constitute a health risk (i.e. – smoking, extramarital sex, drug use, fornication, etc.).

Evangelicals point out that according to 1 Cor. 6:19 the body of a Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore must remain free of sin. Evangelicals reject much of secular psychiatry due to its secular presuppositions, favoring a Biblical approach instead. As a result, they typically do not view ADHD as a disease. In fact, conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics have both recognized the spiritual aspects of ADHD.

The Bible contains teaching about many of the symptoms of ADHD. A quick search of a Bible app will turn up references to “attentiveness” (Proverbs 6:6-8, 6:20-21, 7:24, 12:11, 24:27; Colossians 3:23; James 1:19; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; 1 Peter 1:12-15), “self-control” (Galatians 5:23, 2 Peter 1:6, 1 Corinthians 9:27, Proverbs 10:19, 25:28, Matthew 12:36, Philippians 4:8), and “impulsivity” (Proverbs 18:13, 21:5, James 1:2-4, 1:19, Galatians 5:22).

In addition, Philippians 2:3-4 demonstrates the need for one to have a servant’s heart, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23, and Philippians 4:8 teach self-control over one’s own thought life, 1 Corinthians 14:40 implies that living lives of disciplined structure is desirable, 2 Timothy 3:10-11 shows that demonstrating acceptable behavior is important, and 2 Timothy 3:16 states that the teaching of the Bible is profitable.

The Pursuit of Godly Seed, a book written from a conservative Christian perspective, demonstrates how Biblical principles of children-rearing and developing healthy home life can actually be a guard against ADHD. The book points out the devastating consequences of devaluing, neglecting, and rejecting children and their need for excellent, guidance, training, discipline, teaching, protection, and faith-based nurturing.

The book argues that children may be exasperated by parents or caregivers and that this can turn them off to the things of God. The book lists some key conditions that could result in this occurring in children from a Christian background: (a) “lukewarm” Christianity in the home, (b) abuse in anger, (c) the pain and confusion of parental divorce, (d) verbal abuse, and (e) sexual molestation or abuse.

Concluding Remarks

Christians should always critically assess any ADHD diagnosis given by a medical professional and would be wise to survey all available treatments when seeking out ways to help their child’s condition. There are many beneficiaries to the medicalization of ADHD in children and indications are that the medical industry frequently undermines the role of parents and family and interferes with their attempts at Biblical children-rearing.

Too often, parents are effectively “drugging” their children, having been told that their kids have a “brain disease.” But we must be critical of the evidence for this assertion. Many believe that inattentive or impulsive children are simply in need of well-rounded parental discipline, guidance, and love rather than serious medical intervention. God loves these kids, and he wants them to grow into all He has planned for them. With this mind, parents should think carefully about reaching for prescriptions and should take careful thought when seeking treatment for their child.

“Twirl,” courtesy of Caleb Woods,, CC0 License; “Purple donut,” courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon,, CC0 License; “Medication,” courtesy of jarmoluk,, CC0 License; “Bible,” courtesy of Aaron Burden,, CC0 License

Two Common Anxiety Disorders in Children

Do you recall what your very first day at school felt like? Or how about your first day of work on the job? These thoughts and fears may no longer reside in your memory since they were normal and temporary reactions. However, imagine how it would feel if you were to experience those same feelings constantly, even when they made no sense!

These feelings of anxiety can be overwhelming for a child. Maybe your child struggles with anxiety and you are wondering what is really going on in their head when they fear a social setting so much that they can’t participate.

It can be tough on the whole family when one of the children struggles with anxiety symptoms, and even more so when their best friend or their teacher just doesn’t get what is happening, or understand how to support them.

Some teachers are not equipped to know what is happening when a child experiences anxiety and they can underestimate the effects that it has on the student’s success and performance and social relationships. Teachers may confuse anxiety with other things, such as behavioral issues, and not know how best to work with parents for a successful outcome, as well as how to advocate for the child within the larger framework of the school system.

Perhaps you have wondered how to better understand your child’s needs when they face these types of challenges but are met with misunderstandings and/or lack of support from others.

The remainder of this article will cover 10 ways that anxiety affects a child’s life and education:

  • A child’s feelings of worry about themselves, their parents, or family members
  • Having nightmares or night terrors and lack of sleep
  • Symptoms of panic attacks
  • Decline in educational success
  • Physical symptoms of headaches and stomachaches
  • Extreme difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Heightened risk of developing depression or other anxiety disorders
  • Lack of social skills or experience
  • Low levels of communication while in social situations
  • Being misunderstood by family, school teachers, and/or peers

There is a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. There are anxiety disorders that occur only in children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) distinguishes between anxiety disorders and normative fear or anxiety, noting that anxiety disorders are extreme and persist beyond a time that is developmentally appropriate.

Anxiety disorders in children can cause them to read greater levels of danger into a situation or completely avoid it. Separation anxiety disorder and selective mutism typically begin in the early years and persist throughout adulthood when left untreated. Sometimes children with anxiety disorders may have the symptom of panic attacks in response to a fear.

Separation Anxiety

Although some separation from a caregiver is normal in children, separation anxiety is when a child is so anxious from the separation of a caregiver that it is developmentally inappropriate. The diagnostic criteria for separation anxiety disorder include:

  • Nightmares
  • Worry that their attachment figure might be hurt in some way and a reluctance to be separated from them.
  • Physical symptoms related to distress.
  • Extreme apprehension about possible events such as kidnapping, accidents, getting lost or getting sick – anything that might separate them from their attachment figure.
  • Reluctance or refusal to leave the house and go to places like school, aversion to sleeping somewhere other than home, and physical symptoms such as head or stomach aches when separated from the attachment figure.

The most commonly diagnosed childhood anxiety disorder is separation anxiety. School disruption effects 75% of children struggling with separation anxiety because of their unwillingness to even attend school on a daily basis. Even children who end up going to school may still suffer because they cannot focus on what is being taught due to their anxiety over those at home.

Sleep disturbances are also common with symptoms consisting of nightmares as well as physical symptoms. This is a challenge for any parent who is unaware of the level of fear that their child experiences from sleeping in their room alone.

When a child does not get enough sleep, it is difficult for them to function at school. Their behavior may cause confusion in the classroom which can create tension in their relationship with teachers and peers. The behavior can become so disruptive that the teachers and peers may find it difficult to engage with them on a developmentally appropriate social level, resulting in the child being labeled as defiant.

A parent may develop their own response to their child’s anxiety symptoms. Some parental responses can end up reinforcing the child’s symptoms and behaviors. Negative behaviors may result in a parent removing them from the area in which the behavior occurred, which can increase their anxiety even more.

This can be increasingly frustrated for parents who struggle to understand what is going on with their child. Parents may continue to reinforce behaviors, for example, by allowing their child to sleep with them when they fear to sleep alone or to stay home from school when they do not want to go. This is detrimental to the family as a whole and may cause stress to the rest of the family.

Do you have a closer bond with one child more than the others? Perhaps this bond was formed with the child who most needs the sense of closeness and safety. This can cause rifts between you and your spouse or other family members before you are even aware of it.  While you spend much of your time attending to the child struggling with separation anxiety, others in the family may be feeling left out.

Not only does separation anxiety have an immediate effect, but it can prove detrimental long-term as well. The isolation a child experiences today can bring on social problems, later on, making it more likely they will remain unmarried. In addition, children who suffer from separation anxiety disorder are more likely to develop depression or other types of anxiety disorders as they grow up.

Selective Mutism

Anxiety can affect a child’s life and educational success in other, more subtle ways. Does your child never talk at school, but won’t stop talking as soon as you pick them up?

Does your child act shy in public when around people that you know, when only moments ago they were laughing and talking with their brothers or sisters in the car? Does this seem to be context-specific? Perhaps they suffer from selective mutism, another anxiety disorder that can strike children.

Selective mutism, though quite rare, typically affects children prior to the age of five. It often goes unnoticed until such time as the child enters school. Many times, children grow out of selective mutism, but understanding the effects, symptoms, and signs of it is still important because of the many ways that anxiety can affect a child’s life and education.

In order to deliver a diagnosis of Selective mutism, certain criteria have to be met, such as:

  • Not speaking in settings or situations where it would normally be expected (i.e. – school).
  • Not speaking when it isn’t merely a result of ignorance of the subject being spoken about.
  • Symptoms that are unrelated to some other type of communication disorder or which happen simultaneously with some other disorder, like autism spectrum disorder.
  • Behavior that lasts for more than a month and stretches beyond the first month of school, when children are normally hesitant to participate in their new surroundings.

Here are a few factors that are critical for understanding the kinds of symptoms that one should look for. Children with selective mutism will often have normal patterns of communication at home with their family. However, they will clam up in public settings (such as school) and may even fail to speak to their extended family members who do not live with them. Children may also be silent when in the company of peers.

A child with anxiety may have even more of a struggle in making friends at school than will a child who is anxiety free. It is even more challenging for a child that suffers from selective mutism. Other children may be hesitant to befriend a child that cannot talk to them.

Selective mutism may also produce other problems at school, especially if the teacher cannot interact with, and assess the educational levels of the child, or where the child cannot communicate their needs to the teacher.

Even though children with selective mutism can occasionally come up with nonverbal methods of communication, like pointing, the lack of communication may increase the possibility that they will be teased by peers, which will further aggravate their anxieties about being in social settings.

A child with anxiety, whether ongoing or only occasional, has feelings, emotions, and behaviors that may be initially confusing to those who care about them. Young children will likely not understand the anxiety symptoms in their body at first, but they pass into the adolescent years they become more aware and they may prioritize their need to feel better, even though they might not know exactly how to achieve this.

They may try things that may appear to relieve the anxieties that they experience and run the risk of developing unhealthy or risky habits that can lead to increased anxiety, shame, guilt, or confusion.

Parents, siblings, friends, and teachers can find it a significant challenge to interact with a child that experiences all the worry and fear brought on by separation anxiety or selective mutism. However, these challenges can be overcome – there is hope, because of the high success rate of managing both conditions.

Therapy can (and should) include both the child and family members to increase their understanding of the symptoms and to help develop more appropriate ways to manage anxiety and its causes. Children will be taught more appropriate ways of coping with their anxiety and develop skills to change their thought patterns when anxiety symptoms show up.

If you are unsure whether anxiety is the cause of your child’s distress, schedule an appointment with a Christian Counselor Newport Beach today. Becoming educated about your child’s anxiety can be the beginning of a new day for everyone.

“I love you,” courtesy of London Scout,, CC0 License; “Afraid,” courtesy of Joseph Gonzalez,, CC0 License; “Coloring time,” courtesy of Aaron Burden,, CC0 License; “Smug,” courtesy of vborodinova,, CC0 License 

5 Ways to Improve Your Experience Parenting Teenagers

Parenting teenagers can be daunting. Adults remember the challenges of being adolescents themselves, and no amount of money in the world would induce them to go through those years again! The teenage years can be unsparing in difficulty, lasting from ages 8-25.

However, it’s just as challenging (or even more so) to be the parent of a child at this stage of life. Suddenly, your relationship with your adoring child shifts, and you find yourself struggling to relate to a seeming stranger who treats you as an enemy. In the wake of these changes, the entire family struggles to adjust to a new normal.

This article seeks to provide you with helpful tips to navigate the challenging season of parenting teenagers. A quick preview: don’t take things personally, set realistic expectations, understand your underlying goals and purpose, and encourage healthy self-esteem, and we also look at “eight anchors for adolescent growth” from the book Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence by Carl Pickhardt.

Helpful tips can’t make parenting teenagers easy, but implementing them can reduce the stress of this stage of life for you as the parent.

5 Tips for Parenting Teens 

1. Don’t take it personally

In Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence, Pickhardt uses the metaphor of a dog turning into a cat to describe a child turning into a teenager. You’ve spent years enjoying the happy companionship of a loyal dog, and then one day you wake up and find out that you’re the owner of a temperamental cat, who has a propensity to sulk in the corner.

When this realization dawns on you, it probably means your child has entered the teen years, and one of the best things you can do is to not take your child’s change in behavior personally.

According to Pickhardt, “Because parenting is a position of partial influence, parents need to limit their sense of responsibility. They can never know enough. They cannot fully protect any more than they can fully prepare.”

It’s hard not to attach a sense of personal worth to the way your child acts or performs, or to the level of success that they have. But your worth as a person and as a parent is not dependent on your child’s success. If you feel that you need to be perfect as a parent, that will probably end up placing pressure on your child to be perfect, which leads to unrealistic expectations of both you and your teen.

Feeling pressured to make sure your child is happy and successful will only lead to feelings of defeat, emptiness, and failure, because challenges and struggles are inevitable in life, and you won’t be able to control each one for your child, especially when he or she reaches the teen years.

Instead of this pressure, try to be a supportive, constant presence in your child’s life during the teen years. Trust the Lord, ask your spouse for support, and rely on other support systems if you need to. Be at peace with doing your best, even if your teenager disagrees with you.

Most teenagers go through a phase of mood swings, differentiating themselves from their family, and challenging authority to varying degrees. This will create unavoidable discomfort for you as the parent. Know that you are not alone during this time.

2. Set healthy and realistic expectations

It’s probably difficult to believe that the person who was once your lovable baby will turn into a teenager who doesn’t want to be around you. In some cases, teenagers don’t act this way, but most will go through a phase of distancing themselves from their parents and family of origin. This is a normal transition; it’s just part of growing up.

Make sure you’re not disciplining your child for behavior that is simply a developmental shift. Have grace on your teenager as he or she deals with mood swings, conflict, changes in communication, and even a propensity towards defiance.

Pickhardt explains five shifts that are a reality for most teenagers and will impact their parents and family life. The first reality is ignorance. During the teen years, kids become more private in their communication with their parents, effectively leaving their parents in the dark about certain aspects of their lives.

The second reality is estrangement. This occurs when a teen differentiates themselves from their family for the purpose of solidifying their individual identity. A teen may become interested in activities outside of daily family life. Abandonment is the third reality of adolescence. Parents often feel abandoned or lonely because their teen wants to spend less time with them.

Control is the fourth reality: “The challenge for these parents is to accept that although they can’t control their son’s or daughter’s choices, they can inform them, asserting influence through communication they make and stands they take.” During childhood, it’s easier for parents to set limits; the teen years require some adjustment.

And finally, the fifth uncomfortable reality is conflict. If there’s a teenager in the house, an increased level of conflict will probably be there as well.

Perhaps you’re thinking boarding school sounds good right about now, but having realistic expectations will make the journey of parenting your teen much easier in the long run. This normalizes your child’s behavior and helps you prepare for future transitions.

3. Understand the purpose

Though it may not feel like it now, this season of life has a purpose. The teenage years are a time of transition—from being completely dependent (as a child) to being independent (as an adult). This process of a child differentiating from their parents and developing a sense of personal identity and responsibility will allow them to be a thriving and productive adult one day.

Of course, this isn’t always fun to think about, but it’s a parent’s responsibility not just to enjoy their children, but to facilitate their development and preparation for adulthood.

The elevated levels of conflict in your home during this time are a natural way to “broker increasing differences between you and your teen, a necessary part of how you get along.” In other words, the conflict is necessary in order for you and your teen to reach a new level of equilibrium in your relationship, one that acknowledges disagreements and different values.

Sometimes you might feel like your teen is defiant for no reason at all, but it’s actually a necessary step in attaining independence and a sense of self.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, change is difficult. Consider the last major transition you went through as an adult. You probably felt uncomfortable, stressed, and anxious. Your teen is feeling that way right now, multiplied several times over, as they navigate a solid decade of constant change. A little empathy from their parents can go a long way toward making this time of life easier.

4. Encourage self-esteem in your teen

This is simpler than it might sound; just find any way you can to speak an encouraging word to your teenager. He or she will probably struggle frequently with discouragement, loneliness, and disappointment, as well as a comparison to others. As the parent, you can be your teen’s safe place—the one person who is guaranteed to build them up and see their potential. Look for ways to share in your teen’s happiness, join their activities, and encourage their dreams.

Whenever a new activity or trend catches your teen’s attention, you should always show an interest in it. Even when they move on or fail to reach a goal, they will in all likelihood cherish the support you offer them. Figure out what is important to them and join in.

5. “Eight Anchors of Adolescent Growth”

These “eight anchors” as outlined by Pickhardt offer a tangible guideline for parents to understand what they can expect from—and cultivate in—their teens.

  • Completing homework – Pickhardt describes homework as “work ethic training.” These assignments offer a daily opportunity to complete an often-unpleasant task even when you don’t feel like it (i.e., being disciplined). It also allows your teen to grow in the skill of time management. Having good time management skills and being self-disciplined will set your teen up for success in life.
  • Cleaning your room – Learning how to clean and maintain one’s personal space is one of the first steps in preparing for adulthood. It also shows respect for oneself, parental standards, and other members of the household.
  • Doing chores – Helping with household tasks is part of being a responsible family member. The parents are not the only ones who should be caring for and maintaining a functioning household. Pickhardt believes that chores should be done regularly, apart from a child being compensated with an allowance.
  • Participating in family gatherings and events – Many adolescents will balk at this at some point, preferring to spend time with friends instead, but it’s critical to enforce family participation because it sets an example of valuing these relationships, which usually last much longer than peer friendships.
  • Volunteering for community service – Serving in some way on a regular basis allows your teen to get outside of their own experience and thoughts about themselves. It gives them an opportunity to put someone else before themselves.
  • Saving money – Money management is another fundamental skill that will be invaluable in the future. While people differ in whether they tend to save or spend, everyone can benefit from learning to show financial restraint, set goals, and manage your own natural tendencies with spending.
  • Developing proficiency – Pickhardt states, “Developing proficiency of knowledge of skill nurtures confidence that many adolescents sorely need.” Parents can facilitate this by encouraging their teen to commit to learning a specific skill and develop confidence in that area. It may be in the realm of music, sports, art, or something else. When your teen wants to give up, encourage them to persevere.
  • Relating to salient adults – It is a blessing to have godly adults in your teen’s life who set a good example for them. Teenagers need this to offer a contrast to the influence of their immature peers. These adults can be family friends, relatives, teachers, or church leaders who can exert a positive influence on your teen.

Parenting teenagers is a unique stage that can be fun, overwhelming, and exhausting all at once. Some days you might think your child will never get out of this stage, while at other times it will seem like they’re growing up much too quickly.

No matter what stage of the journey you’re on, keep what we’ve covered here in mind:

  • Don’t take it personally,
  • Set healthy expectations,
  • Understand the purpose,
  • Encourage self-esteem,
  • Establish the Eight Anchors of Adolescence.

Hopefully, these tips have offered some help and hope in your journey of parenting your teen. If you need extra support, don’t hesitate to contact our team of Christian Counselors. We would love to walk alongside you on this journey.

“Window seat,” courtesy of Alexandre Chambon,, CC0 License; “Growing Up,” courtesy of Suleman Mukhtar,, CC0 License; “Strong,” courtesy of Christopher Campbell,, CC0 License; “Down,” courtesy of Marcelo Matarazzo,, CC0 License 

9 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children to Watch Out For

It’s been a watershed season of exposing men and women who committed sexual assault and harassment. Businesses are taking legal actions to terminate employees or pull contracts indefinitely.  If the #Metoo movement teaches us anything, it’s that sexual assault and abuse is often silenced and that there’s strength in numbers.

Parents never want to hear these heartbreaking words uttered from their child’s mouth, “I’ve been sexually abused.” Children are often under the care of other adults at school, church, a friend’s sleepover and even under their own roof.  In these seemingly harmless settings, horrendous acts are carried out.

9 Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children to Watch Out For

Parents must be vigilant to monitor who their children interact with on a daily basis. Because sexual abuse is often a confusing and paralyzing experience, children may not verbally express what’s happening to them. But if a child is being abused, it’s likely you will see the following signs.

1. Increased Fear and Anxiety

Fear is one of the biggest hallmarks of a child who has suffered abuse. Children can become hypervigilant, constantly on the alert.  You may see mounting fear and anxiety as the specific time of day approaches when the abuse normally occurs or if you mention inviting the abuser over.

2. PTSD Symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only reserved for military veterans returning from combat overseas. The same symptoms are present in children who have suffered abuse. Panic attacks occur when certain “triggers” bring feelings of immediate stress.

Triggers could be a certain smell like the cologne the abuser wears, people who sound like the abuser, or certain sights that bring flashbacks. Another form of PTSD in children is having disturbing dreams or problems getting a good night’s sleep. Nightmares become prevalent and memories of the trauma can disrupt their concentration at school.

3. Mood Changes

Unreasonable crying or sudden excessive crying that wasn’t present before are expressions of children suffering from abuse.  On the other end of the spectrum, children can have angry outbursts and get frustrated easily spouting out hurtful words to those around them.They might withdraw from adults in the belief that every person wants to harm them or they may become hostile toward those in authority who neglected to protect them.

Because these times of abuse were often out of their control, they will grow up wanting to control everything in their lives. Eventually, children numb their feelings and become detached and emotionally absent. They self-protect by creating an impenetrable wall around their hearts.

A point can even be reached where they disassociate from the abuse altogether by either diminishing the effects of the abuse in their lives or never admitting that the abuse happened to them. Children who experienced sexual abuse are more likely to grow up into teenagers who contemplate suicide, have self-inflicted wounds, and show signs of depression.

4. Guilt and Shame

Children find ways to blame themselves for the abuse. Guilty thoughts invade their minds like, “I should have said something to someone else,” or, “I was aroused so does that mean I wasn’t abused?”

The abuser often reinforces this message telling the child that somehow the child made the abuser touch them. It’s a tug-of-war in the mind for children in this situation. They know something feels wrong, but the mixed messages, instilled fear, and false responsibility can create turmoil in their minds.

5. Fear of Intimacy and Closeness

Intimate relationships can be a challenge after enduring abuse. Although children may still embody an outgoing personality, they learn how to keep people at arm’s length to prevent further harm. Physical contact, which is often terrifying, may cause them to lash out at someone who innocently tries to give a hug.

Other children become overly clingy needing constant physical and verbal affection. Children that have experienced abuse find it hard to know the difference between appropriate displays of physical affection and inappropriate sexual touch.

6. Sexuality

Sexually abused children usually grow up not wanting to have sex at all or view having sex with multiple people as the only way to receive touch and attention. This ends up creating a bigger web of pain in their lives.

Children who have been hypersexualized from assault may make sexual comments to other students or have an advanced knowledge about sex. Of course, in today’s world children are often exposed to movies that are not age-appropriate and they pick up the terminology.  But if a five-year-old girl can describe certain adult acts in detail, this should set off alarms.

Some children who have been abused by someone of the same gender end up confused about their sexual orientation. Due to confusing (maybe even somewhat pleasurable) physiological responses related to their abuse, they may silently wonder whether or not they are actually gay.

Some people may try to reduce their distinctive gender features by cutting their hair, hiding their breasts, eating more food to gain weight and becoming unattractive, or neglecting basic hygiene routines in order to repel people.

7. Alarming Forms of Creative Expression

Children love to play. It’s a normal part of childhood. However, if the dolls are not just playing mommy and daddy, but participating in strictly mommy and daddy activities it is a glaring red flag.

Often creative expression becomes a safe outlet for children to be honest without verbally admitting to the pain forced upon them. Journal writing, social media posts, poems, and pictures can all tell a story that’s been silenced inside. Today, teenagers swarm to social media to share their fight with depression or struggle with suicidal thoughts.

8. Not Behaving Appropriately for Their Age

Of course, some little girls want to imitate their moms by dabbing on some lipstick or painting their cheeks with blush when they see their moms getting ready for the day. Wearing more revealing clothing or always wanting to put on perfume, makeup and doing their hair could possibly point to past abuse.

Some older children will revert to their younger behaviors like wetting the bed or sucking their thumb. These aren’t always signs of trauma, but these signs merging with some of the others mentioned here are good indicators of abuse.

If you hear of older friends being mentioned frequently begin to investigate. Yes, there are good mentors and influences out there, but someone showing an unhealthy amount of attention toward your underage child requires some additional attention from you. Normally, children form friendships with kids around their same age.

9. Turning to Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol can be used to not only numb pain from the past but make someone feel alive at the same time. Drugs and alcohol are a way to cope with the suppressed feelings and distressing thoughts. Drug and alcohol use can be a common coping mechanism for those who have experienced trauma in order to deal with disturbing thoughts.

If you are seeing unusual signs like these in the children around you, don’t ignore it – report it. Call your local CPS Office or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

Finding a Place of Healing

Christian counseling Newport Beach is just one way to begin a journey of healing and freedom. The Lord comes to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up our wounds (Psalm 147:3). If child abuse is a part of your story, Christian counseling Newport Beach offers a safe place to experience wholeness. Freedom is found by bringing things in the darkness into the light. Will you let someone help you today?

“Child of Light,” courtesy of Matheus Bertelli,, CC0 License; “Silent,” courtesy of Kat Smith,, CC0 License; “Wounded,” courtesy of Min An,, CC0 License; “Play time,” courtesy of,, CC0 License