Is Teen Counseling the Secret to Your Family’s Happiness?

Raising teens is not an easy task!

From crying toddlers to knee-scraped kids, suddenly they are asking for the car keys or trying to worm their way around missing the family dinner to hang out with friends. At times, you may feel like you are living with a stranger as their preferences may change on a monthly basis.

Or perhaps your teen is dealing with something more difficult. Instead of clear dreams, their future has become cloudier and full of doubt; instead of new friends at school, they have “enemies” in class; instead of broken toys, it is now a broken heart.

Fear not! While it is a tough task, you are not alone and you are not completely helpless. There are steps to help you help your teen. Consider the option of teen counseling as a way to help your son or daughter get professional help to work through whatever issues he or she may be facing.

What Does it Mean to be a Teen?

The standard definition of a teen for many years was someone between the ages of 13 to 19 years old – derived from the “teen” at the end of the number. But as the years have gone by, this range seems to have expanded in both directions.

Because of technology, particularly the internet and TV, younger children have begun to act like teenagers, copying the styles, mimicking the behavior, and generally trying to be older than their bodies suggest.

At the other end, the teenage years have grown to include the early 20’s. Due to financial constraints, many of these young adults still depend on their parents for the basics. And mentally, some still consider themselves teens, hence the term “tweens”, since they haven’t accepted the responsibility yet of being an adult.

Physically, teenagers are metamorphosing from a child to an adult. Voices are changing, hair is growing everywhere, muscles are strengthening, and curves are forming. At this time, they have become more conscious of their looks – either out of vanity, worry about acceptance, or both.

From another standpoint, teenagers have a distinct culture with rules and modes of interaction that differ greatly from kids and adults. Kids idolize them while adults think they are strange.

Moreover, though they are asked to behave like adults, they are also expected to respect parental and school authority like children. In this stage, they are beginning to define who they are, but family and societal expectations may put stress on that definition, causing them anxiety and doubt.

At the core of it all, teenagers are in the midst of discovering who they are on the outside, on the inside, and within their community.

Dealing with your Teen’s Problems

Because of all the complexities, these are delicate years for your child as they face issues that may help them grow or possibly scar them for life. Here are some ways to help:

1. Acknowledge the differences; Take note of the similarities

Today’s world is vastly different from before. Technology has made the world smaller. People have easy, unfiltered access to the beliefs, cultures, histories, and lives of people anywhere on the globe with the tap of their finger.

One can quickly connect with family, friends and new acquaintances from the comfort of home. And if the money is there, faster and more available transport can take people to the other side of the world in less than a day.

Furthermore, life now is less private than before. The allure of social media has people willingly sharing their beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and even actions for the world to see. And sometimes, even if we do NOT want such to be shared, camera phones and the social media of accounts of others may still subject our lives to public scrutiny.

Hence, it is no wonder why children seem to be “maturing” faster than before. They see what others are doing and envy their lives. They want to grow up and see the world NOW and not later on.

These changes, however, have also made things more confusing for them. They are comparing themselves to the ideals that mainstream media and social media are portraying and there is no one to tell them otherwise. So aside from envy, there is a lot more insecurity and doubt.

However, not everything is so different if we can just recall our personal past. Even before, being a teenager was a challenge. It was exciting yet frightening to experience the bodily changes.

Teens were as “cruel” in the past as they are now, ostracizing one another for being different. Conflict with parents was also there, regardless of how more hands-on our parents were before than we are now. And still, we had our own doubts about who we were and what we wanted to be, just like teens do now.

So we can help them now by revealing our personal struggles in the past and what we did to overcome them. This includes sharing the things we wanted to hear back then from our loved ones and why we might not have heard them.

2. Communicate with them

While technology has allowed us to get in touch a lot faster than before, it does not mean that such communication is authentic, especially when dealing with our complex teens.

Knowing where they are, who they are with, or their current emotional state online is still NOT the same as speaking to them directly about how they are inside. In fact, sometimes what is relayed to us through these devices might not exactly be what they are feeling because they know the world is watching them.

Sadly, many parents hesitate to take that step to bridge the communication gap. First, there is fear of either being rejected by our teens or driving them further away. Second, we might feel it is a waste of time and that eventually, they will just outgrow the stage in the same way we did in the past.

But if this is our mindset, then we are leaving our teens vulnerable to those who may give them wrong advice and possibly wrong emotional care. Just like us, most teens DO want to have true communication with their parents, they just don’t know how.

Rather than avoiding the issue, parents need to show them how. Start communicating but without expecting much in return. You cannot expect them to respond positively right away if your relationship is already strained.

It might seem awkward at times since only you are doing the talking, but know in your heart that they are listening. The hope, however, is that as you do share how you feel and who you are, your teen will eventually open up. Then the healing may begin.

But be careful not to reverse roles where your teen ends up being your personal therapist as you unload all your problems and fears. If that occurs, you might end up driving them further away as it is not the job of the child to fix their parents’ problems. Always check your personal motives for sharing and consider whether what you share is meant for the kids or someone else.

3. Be consistent

It is easy to say but quite difficult to do, yet it is something that people, especially teens, expect. Trust is built when the person we are dealing with is consistent in their actions and promises. In business, for example, we would not want to partner with someone who fails to deliver on time, provides shoddy services or products, or reneges on a deal. The same of course occurs in personal relationships.

As parents, we are to provide them boundaries to follow and to uphold them as necessary. We ought to be role models as well so that we can properly walk the talk. If we can do so, our teens will see the importance of it all.

But human as we are, it can be difficult at times. We too are burdened with issues of our own at work, at home, and even internally. Every time we say “yes” and then change our minds, we break their trust. Every time we increase their punishment arbitrarily based on our ever-changing mood, we break their trust again. Eventually, they will simply ignore us or rebel if we cannot be consistent.

4. Know their friends

When problems arise, teens often turn to their friends first as they believe their friends understand them more than their family. As parents, we may want this to change but if we just recall our own past experiences, we will realize that it is just part of the process of growing up and letting go.

However, to have some peace of mind, it is important to know their friends. This may be achieved by opening up your home so that you can get to know them better.

If this is not possible, then at least try to strike up a conversation every time you see them – just be careful not to be too intrusive nor share any embarrassing stories about your own teen. And in today’s times, befriending them on social media may also help to know them more.

If successful, you will find out what kind of advice and emotional support they are receiving. Additionally, it helps to know which of their friends is trustworthy and which to be wary of.

While you cannot force your teen to just drop their friend, if you have had good communication, you have been consistent, and you know the other friends well, then your teen may listen to you on important issues such as avoiding the wrong crowd.

5. Get some support

Despite all of the above, sometimes the problems might just be too much to handle. Severe depression, outright rebellion, illegal activities or addictions are things that most parents cannot solve on their own. In such a situation, professional support such as teen counseling is needed.

Teenagers are often able to open up more and respond to adults that are not their relatives. When coming from the mouth of another, teens feel that the advice has been validated by someone impartial to the situation.

Aside from individual teen counseling, family counseling also helps to clear the air between all parties involved. Hidden issues can be discussed in a neutral area with an educated arbitrator to guide everyone along. In this way, the problems have a better chance of being solved permanently.

Raising a teenager is a challenge but one that does not have to end in heartaches for all. Follow the tips and know that you are not the only one having difficulties. It will be hard at first but stick with it, knowing that it is for the benefit of your family.

Yet should you feel that you need more support, there is no shame in reaching out for help. It is better to address the situation quickly and properly before things become even worse. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for teen counseling. It might just make all the difference.

Photos
“Her own girl”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cyber”, Courtesy of Freestocks-org, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Daughter,” Courtesy of Mario Campello, flickr.com, (CC BY 2.0); “Teens Having Fun,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)

Parenting Tips for the Frustrated Parent

Unlike adults who are usually able to communicate what they feel, young children often react differently especially when they wish to express their negative feelings. Instead of talking in a calm manner, they may instead pout, argue or even fight. Rather than saying “I’m hungry” or “This is bothering me,” they yell or throw a tantrum instead.

It can really be frustrating to be at home hoping for a quiet evening, yet the kids are constantly misbehaving, quarreling with each other, or answering back at you in an inappropriate way. As a parent, you may be wondering why the children cannot follow simple commands or why they intentionally seem to be ignoring your rules.

While it may seem natural to blame the kids for their hard-headedness, sometimes it is the incorrect or inconsistent way that we have communicated the do’s and don’ts which is causing them to behave the way they do. Fortunately, this can be changed.

Helpful, Therapeutic Parenting Tips

When dealing with children (and even adults!), there are three very important things to remember: unconditional positive regard, faith in the person’s potential to change, and empathy. If these are not factored in there will be a lot of difficulty in creating positive change.

When interacting with their children, parents must convey unconditional positive regard. What this means is that parents must be able to listen to the positive and negative experiences of the children without branding them as “good” or “bad”.

If this can be done, then the children will feel safe when sharing their feelings and experiences. If not, the kids may hold back from telling the entire truth, preventing change from occurring.

Next, parents must remember that their children have the potential to change while they are still young and there is still time to transform. If parents remember this, there will be less pressure on parents to “make the kids understand and learn now.”

Remembering this potential to change will also encourage a positive partnership with the children so that they may grow and transform at the proper pace. Without this, parents will really feel the stress of not having well-behaved kids and this, in turn, will affect them as there will be a sense of disappointment emanating from the parents.

Lastly, parents need to empathize with their kids and NOT ignore their feelings. If children feel that importance is given to what they are going through, they will feel valued and seen. Without this, they may feel unloved and may harbor resentment towards their parents.

The Proper Way to Set Limits for the Kids

The method to follow is from the ACT model of Garry Landreth, a leading specialist in play therapy. The three parts of this model are: Acknowledge the child’s feelings, Communicate the limit, and Target the alternatives. Here, however, there is an additional final step for Consequences.

1. Acknowledge the child’s feelings

Here you reflect to your son or daughter what you believe they are feeling or thinking to create a connection with them. Do this by attuning yourself to your child’s words, body language and facial expressions. If done properly, your child will feel that you really understand what they are going through. This also connects their emotions to their actions or behavior which is a crucial step to change.

For example:

  • “I know you are angry at your dad and me. You want to throw your toys at us.”
  • “I know you are mad about not finishing your TV show. You want to turn off the TV now.”

2. Communicate the limit

But though their feelings have been acknowledged, it is important that they know they cannot cross a certain boundary. The parents are not telling their child it is not okay to be angry or upset. Instead, they are saying that despite the negative feelings, they are not allowed to behave in the wrong manner.

For example:

  • … “But you cannot just throw toys at people, especially your mom and dad.”
  • … “But you cannot just turn the TV off if mom and dad are watching something.”

3. Target Alternatives

Once the harmful behavior has been stated, an alternative must be given to redirect the child’s anger or frustration. The child’s desire to lash out is a natural feeling, even for adults, but the child must learn that the feeling must and can be expressed in a responsible way.

For example:

  • … “You can hit your pillow instead.”
  • … “You can yell in your room instead.”

While choices are part of the method, setting limits is more than just that. At an early age, if the child knows that there are choices available, the child will begin to differentiate between acting on impulse and opting for proper behavior. This allows them to control their actions in the future.

Additionally, when the child is able to learn the differences, there is less burden on the parents to always control their child’s behavior in social situations. The parent is essentially thinking and communicating that their child has the potential to understand and change their behavior, provided the parents are patient and consistent in what is taught and what is expected.

4. The Consequences

A final step involves consequences as most children may not always follow right away. Should the child choose to cross the boundary despite the acknowledged feelings, the communicated limit, and a provided alternative; then a consequence may be given.

For example:

  • … “Since you chose to throw your toys, you cannot play with them this afternoon.”
  • … “Since you turned off the TV, you will not be allowed to watch cartoons after dinner.”

Though it may seem awkward at first, as time goes by, this method of communicating the appropriate behavior and resulting consequences will become more natural, especially when the parent sees the effects on their child’s behavior.

Many parents have used this method on their kids and have seen amazing results. Not only does it allow children to face and overcome difficult emotions and behaviors, it also allows parents to view their children in a more positive light, knowing that their children can change.

Photos:
“Girl,” courtesy of Patrick Fore, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reconciled,” courtesy of Eye for Ebony, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fearful Boy”, Courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Upset,” courtesy of Theorivierenlaan, pixabay.com, CC0 License

Common Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Can you recall what emotions bubbled up on the first day of high school? Or maybe the first day on the job or the moment you walked through the door for a major interview? For most people, those fears that trickled into their mind can’t be remembered. It was all just a fairly normal response that’s chalked up to first-time jitters.

Can you imagine what it would be like if those were a part of you all the time? If you are a parent of a child who struggles with anxiety, it can be overwhelming just trying to decipher what’s happening inside their mind and body when they think about a social setting.

It’s hard to experience life with a certain set of emotions that are often misunderstood by teachers, friends and even parents. Some teachers are unable to recognize the signs of anxiety, which is why it’s important for the parent to become involved in the school system policies and advocate for support.

There is a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines anxiety disorders as being different than normative fear or anxiety because they are excessive and last beyond developmentally appropriate times.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Let’s cover seven different ways anxiety can affect a child’s education and, ultimately, their life.

Extreme worry about themselves, their parents, or family members

Children with anxiety disorders may overestimate the danger of a situation or avoid it completely. They may have irrational thoughts about their parents encountering danger, such as them dying in a car crash, getting lost, or a sibling being kidnaped from the home. Because of this extreme worry separation anxiety can form. If separation anxiety is present, it makes it difficult for a child to focus and participate in class.

Having nightmares and lacking sleep

Children with anxiety disorder often have active imaginations and extreme emotions. These two components combine to create vivid nightmares and lack of sleep. Without proper sleep, a child can’t perform well at school or remain clear-minded. Their concentration will deteriorate as the day progresses.

Experiencing panic attacks

For those who have an anxiety disorder, the panic attacks can be a response to the thoughts that cause extreme fear. Let’s say the child forget their homework at home.

This could cause a panic attack as they wonder if there will be consequences from the school or from home. Their thoughts could lead them down a path of receiving a bad grade on their report card.

Inability to focus and concentrate

How can a child focus or concentrate when anxiety is overstimulating them? Separation anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder in children. Children with separation anxiety normally have some disruption in their education by refusing to go to school. Children who do make it to school may still endure complications due to lack of focus. It’s difficult to focus on what is being taught when your mind is in a constant state of worry about someone elsewhere.

Loss of social experience

If a child is constantly worried about something unfavorable happening to her or a family member, this will spill over into their social life. A child with anxiety may be reluctant to sleep at a friend’s house or go anywhere away from the home. This behavior will negatively impact healthy social interaction.

Lack of communication in social settings

Selective mutism is fairly rare and children often outgrow it. It usually appears in children before the age of five but isn’t recognized until a child goes to school. If a child has selective mutism he might fail to speak in social settings where it’s expected. Does your child talk in the car, but once he gets to school completely stops talking?

This is one indicator a child could be struggling with selective mutism. The high level of social anxiety keeps the child silent in situations with people outside their immediate circle. A child’s isolation can cause them to have social impairment in adulthood if not treated.

Being misunderstood

It’s a scary world for a child to live in when they are constantly misunderstood. Teachers and other students may not completely understand the needs of a child with anxiety. Frustration can boil below the surface, or worse, the child can be mislabeled as being defiant.

What children with anxiety need are support, comfort, and understanding. Without fully understanding what is happening to your child in the anxious moment, you and others may struggle with how to be of constructive use.

While you can’t cater to your child’s every need, there are steps you can learn in therapy to help ease anxiety in your child and prepare them to separate from you.

All of the worry and fear that a child with anxiety experiences can be exhausting for a child who is just simply trying to manage those feelings. If you think your child could be struggling in school due to anxiety, it’s important to reach out to a Christian Counselor in San Diego you can trust.

Once anxiety is understood, it can be better managed. Scheduling an appointment with a counselor is the first step toward healing for your child and your family. Everybody can come together to learn how to navigate anxiety and attack it as a team.

Photos
“Fearful Boy”, Courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Deep-thinking,” courtesy of Eneas De Troya, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC 2.0); “Crowd,” courtesy of Thomas Lefebvre, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Anxious”, Courtesy of Kat J, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse and What to Do About it

Not only is sexual abuse traumatic for victims, but for parents, educators, and caregivers sexual abuse is their worst nightmare. Knowing that sexual perpetrators live in your neighborhood could, and should, be an eye-opener to any parent.

Taking advantage of the public records of local law enforcement is a good place to start to locate sexual perpetrators that live in your area. Below is a list of other characteristics of a sexual perpetrator, their behavior, and the victims of sexual abuse.

The Profile of a Sexual Offender

Sexual perpetrators come from all walks of life. In fact, they can look like anyone. They can be of young age or old, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and rich or poor. Inappropriate sexual behavior can be seen in children as young as eight.

Sex offenders identified as having a high risk of offense, or Level 3, can be children as young as ten. It is imperative to teach a child that if they ever sense something is wrong, regardless of how old the person, they should pay attention to their instincts and immediately cease contact with that person.

Childhood Sexual Abuse: Know the Signs

It is important to pay attention to patterns in a child’s behavior to identify the presence of sexual abuse. Behavioral changes can often be attributed to sexual abuse. Children who have suffered from abuse will often manifest combinations of any of the following symptoms:

Becoming reserved and unnaturally quiet

If your child is normally chatty, and suddenly turns reserved, it is time to take notice of the reason for this change.

Heightened fear and apprehension

Among the most obvious signs that a child has been abused is fear. They can gradually become hyper-vigilant, continually on the alert for threats. As evening and the time for bed, this fear normally intensifies.

Victims of sexual abuse can be hyper-focused on making sure they feel safe and protected. They may possibly sleep with their backs to the door, or insist on checking to make sure that everything is locked up tight. They may also sleep with some sort of weapon next to them or under their pillow to defend themselves if necessary.

PTSD symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was first identified by professionals when war veterans returning from combat were undergoing overwhelming fear, panic, anxiety, and stress related to the trauma of combat. Abused children often display these exact symptoms and disturbances.

Heightened sensations of panic, anxiety, and stress are a few of the symptoms that victims of abuse can experience after the trauma occurs from various stimuli, caused by emotional “triggers”. Triggers include (but are not limited to) such things as sights, smells, movies, and songs, or people who resemble, behave like or remind them in some way of the offender.

Bad sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, and continual memories of the assault

Related to the above symptom, abused children will often have interrupted sleep or difficulty sleeping. Difficulty falling asleep and/or remaining asleep can leave them overly tired the following day. Bad dreams and fear of the dark are also common in those abused.

Flashbacks involving strong memories of the abuse can occur unexpectedly. The sexual assault can overwhelm their thoughts, making it hard to focus while at school or to feel motivated to do school work. These reoccurring thoughts can make it tough to think of anything else besides the abuse.

Depression

Children who have been the victims of sexual abuse can often show symptoms of depression. Additionally, they are (depending on the severity, frequency, and duration) more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and to make actual attempts at suicide.

Possible signs of abuse in teenagers and even older adolescents include wearing dark clothing, experimenting with cutting (and other forms of self-harm), and excessive amounts of piercings or tattoos.

Tearfulness, crying, detachment, or apathy

It is common for children who have endured trauma to be characterized by excessive crying and being easily moved to tears. Should the abuse continue for a long period of time, as the victim gets older they can develop the opposite of this behavior. Behaviors and attitudes can become more calloused and hardened.

Sexual abuse can make children appear to be emotionally deadened because the struggle with the unwanted sexual actions can simply hurt them too much emotionally. Children may detach emotionally as if someone else had experienced the abuse rather than them. This can lead to dissociative disorders developing later in life.

Aggravated aggression, hostility, and agitation

The abused child sees the world as an inherently hostile place. Lack of trust and frustration can lead the victim to develop explosive anger over the simplest things. Thoughts that others are intent on harming them, can leave the victim suspicious of everyone that they meet.

Because most sexual offenders are male, it’s common for victims of sexual abuse to react to most males with distrust and dislike. If both parents are still together in the home, the victim may become increasingly hostile or aggressive even to the non-abusive parent.

Children of abuse will develop grudges and sometimes hatred towards the non-abusing parent and other non-abusing caregivers out of the subconscious feeling that those individuals did not protect them from the sexual abuse. They may engage in fights, they may hit things, destroy others’ property, yell, and get into heated arguments.

Guilt, shame, hurt

These sorts of feelings are normal for child victims of sexual abuse. They will often blame themselves for the sexual abuse and develop guilt and shame that is misplaced or inappropriate. Often these feelings will be instilled in them by the perpetrator, telling them that they bear responsibility for the perpetrator’s actions.

It can even happen that the perpetrator will blackmail the abused, threatening to hurt or tell someone important to them if they do not continue to be compliant. The perpetrator may try to rationalize the abuse and claim that the abused even enjoyed the actions they were subjected to, or even that it was the abused child’s idea.

In these situations, child victims may blame themselves for everything and for everyone else’s behavior.

Persistent enuresis and/or encopresis

Enuresis and encopresis are the inability to control urination or bowel movements. Bed-wetting or defecating in the bed (that are not related to normal potty-training issues) is seen in children (even among those who are teens) who either are currently, or have been abused sexually.

However, these aren’t sure signs, and one should not automatically assume that they indicated that a child is a sexual abuse victim. However, if seen in older children who are beyond the normal potty-training years that are experiencing this issue, a further medical inquiry is warranted.

Genital or anal pain or trouble swallowing

This sign should raise huge red flags, especially in the cases of young children, because it is a potential indicator of a recent abuse. If it is unexplained, a medical investigation is highly recommended.

Fear of closeness and intimacy

Children who have experienced abuse normally find it difficult to develop intimate relationships. Though they might be very extroverted, likable, friendly, and a lot of fun, they tend to be withdrawn emotionally and maintain a distance from others.

The child may think that doing so prevents them from coming to any future harm. Also, children that have experienced sexual abuse often struggle to accept intimacy or physical contact. Their dislike of such contact may lead them to divert attempts at affection or react strongly to innocent touch.

Excessive and irrational pursuit of touching, intimacy, or hugging

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the victim can be extremely clingy and crave physical affection. These kinds of victims display a poor understanding of both social and physical boundaries, struggling to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate physical displays of affection.

They might wrongly assume that anyone offering them any kind of physical affection (event the appropriate kind) is really expressing romantic love to them, and so they may respond in turn with types of touch that are inappropriate.

Aversion to sex or sexual promiscuity

These two extremes are commonly seen in children and adults that are victims of sexual abuse. Teenage girls that have a history of sexual abuse are more prone to impulsive sexual encounters with males. The strong need for physical attention brings them to such encounters as a means of satisfying their need for affection in the only way that they know how.

In one study, more than half of women in the sex trade reported having experienced sexual abuse as a child. The opposite is often true, especially in males with a history of sexual abuse. These men may be repulsed by the idea of sex or any kind of physical affection. This struggle within males tends to lead to marital conflicts where sex and affection are desired by their spouse.

Sexual acting out

History of sexual abuse can surface in preschool children as they struggle with the social skills required for early development. It is very common to see inappropriate boundaries with others and substandard social skills with regard to inappropriate public behavior (i.e. exposing their bottom, touching a friend’s privates, etc.). Boys with a history of sexual abuse are noted to have higher displays of inappropriate sexual displays than girls.

Also, children that have been abused can display forward and even aggressive behavior with regard to sex. These children struggle with thoughts and actions motivated by power, control, and dominance over their victim, which can follow them into adulthood. Sexual acting out toward others, wherever noticed, requires immediate, careful investigation, confrontation, and correction.

Acting much older or younger

Children with a history of abuse may struggle with displaying social skills that are age-appropriate. They may have difficulties relating to other children their own age or they may socialize with or befriend much younger children.

They may behave in a way that is less mature than other kids their age. Older adolescents may still display an attachment to “blankies” or stuffed animals. Some teenagers may continue to suck their thumbs.

However, the opposite types of behavior may also be seen, in which victims act much older than their age, relate better to adults, and even carry on adult conversations. Girls even as young as six may try to dress like adult women (doing their nails, wearing makeup, etc.).

Advanced knowledge of sex

It is not difficult to imagine that a child of abuse can have considerable and precise knowledge about sex that is greater than that of their peers. If your child is of young and discloses to you that a peer has exact knowledge of sexual acts, it is time to intervene.

Disturbing types of play

In young victims of abuse, conflicts that they have experienced may be acted out in the form of play. If you notice a 5-year-old girl playing Barbie in such a way that Barbie and Ken are being inappropriate, it is time to notify the necessary professionals and to investigate the situation.

Disturbing types of creativity

You will often see the ups and downs of children’s daily lives being expressed in the art that they create, such as in paintings or drawings. These sources of mental revelation are viewed as useful by therapists when counseling possible sexual abuse. As an adult, you should pay attention to:

  • Drawings, paintings, and sculptures

These creations may carry dark, aggressive, or disturbing themes

  • Stories, songs, poems, social media, or journal entries

Older children, adolescents, and teens may write stories or poems, or compose songs that either refer to or clearly tell about what they have struggled with since the abuse. Social media accounts are a popular outlet for teenagers today in which to express their internal struggles in an attempt to seek help from someone that they can trust. Leaving these things where they can be found may not always be accidental.

  • Disproportionately coarse sexualized language

The state of today’s culture makes this sign difficult to really identify. Children from the inner-city grow up in a culture that is radically different from those who grow up in, for example, an upper-class suburb. However, if your 5-year-old swears like a drunken sailor or uses language that indicates that he has been exposed to pornography, this should send up red flags.

Dramatic changes in appetite

Children and teenagers that have experienced sexual abuse can also struggle with their relationship to food. They may eat either too little or too much. It is possible for children who have been sexually abused to develop an eating disorder in response.

Behaviors such as starving themselves or binge eating and purging can be a result of distorted body image. On the other hand, they may eat too much as a way of coping with difficult emotions.

Issues of power and control

Kids who are the victims of sexual abuse commonly have issues related to both power and also to control. Since sexual abuse can leave a person feeling powerless and afraid, they may display an over-compliance with the other peoples’ demands, they may be non-assertive, and they may always try to put other people’s wants before their own. However, it’s also quite common for child sexual abuse victims to relentlessly fight for control and to argue with others frequently.

Evasiveness, dropping hints, seeking attention

Attention-seeking behaviors are quite common in older kids that have experienced sexual abuse. They may hint at previous abuse to friends or other adults with whom they have a strong relationship in order to test the waters before fully disclosing the abuse.

They want to be seen and noticed, but they can instantly flip the switch and turn evasive, elusive, and completely shut down. They can display secretive and/or manipulative in order to hold on to even a scrap of power or control in their lives, which they see as out of control.

Hygiene problems

Hygiene issues in children are another clue that, when taken with respect to the symptoms listed above, can hint at a history of sexual abuse. If a child is wearing clothes that are dirty, or their appearance is unkempt, or they constantly smell, this could be a personal preference.

However, children or teenagers dealing with sexual abuse may use this coping mechanism as a way to prevent themselves from being seen as desirable by the perpetrator, thus making them feel safe from the abuse.

Excessive socializing with a much older friend

Children having older friends is not always a sign of sexual abuse. However, it is important to note your child’s social interactions with older peers in person and online.

Although there are relationships with older friends or adults that can be innocent and positive for the growth of a child, they may not always be innocent. Whoever you are, you should remain vigilant and carefully assess whomever the children in your life are friends with, in order to prevent them being subjected to sexual abuse.

Receiving gifts, money, and/or possessing pornography

Perpetrators of abuse may use such items to lure their victims into engaging in sexual acts with them. Children may not understand what may be happening to them and be influenced by the tactics of the abuser such that they come to believe that these kinds of activity are normal.

Abusers hook their victims with pornography in order to make these sorts of sexual relations seem normal. They may even hope to get them addicted to the lifestyle.

Running away

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that nearly 50% of runaway or homeless youth claim to have been abused sexually.

Gender rejection or confusion

Struggles with sexual identity confusion or rejection are products of sexual abuse that are not mentioned as frequently as the ones described above. However, it is not unheard of for young victims of sexual abuse be confused about their sexual identity.

Sexually abused girls may think of themselves as ugly, damaged or ruined. Sometimes they may see their beauty as something that has led to the abuse and may begin to view physical beauty as more of a curse.

As a result, they may cut their hair short, dye it unnatural colors, and begin to dress in unflattering or socially unacceptable ways. Also, they may see begin to resent their female identity as something that is threatening or weak, so they begin to adopt male qualities and behaviors.

Sexually abuse males, however, may start to question their manhood. Confusing (perhaps even pleasurable) physiological reactions during the abuse, they may wonder if they are homosexual. The way in which childhood sexual abuse affects the evolution of same-sex attraction has been noted by many.

In a study by the National Institutes of Health on sexual behavior, Roberts, Glymour, and Koenen (2013) found that there is a positive correlation between childhood sexual abuse and adult same-sex attractions. Homosexuals reported 1.6 to 4 times more occurrences of childhood physical and sexual abuse over that of heterosexuals.

If you notice any of these signs in any of the children in your life – report it immediately!. Call your local CPS Office or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

References

Andrea L. Roberts, M. Maria Glymour, and Karestan C. Koenen. Does Maltreatment in Childhood Affect Sexual Orientation in Adulthood? Arch Sex Behav. 2013 Feb; 42(2): 161–171. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535560/.

Photos
“White Van”, Courtesy of Drew Brown, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Hurt”, Courtesy of Dmitry Ratushny, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Coloring”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Cash”, Courtesy of Vitaly Taranov, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Common Symptoms of ADHD and Effective Treatment Options

A child bolts around the classroom even after repeated directions to remain seated. He has verbal outbursts and constantly interrupts other students who are talking. This child could be displaying forms of ADHD.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) considers ADHD “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” People with ADHD may show both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity, or one may dominate.

Symptoms of ADHD

The NIH breaks ADHD down into three types: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD affects millions of children and often carries over into adulthood. Symptoms may decrease but are usually present to some degree.

Here are a few symptoms to look for to help recognize if you, or someone you know, has ADHD.

ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation:

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Finds paying attention challenging
  • Struggles to listen
  • Rarely follows through with given instructions
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring consistent mental effort
  • Regularly loses belongings
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation:

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs about or climbs excessively in children; extreme restlessness in adults
  • Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor; adults will often feel inside as if they are driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Difficulty waiting or taking turns Interrupts or intrudes upon others

If the individual meets the criteria for both inattention and hyperactive-impulsive she has combined ADHD presentations. Children with ADHD can face more challenging scenarios in life.

Finding it hard to focus in the classroom or to sit still can lead to poor academic performance. Some teachers and students may even pass judgment on a child with ADHD. Some peers and adults will refuse to accept a child with ADHD because of their behavior, which can result in low self-esteem.

How to Treat ADHD

ADHD does not need to be left untreated. Many therapies and methods exist to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve the quality of life.

1. Behavior therapy

Teachers and parents can implement behavioral strategies to give consistency and establish clear rules in the home and school environment. A token reward system is one strategy to use to give positive and negative feedback. If instructions or a task are completed a marble goes into the jar. If a task is not completed, two marbles are taken out. A reward is given based on the number of marbles in the jar at the end of the day.

2. Psychotherapy

Older children with ADHD can benefit from psychotherapy. Itcreates an environment where they can express their frustrations, explore behavior patterns and come up with solutions to combat their symptoms.

3. Parenting skills training

A young child with ADHD needs overwhelming support from his family. Often, the child might feel ridiculed at school. It’s important to create a safe place at home by learning your child’s behaviors and how you can react.

4. Family therapy

Not every member of the family might be as understanding of the one with ADHD. Setting aside time to meet with a family therapist will help manage stress levels. The child needs to know he is loved and accepted by the family.

5. Social skills training

Learning proper social behaviors will help children assimilate into the classroom culture.

6. Relaxation exercises

Never underestimate the power of relaxation. Trying different yoga exercise or forms of breathing can help a child with ADHD calm down.

7. Modified diet

For those with ADHD, most experts suggest a modified diet which involves eliminating foods thought to increase hyperactivity, such as sugar, and common allergens such as wheat, milk, and eggs. Some diets recommend avoiding artificial food colorings and additives. Caffeine use as a stimulant for children with ADHD can have adverse effects and is not recommended in the diet.

8. Exercise

Encourage children to move. Not only is exercise a massive health benefit, regular exercise may have a positive effect on behavior in children with ADHD when added to treatment.

What Should Christians Know About ADHD and its Treatment?

The number of children diagnosed with ADHD in the United States continues to rise. Turning to forms of medication for ADHD has taken families and schools by storm to such an extent that kids are routinely referred for psychiatric care. Most people default to the idea the child has a brain disease and needs medication to cure a chemical imbalance.

Not every doctor agrees that medication is the course to follow for a child with ADHD. Dr. Leon Eisenberg, known as the scientific father of ADHD, viewed ADHD as a fictitious diagnosis which consists only of identifying a list of behavioral symptoms. Indeed, a medical diagnosis does not seem to capture the essence of this problem and is too simple an answer to a complicated issue.

Christians often contemplate the use of ADHD medication for children. Some believe medication used during the younger years will become a gateway drug in the future or have adverse side effects to their child’s development.

Medication is not always the answer, especially for such a complex issue like ADHD. Here are a few practices Christians can put in place to help their child struggling with ADHD.

Become the advocate

Your child will need to know he has your support no matter what. Become his voice at school to ensure teachers are working toward your child’s success as well. Often, children with ADHD are alienated or seen as a nuisance. You can become a part of a team that decides what kind of services the school has in place for children with ADHD.

Boost self-esteem

Constant negative feedback can take a toll on a child’s confidence. Just imagine if you were in a setting where almost everything you did was seen as wrong or bad. Set aside special time during the day for one-on-one connection. Notice how your child is gifted and nurture that gift.

Praise every success

Notice and give praise for your child’s success, no matter how small it might seem to you. Encouragement can work wonders, especially if the child is accustomed to negative comments. It takes even more praise to reverse the effects of negative feedback.

Christians should take time to perform their own research about treatment plans for ADHD. Every family must make an individual choice of whether medication is the right next step for their child.

Impulsive and inattentive children need parental love, guidance, and discipline before any type of medical intervention. Christian counselors in San Deigo can help navigate behaviors and create different strategies to implement during daily interactions with children with ADHD.

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“Can’t Study,” courtesy of amenclinicsphotos ac, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “School,” courtesy of amenclinicsphotos ac, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Medication,” courtesy of jarmoluk, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Street scene,” courtesy of London Scout, unsplash.com, CC0 License