family Articles

The Faithful Family: Christian Counseling and Raising Godly Children

As I think about some of the families that I have worked with and even my own family, one thing that has always been consistent is the formation of family rules, values, and norms. Christian families will often use the Bible as a guide for creating their values, which also includes ideas around what it looks like to raise their children.

The Bible talks quite a bit about families. Families in the Bible traveled together (the children of Israel), went through hardships (Noah and his family on the Ark), experienced betrayal (Cain and Abel), and were sometimes completely torn apart by tragedy (remember Job?).

I believe God knew that families would be searching for examples and answers to make it through their own family struggles, so He included many real life stories in the Bible. The Bible gives specific instructions to parents on how they should raise their children in some areas, but other areas seem to be a little less clear.

What does the Bible say, if anything, about counseling? Did anyone receive counsel from wise people? The Bible includes many incidents where someone is gaining wisdom or knowledge from a trusted person, often directly from God through a chosen person (I am reminded of Paul's letters to the church).

I think Christians everywhere would agree that...

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Anger Management for Kids: How Christian Counseling Can Help

The reasons and causes for a child to be prone to angry outbursts are too numerous to discuss in one article. Children are born with different innate dispositions, may be dealing with a disability that constantly frustrates them, or may be reacting to a dramatic change to their life. These are some examples of life factors that result in an angry child who is difficult to manage.

Having an approach specific to the particular cause is an important consideration when dealing with anger management for kids. However, we can find some universal parenting principles in the Bible that are necessary ingredients for helping children develop coping skills to function in the world.

In my 20 years in working with families, a common theme I have found with children and teenagers with anger problems is inconsistent parenting. A lot of permissive parents focus on being connected to their child, but shift to be controlling in a crisis. Conversely, authoritarian parents don’t know how to be positively connected to their kids when things are going well and provide little support toward autonomy.

Many parents shift back and forth between the two styles inconsistently, leaving the child without stable boundaries to figure things out. The result is that the child is constantly frustrated t...

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10 Ways Anxiety in Children Affects Their Education and Life

Do you remember what emotions you felt on the first day of middle school? How about something a little more recent, like your first day of work at a new job? Maybe by now the scary thoughts and fear you had then are no longer part of your memory because they were fairly normal responses to what was happening that day, but can you imagine what it would be like if those feelings were a part of you all the time, even when they do not make sense?

What if you were a young child trying to go to school every day or to a friend’s birthday party on the weekend, but fear made it difficult for you go?

Perhaps you are the parent of a child struggling with anxiety and you're wondering exactly what is happening inside of their mind and body when they think about a social setting. It can be hard for everyone when a child in the family is experiencing anxiety symptoms, but even harder when their school teacher or their best friend doesn’t understand what is going on and they are not supportive of their emotional needs.

Teachers often do not know what is happening with the child and they can underestimate the effects of anxiety on the student and their peers. Teachers can mistake anxiety for many other things and sometimes do not have the knowledge yet on how to recognize anxiety in ...

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The Benefits of Marriage and Family Counseling Together

One of the hallmarks of marriage and family counseling is the idea that everything is connected. When a family is in a stressful situation, the stress might rear its head as a child acting out, as a relationship in turmoil, siblings fighting, or it can emerge in any other sort of relationship or individual. Further, when something is affecting the couple or marriage, it will likely affect any children or individuals from the family of origin.

This sort of interconnectedness is often called “systems” thinking or theory. Troubles go up and down, left and right in the hierarchy of the family, and it only follows then that coming around to support the family in therapy should include a multi-pronged approach.

When I work with couples and families, often they come in trying to say who the problem is, rather than what the problem is. In most instances, anything somebody has done can be boiled down to a symptom of a larger issue within the system.

A lack of affection from one individual might stem from a lack of trust in the relationship on both parts. Someone constantly blaming someone can be the symptom of neither partner listening. Rather than the “problem” residing in one person or the other, I like to frame it as the relationship that needs mending.

When sittin...

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A Look at Signs of Bipolar Disorder and the Latest Treatments

Imagine that you are sitting in a sailboat. Looking out at the water, you envision where you want to go. You set the rudder, lift the anchor, put up the sails and away you go. If the wind is strong, you can move quickly to your destination. Perhaps the wind picks up and up and you're suddenly feeling less like a sailor and more like a pilot. The wind is carrying you faster and faster and this has become an incredibly fun thrill ride! You look down at the water and enjoy watching the waves go by as you speedily fly atop the waves, nothing holding you back. However, the wind eventually dies down. After some time, it crawls to a stop and you are stuck.

With no wind in your sails, you float in the ocean all alone. You feel isolated. You look at your boat and realize that that high speed thrill ride you were on a short while ago left your hull damaged, chunks of wood flown off, and you neglected basic maintenance for some time. Perhaps you try blowing into the sails, but nothing can get your boat going again.

Eventually, the winds pick up and once again you're flying. But soon they die and again you're stuck. This process goes on and on for some time. It wears on you, and you never get where you wanted to go in the first place. Ultimately, you are at the whims of the wi...

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What is a Codependent Relationship? Do We All Need Boundaries?

When I was a kid, I read a comic book about a criminal foursome exposed to cosmic rays who ended up with super powers. As you may have guessed, the story was part of the Fantastic Four series. One scene in particular stands out; there was a woman whose ability was to convert herself into any gas she chose. Near the end, as their powers are overwhelming and destroying them, her husband is suffocating because his repulse ability is pushing all the oxygen away from him. In a desperate attempt to save him, she converts herself to oxygen, but his power disperses her on the wind like so much vapor. At its worst, this is what a codependent relationship is like.

What is Codependency?

Clinically, codependency is a relationship dynamic where one person subverts himself or herself in service to another, at the expense of their own well-being. A spouse to a substance user who goes out and buys the substance for him or her is codependent. Spouses who make it their job to keep everyone happy in the marriage (or the family) are codependent. Battered spouses who stay in the relationship are codependent, dispersed on the wind like the woman in the story.

There is such a thing as a harmless, or mostly harmless, codependent relationship, but the impact can be insidious long-term. At t...

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ADHD Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments: What Every Christian Should Know

What is ADHD?

The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) lists Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a “Neuro-developmental Disorder” and refers to it as a neurological disease. It notes that it is not only found in children, but in adolescents and adults.

The DSM-5 states that “individuals with ADHD may present with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, or one symptom pattern may predominate … Three presentations of ADHD are commonly referred to: combined-type, inattentive-type and hyperactive/impulsive-type … the appropriate presentation of ADHD should be indicated based on the predominant symptom pattern for the last six months.”

Summarizing the DSM-5’s description of ADHD, the ADHD Institute defines it as “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development, has symptoms presenting in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities), and negatively impacts directly on social, academic, or occupational functioning. Several symptoms must have been present before age 12 years.”

The National Institute of Men...

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