How can I help my stressed child

Stressed childI am often asked, How can I help my stressed child? We live in a culture full of stress. There is pressure to be involved, pressure to be the best, and pressure to fit in. Some claim that the current generation is exposed to more stress than any previous generation.

Psychologists define stress as “the demand made on an organism to adapt, cope, or adjust.”

When we think about stress in this way it is easy to see that since we live in an ever-changing world and culture the ability to adapt at a young age may be more important than ever.

Psychologists also acknowledge that not all stress is bad and actually claim that some stress (Eustress) is good. Eustress is the type of stress that propels one forward to accomplish the next stage of development or to learn a new and exciting skill. Eustress can be exciting and motivating where as stress can be overwhelming, debilitating and pervasive. So what can be done to help a child that is experiencing the negative type of stress? Researchers have discovered a number of things that when practiced on consistent basis moderate the level of stress that one is experiencing. That is these things help to reduce the negative impacts of ongoing stressful situations.

Self-efficacy expectations:

When one believes that they can, they can. We can instill in our children a sense of “you can do it”. This can be done by supporting them through the learning and development of a new skill or hobby. (Check out this post on Self esteem to learn more)

Psychological Hardiness:

Hardiness is comprised of the characteristics of commitment, challenge and control. According to research people who are strongly committed to their activities, view challenges as a part of life to spur personal growth, and those that believe they have control over their lives were more hardy and resistant to stress.


Researchers found truth in the biblical saying “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” Proverbs 17:22.   One study found that those with an ability to see humor in a stressful situation were less impacted by that stressful situation.

 Emotional support:

Research has also found that support from trusted family members and friends, decreases the level of stress and depression that people report experiencing in the last month.

How to help your stressed child?

Believe in your stressed child so they can believe in themselves. Provide unique challenges for them and support them in accomplishing these things to build that sense of “I can do it”. Encourage your child to see challenges as opportunities for growth and view them that way for yourself and your family. Laugh at yourself, keep a light heart, and share the connection of humor. Lastly, be there with a listening ear and word of encouragement when the road gets tough. They may act like they don’t need you but we all need the support of our family and friends.


If your child may need the assistance of a professional counselor call 217-231-1413 to talk with Brandy


How to build your child’s self-esteem?

self-esteemSelf-esteem is a concept that is regularly discussed in our culture. Many parents fill their child’s life with activities, play dates, and positive affirmations in the hopes of creating greater confidence. In many cases however, it does not seem to work. The harder we work to build our kids up the lower their self-regard. This post is intended to give you a framework for how to build your child’s self-esteem.

What is Self-esteem?

Self-esteem is made up of a child’s academic and non-academic self-concept, that is, how the child views himself in those two domains. Each domain is broken down further into more specific areas. Academic self-concept is divided into the subjects of math, science, english, and social studies. Non-academic self-concept includes the areas of social, emotional, and physical self-concepts. Global self-esteem is a combination of how the child experiences himself in these areas combined.

What makes Self-esteem?

We know what self-esteem is but what makes one child have more than another. Researchers have found

“The greater the discrepancy between adequacy in some domain and importance of that domain, the greater the negative impact on self-esteem” (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).  

 In other words children grow in self confidence when they experience success in a domain that is highly important to them.

Support and Competence

The role of parents then, is to discover which domain is most important to their child and to support it. Does your child love math but hate soccer? Then, practicing soccer with them may not be the most important thing on the list. You may want to spend more time doing math together and joining them in that love. Discover what is important to your child and support them in that area.

Support from parents is a key way to build self-confidence and so is competence. When a child feels competent in an area that is important to them, their confidence is enhanced. So, focus on providing lessons, activities, and competence building experiences in the areas that are important to your child. As they build competence in these areas they will grow in confidence. If we focus too much energy on too many areas the child may be overwhelmed and tired.

Get help building your child’s self-esteem by talking with Brandy Kruse

Learn about counseling for children HERE

If you are looking for help call 217-231-1413 today

Sharing Faith With Your Children

Faith: Proverbs 22:6I have had the wonderful privilege of working with many Christians struggling to parent their child through the difficult teenage years. Most of these families are like any other family that enters counseling. They are struggling with conflict, rebellion, communication difficulties, trust issues, and emotional challenges. One unique concern for Christian parents, however, is the desire to pass their faith in Jesus to the next generation.

Some parents fear that their ability to pass the faith on to their children has decreased due to a perceived reduction in the influence of family. Others fear technological advances and social changes that seem to have eroded their ability to influence their child’s value system.

Recent statistical reports noting the significant rise in the number of “nones” (adults with no religious affiliation) in the United States seem to confirm the challenges facing parents when seeking to pass their Christian faith to their children. In his book “Faith and Families: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations Vern L. Bengston  gives five suggestions for parents hoping to pass the Christian faith to their children.

Bengston conducted a 35-year study of how religious families from a wide variety of faiths; pass their beliefs and practices to the next generation. He suggests that parents….

Have more religious influence than they think

Despite the popular opinions downplaying the influence that parents have on the religious beliefs of their children Bengston found parents to be the most important factor in the transmission of faith to the next generation. He also cited researchers Christian Smith and Melinda Denton as noting,

“Contrary to popular misguided cultural stereotypes and frequent parental mis-perceptions, we believe that the evidence clearly shows that the single most important social influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents”

Bengston also described the importance of a close and warm relationship between parent and child when determining the level of influence afforded a parent.

Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad

The fervency with which parents teach or adhere to their faith does not outweigh the power of a warm and close relationship in the transmission of the faith. Bengston found that children who felt a warm and close connection to their parents were more likely to share their parent’s religious affiliation than those with a cold or distant relationship. Not only that, this association was especially strong for the relationship between children and their fathers. (Go HERE to read more about how to connect with your children)

Allowing children religious choice can encourage religious continuity

Those children that are allowed to experience religious choice were more likely to share their parent’s religious beliefs. This one can be especially difficult for parents to put into practice.  The strong desire for our children to share our faith may cause us to become overbearing and rigid.  Remember that ultimately the Holy Spirit does the work of regeneration. It is not possible to “parent” our children to faith in Christ. Allowing for honest questions, open dialogue, and “belief exploration” may create the space needed for the Spirit to do his work.

Don’t forget the grandparents

Bengston found that for many families, grandparents have become the moral and religious compass. Grandparents offer important support to exhausted and over worked parents that encourage the continuation of religious practices and beliefs.

Don’t give up on Prodigals, because many do return

One of the most painful experiences for Christian parents may be a child who rejects the faith they have shared. Bengston found that those parents that waited, were open and accepting, and did not push were most likely to have their children return to the faith. Additionally, he found acceptance and affirmation as opposed to judgment and preaching as important factors.

What have we learned?

Ultimately parents cannot control whether or not their children come to faith in Jesus Christ. That is the domain of the Holy Spirit. It does appear however that a close and warm relationship with parents, particularly dad, belief exploration, support from grandparents, and patience can be important factors when seeking to disciple your children in faith.


What do you think? Do these points fit with your experience? What do you find helpful when raising your children in faith?

How To Raise Self-Reliant Kids

My wife and I were rushing the kids out the door for school this morning and one of my worst parenting fears was “triggered”. While all his siblings were climbing into the car, one of my sons came stumbling out of the laundry room. His backpack was haphazardly draped over his shoulder, crumbs were strewn across the front of his shirt, and his hair was uncombed, “I can’t find my shoes” he said.

This may not seem scary to you, but for me this brings up fears of a son that cannot care for himself, irresponsibility, lack of initiative, and laziness. I saw images of a grown man living in my basement playing video games with orange chee-to stained fingers. These are the things of nightmares!! I have been encountering these moments more and more lately as my boys grow into the preteen years. They are changing, developing their own unique personalities and ways of acting in the world. I love to see this, but it also creates fear.   I am beginning to realize that I cannot control the outcomes of their life. I could be the best parent in the world and yet there will be struggles, difficulties, and challenges. In fact, Alfred Adler believed that the behavioral struggles for many children occur in direct relation to their parents value system. So, if you strongly value cleanliness, you will likely struggle the most with your child that has difficulty keeping his room clean. If you value kindness, your child’s misbehavior may manifest itself as disrespect and selfishness. I value responsibility and personal initiative. So, the behaviors that bother me most are lack of responsibility and forgetfulness. These behaviors push a button in me and I begin to imagine the worst possible outcome. I feel responsible for his lost shoes, I feel responsible for his future self, growing up to live in my basement. I start to respond in ways that are less than helpful for the current situation. Some times, this looks like me running around looking for his shoes, huffing and puffing about where they are SUPPOSED to be or threatening to leave the house with out him. Unfortunately, this behavior communicates to him “you are not responsible, so I (your father) must take responsibility for you”. Of course this is the exact opposite of what I want to communicate, which is, “you are responsible, you can handle this and I am here to help”. So, what can I do to avoid this train wreck?

First of all, I need to stay calm and stop indulging my worst fear images. The images of 10 years down the road are irrational and unhelpful. Instead I need to exercise patience, acknowledge my fears, and give him some time to find his shoes. I don’t have to find them, I can brainstorm possible solutions, but he is the best person to hunt them down (they did come off his feet after-all). I recently read a book by Ben Sasse entitled “The Vanishing American Adult: Our coming-of-age crisis and how to rebuild a culture of self-reliance” this book offered five practical ways that parents can help their children to build self-reliance they are

  1. Flee age segregation
  2. Embrace work pain
  3. Consume less
  4. Travel to see
  5. Build a book shelf

Check out this video I made to share some of my thoughts about these ideas.

What do you think? will these things work to build self-reliance in the next generation? Leave a comment below

5 Ways to Listen So Your Son Feels Heard

5 Ways to listen So YourExpress Empathy

  1. Listen to your sons statements
  2. Go within & Check, “How would I be feeling if were him?”
  3. Express your understanding through an empathy statement of

“You feel______________because _________________

It sounds like you feel…

I sense you feel…

As I listen to you, I am aware of how ___________you must be feeling.

In other words, you feel…

I am imagining how intensely you must feel…

Summarize His Experience

This whole situation can then be summed up to…

You seem to be saying most of the time you feel…

You recall this happening at least three times then.

These are the options you currently see open to you…

Paraphrase His Meaning

You don’t think he’s very competent…

You feel your parents would be upset if…

You wonder what will happen in the future

So it’s a question of clarifying your role in your relationship

Prompt Him to Say More

Non-verbal prompts:

Nods, Hand gestures, eye contact, leaning in

Single Words or Phrases:


And then?

And for your part?


I am not sure what you mean by “the worst”

It’s not clear to me which option you prefer.

I am unable to get a clear idea of the importance of this to you.

Use Open Ended Questions

How does this impact your school work?

How have you handled situations like this before?

In what other situations have you experienced similar feelings?


5 ways to help your son WithI regularly encounter families that are struggling to assist a pre-teen or teenage son with managing his anger. I have encountered it so often that I have made the focus of my practice working with adolescent males. The unfortunate thing about anger is that it often gets a bad rap. Yes, sometimes anger is expressed through violence, aggression, or harsh words. However, in other situations anger can be a powerful motivating force that moves your son to take action against an injustice. I have memories of being angry about a good friend being bullied on the play ground, this anger moved me to protect and stand up for this friend. Some boys are moved to anger when they see a friend that is hungry or struggling in school. My point is that not all anger is unhelpful, but when you find yourself not knowing what to do in the face of an angry son here are five things that might help.

Validate his feelings

Anger is a very powerful emotion. Many times anger is expressed on the outside when on the inside he is feeling sadness. Acknowledging your sons anger helps him to feel heard and can actually decrease the intensity of its expression. When you say, “you are really angry about this” it communicates to your son that you understand him therefore he can decrease the expression of the anger because you recognize it.

Listen without judgment

Validating feelings begins by listening and seeking to understand his perspective without judgment. The temptation is to correct misperceptions or misunderstandings however this is not helpful. Correcting perceptual mistakes only communicates that you don’t understand HIS perspective. When your son realizes that you “get it” from his perspective the anger will decrease and you become an ally in the problem solving process. When you are his ally in problem solving you can ask questions that provoke thought and reflection encouraging him to find conclusions and solutions to his own problems.

Give YOURSELF a Timeout

Sometimes the hardest thing about having a son that expresses lots of anger is managing your feelings in the moment. Sons can say hurtful things, your fears may be triggered, or you may be afraid for your family’s safety. In this situation, give YOURSELF a timeout. The issue does not have to be resolved right now, give your son some space (as long as everyone is safe) this space allows for all parties to calm down, think things through and make better decisions. After sufficient time has passed reconnect with your son, apologize for any mistakes you made and start over by using suggestions 1 and 2 from this list.

Practice Self-regulation

Large expressions of anger are a clue to you about how “powerfully” your son is feeling his anger. Sometimes, he will have a difficult time calming down, or keeping his “bottle from bursting”. These times of feeling out of control are normal for a boy that is still learning to self-regulate. You can help him to learn to self-regulate by modeling calmness, using controlled breathing, and practicing mindfulness (more on this in future posts).  You can also talk to your son about how his brain helps with regulation.  Watch this video from Dan Siegel to learn more.

Set Limits

One of the major challenges parents encounter in the face of their sons anger is maintaining family limits when things get really heated. It is important that you calmly, and consistently set limits on behavior in the home. These calm and consistent limits allow your son to know “how far he can go” in expressing himself. He will push up against them and test them but when you calmly maintain the expectation it feels safe and comforting to him. Sometimes, these limits are broken in such cases it is important to refer to suggestion 3 and give YOURSELF a time out before calmly talking to your son about what will happen next. Giving time for all parties to calm down is a very helpful thing.Five ways to help your son with Anger

So what do you think, what have you found to be successful when helping your son to manage his anger? Leave a comment below

The Three Biggest Challenges of Christian Fatherhood

Fathering is not something that perfect men do, but something that perfects the man.I recently read a report on the “State of Biblical Fatherhood”. This report was based on a survey that Manhood Journey asked members of their online community to complete. The survey received responses from 274 fathers most of whom are Christians. Although this survey was not conducted as a scientific research endeavor it does offer some interesting insights into the minds and hearts of these Christian fathers. I find myself relating to these fathers and I think that many others will as well.  The report identifies the three most common challenges that Christian fathers report as they navigate life as a father.

Challenge # 1 Dads feel like they are failures

44% of the fathers made comments that aligned with the theme of feeling like a failure.   One participant stated,

“As a father struggling with this for over 4 months I feel like I have failed God as a Man, a Father, a Dad, a Husband and a leader of the family”

Wow! This is tough stuff no one wants to feel like a failure in all the major relational areas of life. It appears that Christian fathers are overwhelmed with the gravity of the role and do not feel equipped.

Challenge # 2 Dads want to be more intentional

42% of the Christian fathers surveyed made comments that fit under the theme of “I’d like to be more intentional”. These fathers struggled with issues like having enough energy after work to be engaged with their kids, marital problems, setting a good example, and battling outside influences.

One father said it like this,

“The decision between good-better-best is the dilemma. That is my SINGLE biggest challenge as a father right now.”

There are so many things calling for our attention and the attention of our families. Sports, music, culture, and friends are all calling for time and energy and in many instances these things are calling us away from worship and discipleship. Fathers are struggling to balance these demands and to be the one in the house that sets the limit and priority of Christ first.

Challenge # 3 Dads struggle with Disciplining and training

Although coming in a distant third, a significant number of Christian fathers (14%) identified disciplining and training as the biggest challenge they face as a father.

One participant remarked,

“Trying to raise them in a world of expectation and entitlement, I used to think it was just my kids but have realized it’s our world mentality…”

Our culture is saturated with material possessions and our families are bombarded with messages designed to create a sense of NEED in us. It can be incredibly difficult to set boundaries and expressions of discipline in this context.

Another participant stated it this way; “I have one child who has been a handful for years. He makes really poor decisions, but never owns up to it.”

I am so thankful for this report because it verbalizes experiences that I have had as a father myself. Not only that, many of the fathers I work with have expressed similar concerns and struggles.  This report includes some helpful ideas on how to move forward if you are experiencing one of these challenges. Here they are:

  1. Admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness, frequently
  2. Stop trying to “be God” to your children, instead reflect His Character.
  3. Stop trying to compare yourself to the “perfect” dads around you, they’re a mirage.
  4. Learn how to say no.
  5. Shelve non-family-centric hobbies when the kids are young.
  6. Keep at it, and stop checking daily results.
  7. Get with other guys.
  8. Take advantage of great Christian parenting resources
    1. Parenting by the book John Rosemond)
    2. Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Ted Tripp)

If you would like to download a copy of the full report go HERE

What are your greatest struggles as a Father? Leave a comment below.

5 Ways to Connect With Your Son

Parenting is all about connecting with your children.  Sometimes we want to make it about obedience, education, success or love.  But, really all of those things follow from connection.  If you are connected to your son he will obey you.  Connection with your son increases his chance at success in school, relationships and work.  The ultimate measure of success is how one fairs in relationships and your son learns to “do” relationships through connection with you.  Your son experiences love in connection with you.  Sometimes this busy life we lead can get in the way of connecting with our sons.  There are sports to go to, meetings to attend, homework to do, and sleep to be had.  Well here are five incredibly simple ways to connect with your son that take no more than 1 hour of your day. Try just one of them this week, see what happens when you focus on connection rather than parenting.

What others ways have you found to connect with your son? Leave some suggestions below

5 Ways to connect with-2