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Tag Archives: Adolescence

Affluent Teens & Prosperity

We now live in the most affluent societies in history but wealth doesn’t protect children from being at risk. Everyone knows someone whose child has seriously faltered, who has fallen into addiction, depression or a more amorphous sort of “failure to thrive.” Today we look at what affluency can do to an adolescent.

In her research, Cheryl Rampage, PhD, explains how affluence changes from being a protective factor for young children to a risk factor at early adolescence. Teenagers from affluent families have an increased chance of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Other issues include achievement pressure from their parents (be it academic, social, athletic or physical) and emotional or physical isolation from parents, whether actual distance or simply editing what is told to them.

The following infographic explores the challenge of prosperity on the mental health of teenagers, and how parents can raise successful and healthy children.

The Challenge of Prosperity
Brought to you by Counseling@Northwestern’s Online Masters in Counseling

The Family Institute offers affordable family, couples and individual counseling at our Evanston, downtown Chicago, Westchester and Northbrook locations. Visit our website to learn more.

Anxiety & Kids: Too much, too little, or just enough?

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Daughter Clinging To Working Mother's LegAnxiety in children, teens and young adults is a big issue—so big that The Family Institute’s next Circle of Knowledge event focuses on the topic. At this event, Dr. Danielle Black, Director of the Institute’s child and adolescent services, will help parents differentiate between normal worry for our children, teenagers and young adults as they face the pressures of school, sports and socializing, and more severe anxiety symptoms that may be signs of a larger issue. She will also explore how anxiety can be turned into a positive thing that can help your kids become successful.

See below for more information on this event, as well as tips on how parents can begin to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety.



We generally view anxiety as a bad thing, particularly when our children experience it—no one wants to think of their kids suffering or experiencing discomfort.

However, a little bit of anxiety can be helpful for both adults and children. It can be functional in that it can motivate us and help us achieve our goals.

But when anxiety becomes too extreme, starts to interfere with daily life and gets in the way of a child doing what he or she needs to do to achieve those goals, then the anxiety is unhelpful.

Here are a few ways to differentiate between healthy versus unhealthy anxiety in kids:

  • Your child expresses feeling anxious about a test he/she has in the morning as he/she starts to hit the books: This type of anxiety can be helpful in that it can help motivate your child to study.
  • Your child refuses to go to school on the day he/she has a difficult test or exam: This anxiety is unhealthy, as it’s preventing your child from following through on a task he/she needs to complete to excel.


  • Your child is anxious and a little scared about his/her first day of kindergarten and acts behaves sheepishly when you drop him/her off: This anxiety is healthy. Your child is facing a major change and separation from his/her parent, which can feel stressful. Both children and adults often have difficulty facing the unknown.
  • Your child cries a lot his/her first few weeks of kindergarten and/or is disruptive in class: This might be a sign of unhealthy anxiety. While the transition to kindergarten is a stressful one that may make a child feel anxious, being unable to adapt could be a sign of a larger issue.



  • Your child lists his concerns, anxieties and fears about going away to college and starts to problem-solve how he/she might cope with them: It’s healthy to talk through healthy anxieties about a transition as large as this one. In this case, your child’s anxiety will motivate him/her to develop healthy coping strategies.
  • Your child becomes preoccupied with “what if” scenarios that might occur when he/she moves away to college: This level of anxiety may be unhealthy. If your child is preoccupied with the “what if” question—a natural question during a time of transition—it might be getting in the way of the goals he/she has for the transition.

When a child’s anxiety gets in the way of the things he/she needs to do—things like learning, growing or transitioning— or prevents your child, teen or young adult from achieving goals, it could be a sign of a larger problem. Consider the help of a trained professional when anxiety begins interfering with a child’s day to day functioning, by affecting their schoolwork, friendships, and/or their willingness to try new things.


The Family Institute’s Child and Adolescent services offers support and effective treatment for anxiety in kids and teens. Visit our website to learn more.

To learn more about Straight A’s & Stressed, our next Circle of Knowledge Event that focuses on children and anxiety, visit our website and see below more information.


Straight A’s & Stressed: Navigating childhood, teen and young adult anxiety

Presented by Danielle Black, PhD

Friday, April 10, 2015
10:30 a.m. registration, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. presentation & lunch
Exmoor Country Club, 700 Vine Avenue, Highland Park

$25 per person, space is limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: April 3, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email


Straight A’s & Stressed: Navigating childhood, teen and young adult anxiety

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Sick and tired of studyingFrom bitten nails and stomachaches to all-night study sessions, our kids display their anxiety in a variety of ways. However, not all anxiety is bad, and it can be difficult to know the difference between productive anxiety and anxiety that has become a problem.

On April 10th, The Family Institute will host a Circle of Knowledge event to address the issues facing parents as they learn to navigate their children’s anxieties. During this event, Dr. Danielle Black, Director of the Child & Adolescent program, will help parents differentiate between normal worry for our children, teenagers and young adults as they face the pressures of school, sports and socializing, and more severe anxiety symptoms that may be signs of a larger issue. She will also explore how anxiety can be turned into a positive thing that can help your kids become successful.

See the event details below, and visit our website to learn more or register for this event.

Friday, April 10, 2015
10:30 a.m. registration, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. presentation & lunch
Exmoor Country Club, 700 Vine Avenue, Highland Park

$25 per person, space is limited
Register online today!
Deadline to register: April 3, 2015

For more information, call 312-609-5300, ext. 480 or email

Transitioning to College: It doesn’t start in the fall

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Student trying to find something in his bagThough most kids who are going off to college won’t be leaving for a handful of months, at this point in time they are likely deciding (or have recently decided) where they are actually going to be attending college. Once that decision is made, there are many other aspects of this transition that then require attention in the coming months (i.e. housing forms, meal plan decisions, course registration, financial/scholarship applications, etc.).

As the ball gets rolling, the reality of this future transition begins to solidify itself as decisions continue to get made. Though the actual transition will not likely occur for another 6 or 7 months, the emotions (positive and negative) and anxieties around the transition can begin percolating at this time.

Because of these percolating emotions, there is an opportunity for early discussion around the transition. There is a reason why “the system” isn’t designed for kids to leave for school a day after they learn they have been accepted somewhere: that’s arguably too much to adapt to in too short of a period of time. The fact that this process of leaving for college can sometimes take almost a year from applying to settling into the dorms gives everyone an opportunity to talk about, explore, and prepare for these changes before they actually occur.

Today’s insights on how to begin handling and discussing this transition before it occurs come from Family Institute therapist Amy Drucker, MSFMT, AMFT.



Get excited — but think about what’s scary too.

Kids who are leaving for college are likely very excited, and simultaneously very nervous about the big step. Given that they have time to process and prepare for this new chapter, it’s helpful for them to start thinking about what they are most fearful about, as well as what can they anticipate they may need to help make this transition go as smooth as possible — what do they need to make themselves feel cozy and safe when they leave.

Alternately, going to college is such an exciting and thrilling time! Once they know where they are going to school, they can start researching the happenings on campus, intramural activities, maybe familiarize themselves with fun things to do in the city or area they are moving to. Sparking interest and getting excited about their departure and what they will have opportunities to get involved in or experience can go a long way in helping them adjust with greater ease to their new environment when they arrive.

There’s also the issue of good old senioritis to consider. Senioritis marks the beginning stages of this transition, so there is some level of normalcy in the perceived apathy that seniors exhibit in the last months of their high school career as they start thinking about their future and changes that await them. Students certainly shouldn’t “slack off,” but through these last few months of high school, students are (whether consciously or not) navigating some new level of independence and taking responsibility for themselves — if that means they fall a little behind and realize what skills they need to cultivate to catch up or practice better time management, then so be it.

It should also be noted that many seniors do not exhibit any signs of senioritis. In either case, this time is a normal part of the beginning phase of this transition from high school to college.


Parents have their own anxiety about the transition—whether it’s their first or last child going to college.

Parents, whether sending off their first or last child to school, experience a lot of anxiety about their soon-to-be legal adult’s safety (amongst a myriad of other things). There are many things that parents do for their children when they are under their roof that they simply will not be able to continue to do when their child leaves. Beginning to step back from some of those things (even something like doing their laundry — teach your son or daughter how to do their laundry!) and allowing their child to start cultivating some more independence will go a long way in empowering their sons or daughters before they leave.

Also, parents tend to fear for their sons’ and daughters’ safety on college campuses. In preparation, parents should educate themselves on the resources (emergency and voluntary) available at the university. Sitting down with their sons or daughters to provide them with these resources and have a discussion (not a lecture!) with them about how they can be proactive and preventative in keeping themselves and others safe (don’t travel alone, don’t travel alone at night, know what resources are available — from mental health to safe ride options) can help assuage anxieties.

Additionally, parents and students should come up with a realistic and agreed upon plan for communication once the transition takes place: A phone call every day? Every few days? Texts? For parents, not communicating with their child and thus feeling like they don’t know what is going on with them or if they are safe is arguably the facet of this transition that can contribute to most anxiety. A plan of communication helps ease anxieties and lays the foundation for the beginning of a new relationship between parent and their young adult child.


Remember that siblings are impacted too.

Siblings are a unique facet of this transition and often their feelings aren’t addressed (not intentionally, they just seem to be overlooked) — but this is a very major transition for them too. They may be the only ones left in the house, or they may have a really close bond with their brother or sister and them leaving is going to be a great loss, or perhaps some siblings are so young they don’t even recognize what is going on. Discussing with siblings a. the fact that the transition is happening, b. how they feel about it, and c. what (if any) their concerns are regarding it, etc. are helpful things to explore.


Bottom line, there are plenty of things to do now and in the months prior to freshman orientation that can exponentially improve everyone’s experience around the transition when it actually takes place.

Simultaneously, it is important to remain in the present and enjoy the time that the family unit has together. When we spend so much time thinking about the future, we miss out on what is happening now. There is a certain degree of preparation, discussion, and planning that can and should begin to happen, but be mindful of not letting it take you so far into the future that you miss these present moments and these opportunities.



Amy Drucker is an associate Marriage and Family therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern. To read her full bio or make an appointment, please visit our website.


The Family Institute offers affordable counseling throughout the Chicagoland area. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.


National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: How can parents help?

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NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_ParentsThis week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week, a time to shine a light on the seriousness of these issues and raise awareness.

Last year, we received insights from Family Institute staff clinician Mallory Rose, LMFT, on the unique ways families and eating disorders interact, including one way in which parents can help in early intervention against disordered eating and/or body image issues:

Parents are also in a unique situation because they can demonstrate to their children healthy ways of coping with anxiety. Children are very perceptive and will notice even subtle signs of parents’ anxieties and insecurities. I encourage parents to really try to recognize and address their relationships with their bodies and food intake. Anxiety may be inevitable, but I encourage parents to work on healthy ways of coping for themselves and to also be healthy role models for their children.

Read Mallory’s full blog post here, and learn more about her services on our website.


To look for treatment for eating disorders or food-related issues, visit our Find-A-Therapist feature.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones. Find out more at our website.

5 Ways Cyber Bullying is Different than Face-to-Face Bullying

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Teenage Girl Being Bullied By Text Message On Mobile PhoneMuch has been said about cyber bullying, and how social media outlets have impacted the lives of teenagers. How do these new methods of bullying differ from their face-to-face counterparts? In what ways do the teenagers on the receiving end of these bullying experiences process the experiences?

Today’s insights on this topic come from Family Institute staff clinician Hollie Sobel, PhD, who runs a therapy group for adolescents.


While social media can serve to augment peer relationships in adolescence, it can also provide a forum for negative exchanges that can be quite hurtful. Teenagers can’t emotionally process these painful experiences in the same way they do their face-to-face equivalents. There aren’t the same opportunities to work it out online. Here a few of the ways in which cyber bulling differs from the bullying adolescents experience in school cafeterias or at parties:

  1. The victim can’t see the offender. In fact, sometimes the offender is anonymous, meaning that he/she could be anyone. There’s even the potential it could be someone whom the victim considers to be a friend which can increase fear, frustration and feelings of powerlessness.
  1. The victim can’t see his/her supporters. When bullying occurs online, the victim can’t see or feel the responses of people who may come to his/her aid, rendering that aid less resonant.
  1. The online environment is perfect for bullying. The quick pace and lack of personal contact involved in cyber bullying allows for more people to join in the taunting in active ways they may not do in person. At the same time, the wide pool of onlookers the Internet provides makes people less likely to step in, as they often assume someone else will defend the victim.
  1. Online content stays put. Negative statements made on-line are more pervasive than those made in person, with little escape, and can involve images and/or video that can be more invasive and permanent than face-to-face taunting.
  1. Teens often assume parents can’t help. Many teens think their parents or teachers will make the situation worse by bringing more attention to it. It’s important for parents to provide emotional support and continue to monitor their kids’ activities online—otherwise they may be unaware of the bullying.


Hollie Sobel, PhD, is a staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, where she has specialization in conducting diagnostic, psychoeducational, and personality testing batteries to primarily children/adolescents with a variety of psychiatric and medical diagnoses. She also sees families and individuals at the Institute’s downtown Chicago location. To learn more about Hollie Sobel, PhD, or to make an appointment, please visit our website.


The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals. Learn more about our services on our website.

Have We Lost Perspective of Our Children’s Need for Sleep?

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Sleeping Beauty 4This month’s Family Institute Tip of the Month addresses just how much sleep our children needs, as well as the consequences of not getting enough.

From this month’s tip:

Cutting corners when it comes to sleep is more hazardous to our kids’ welfare than most parents realize. We may be so accustomed to playing fast and loose with sleep — we often compromise our own as we go about our over-scheduled lives — that we’ve lost perspective on our children’s need for sleep.

What scientists have come to understand is that during sleep, the brain consolidates what’s been learned during waking hours, making that learning accessible later on. In other words, studying for tomorrow’s test is more effective when it’s followed by a good night’s sleep. It’s as though the sleep process stores new learning in a kind of mental hard drive, where that learning proves easier to recall when needed.


Sharing knowledge is a vital part of the Institute’s mission. To widely disseminate knowledge about family relationships, the Institute created Tip of the Month, our two online eBlasts. One is geared specifically toward couples and the other toward families.

Go to our Tip of the Month webpage to read the full tip and to sign up to receive our Tips via email.

Grounded in research and best clinical practices, the “Tips” highlight how to promote strong couples and healthy families by focusing on timely and relevant topics. Each Tip of the Month is written by a member of the Institute’s clinical staff. The “Tips” are concise and informative.

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