For Teen Girls: A Quiz and An Invitation

  • Do you sometimes have a hard time making decisions?
  • Do you regret some of the decisions you’ve made recently?
  • Do you sometimes upset people by what you say/post?
  • Do you worry you aren’t smart enough, or do you even sometimes feel stupid?
  • Do you wish you weren’t so moody, or didn’t feel so much?
  • Do you have a hard time explaining why you’re so upset?
  • Do you find yourself in your own “protests” (organized or not) because you’re so unhappy with the way things are?
  • Do you sometimes feel angry for no reason at all?
  • Do your parents (especially your dad perhaps) complain that you are making no sense?
  • Do you either run away from conflict, or find yourself constantly in conflict?
  • Do you have some relationship struggles, or wish you had closer friendships?
  • Do your parents accuse you of being selfish?
  • Do you sometimes act “cold” towards others, or want to avoid emotions all together?
  • Do you feel like you’re not a good-enough Christian?
  • Do you have a hard time taking the blame, or feel criticized a lot?
  • Do you get your feelings hurt all the time, or wish people would do a better job understanding you?
  • Do you wish you were more mature?
  • Do you know what it feels like to be burned-out or depressed, or wish you had a better way of handling stress?
  • Do you struggle with motivation?
  • Do you have a hard time sleeping?
  • Do you have a lot of worries or fears?
  • Do you feel like the world is really unfair?
  • Do you like the idea of becoming Emotionally Intelligent?
  • Do you find yourself taking this quiz because your parents asked you to?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are invited to know more about having a High EQ – Emotional Intelligence.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

If you decide to explore Emotional Intelligence, you can choose how you want to do it:

1) Privately – You can have as many or few EQ meetings as you desire (or as your parents have asked you to have), at the location you prefer – in order to learn how to simply become more emotionally mature. And you can do it alone, or bring along your sis or bestie if you want to. You won’t regret learning about Emotional Intelligence (even if it wasn’t your idea) because you’ll be happier.

2) Socially – You can host a gathering at your house with your favorite snacks and friends – with Jen Hughes bringing special activities focused on the concept of raising Emotional Intelligence. That way everyone in your squad will benefit, you get all the credit for bettering girls, and you have another excuse to have fun together.

3) Actively – You can make a difference in your generation: Post this article on social media to give others a chance to raise their EQ too.

To request any method of learning how to raise your EQ score, text Jen at 678-463-1978 or email Jen@KeepingRoomChristianCounseling.com

Because of Deborah’s (emotionally mature) reign over Israel…the land had rest for the next forty years. (Judges 4, 5

Are You Aware of the Modern Mindsets about Porn?

When a young man strong in his faith read a 2014 Keeping Room article about porn, (click here to review) his response was: “She’s overreacting. Porn is just a normal part of life. It’s everywhere, and in everything.”

When a young woman devoted to Christ and purity recently considered dating a young man, she asked: “When it comes to dating a guy, I’m assuming porn/lust will be something that definitely was/is a struggle, or will happen occasionally. So, what signs do I look for that he’s handling it well?”

When Christian Counseling Today decided to publish their most recent periodical (vol. 22, no. 1, 2017), the entire issue was dedicated to educating Christian counselors on the serious epidemic of porn use.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

1a.Watch out for reactions like the young man’s above. Find out which ways the youth in your life are thinking about porn. Have they fallen for the lies culture has been feeding them:

  • Do they think porn is just an acceptable part of sexuality?
  • Do they consider it to be innocent and contemporary?
  • Do they believe it’s okay in moderation?
  • Do they deny its brain-damaging and addictive nature?
  • Do they comprehend the spiritual and relational ramifications?
  • Do they dismiss the need for accountability if there is temptation?
  • Do they fear that it might be considered judgmental or intolerant not to accept someone’s porn usage?

“For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions…men corrupted in mind…who will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all.” (2 Tim. 3:6, 8, 9)

2.Invite and celebrate questions like the one asked by the young woman above. Don’t make the next generation feel ashamed for wondering about porn. They didn’t ask for their world; but they do have to function well in it. An authentic walk is a healthy one. Dialogue with them, inspire them, and teach them Truth until they believe it. And pray for them to find like-minded boyfriends/girlfriends!

 “If we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus…cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:7)

3a. After having some conversations, parents may decide their kids are among the many who are at high risk. You may decide you need further protection when it comes to technology. One reputable organization is: Covenant Eyes.  You may also want to read: Help! My Kids are Viewing Pornography by Tim Chailles.

3b. Look for the existence of red flags for porn. Loved ones demonstrating a number of these signs may indicate the need for support:

  • Increased interest or participation in frequent dating around and pre-marital/extra-marital sex
  • Twisted views of sex
  • Interest and involvement in sexting & questionable video chatting
  • Being secretive
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual activity & symptoms of STD’s
  • Damaged relationships
  • Inability to have healthy relationships
  • Very low self-confidence
  • Increased anger
  • Turning away from God and His people

3c. Research counseling, groups, and programs designed to help with porn recovery and accountability, specific to gender and age group.

“In an abundance of counselors, there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14)

When the Desires of your Heart…Blow up in your Face

If God tells you to delight in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4), why does that sometimes include the destruction of your dreams? When the desires of your heart explode in front of your face, you can be left with soot, ashes, and pain.

Asking why is often a part of processing that messy grief. Asking why can push you to a deeper place of trusting God in the midst of such pain. And leaning on Him even more now in this difficult place can move you to an even stronger relationship with Him that leads you to change your question to what now ?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Take a look at Psalm 37:4 in a new way:

  • Delight more in Who He is than dwelling in what you want or how you feel.
  • Anticipate that He is creating an even bigger, better desire in your heart.

Next, read the whole Psalm 37 chapter:

  • When you don’t understand what happened to your verse 4 desires, He provides verse 5, asking again for your commitment to Him.
  • He promises to make this relationship with Him shine in your broken heart (v. 6). 
  • He wants to calm and comfort you (v. 7-9). 
  • He warns you against the consequences of anger and anxiety (v. 7-8, 37)
  • He has big promises for you (v. 9, 11, 18-19, 22, 29, 34, 40).
  • He picks you back up, sets you on your feet and onto His path (v. 17, 23, 24, 31, 39). 
  • While you wait for the Lord to act (v. 34), He tells you an amazing truth to repeat to yourself: You, His follower, were not forsaken by Him (v. 28).

Want Teens to Talk to You? Start By Asking This Essential Question

In last week’s Keeping Room article, it was emphasized that youth need to stop believing lies about adults not being trustworthy, and adults need to do as much as they can to encourage kids to talk to them.

Meanwhile, the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, James E. Ryan, has just released a book entitled Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions. Inside this published commencement address, Ryan proposes a few key questions that he believes significantly increase one’s successes and relationships both personally and professionally. And, one of his questions stands out as being a great one for adults to ask young people…

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

1.When you’re talking to youth, use this question: How Can I help?  In fact, before you jump in to problem-solve, give your opinion, or save the day, just ask this question.

2.If you love this “how can I help” question, check out the Wait, What book for the rest of Ryan’s suggested questions. Posing good questions could improve your communication with every person and every situation.

3.James E. Ryan is not the first one to model asking great questions. Consider just a few of the questions Jesus asked:

  • Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Mt. 6:27)
  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Mt. 7:3)
  • Why all this commotion and wailing? (Mk. 5:39)
  • Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? (Mt. 18:33)
  • What are you arguing with them about? (Mk. 9:16)
  • Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Mt. 9:28)
  • Where is your faith? (Lk. 8:25)
  • If I am telling the Truth, why don’t you believe Me? (Jn. 8:46)
  • Why question Me? (Jn.18:21)
  • Do you love Me? (Jn. 21:17)

Your kids may not have answers to the Jesus-questions just yet. But His questions are great questions to ask yourself at the same time you are asking youth the first question of: How Can I Help?

A Vital Book for Middle Schoolers, with Essential Information for High Schoolers & Parents

“Shut Up: Silence the Negative Thoughts in your Head,” by Christy Pierce is a book that would be very significant for middle school students (and their parents) to read. And for high school students, who are already well into these trenches, this book review provides relevant advice.

Ultimately, “Shut Up” points out –

  • There are multi-faceted reasons for the anxiety/depression epidemic in teens today.
  • Many young people are under great pressure resulting in struggles of low self-worth, shame, perfectionism, self-hatred, performance anxiety, generalized anxiety, depression, guilt, obsessive thoughts, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Kids are not talking to adults like they should because they are believing lies about them instead of trusting them.
  • Because of the dark nature of common thoughts and modern behaviors, evil forces must be at play a lot of the time.
  • There are 4 kinds of thoughts speaking to youth today. They are the voices of: others (can be good or bad), self (can be good or bad), the Enemy (always bad) or God (always good). Many teens today are not listening to any of the good voices because the bad voices are so loud.
  • The ultimate solution is determining to learn how to tune into God’s Voice.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Middle Schoolers –

  • Read this book for the stats, stories, and solutions. You will need them, if you don’t already.

High Schoolers –

  • Get it out in the open. You are either hearing about anxiety, depression, and damaging thoughts; or you’re dealing with it personally. Transparency walks you to freedom! (1 Jn. 1:5-10)
  • Most of you have at least one wonderful adult in your life that you can talk to about hard matters. Choose to believe that. Stop buying into the lies that adults in your life will judge you. Trusting an adult with your battles will be the best thing you ever did.
  • The very safest adults encourage you to believe God’s voice and not the enemy’s. Stop shutting Christian adults out. Tell them everything and let them speak soothing, life-changing Truth into your mind and heart.

Adults –

  • Taking seriously the impact of spiritual forces doesn’t mean you are being mystic. First, spiritual warfare is entirely Biblical, and second, it really does explain the degree of darkness present in the struggles of this generation (prevalence of mental illness, cutting, eating disorders, and suicide).
  • Work overtime to show youth that you’re safe. Be approachable so they will come talk to you and/or ask you if they can work with someone to help them expose negative thoughts and listen to God’s voice. If needed, help them find the right mentor, youth pastor, discipleship-leader, or counselor to come alongside you/them in this journey. Give them plenty of grace, and do not shame them for dealing with these matters.
  • “Shut Up” does talk about demons, but don’t let that keep this book away from your middle schooler. Read it first, or alongside them, and be encouraged that God’s power prevails over darkness.
  • Drawing near to the next generation through these troubling issues could be the best way to lead them to an active, freeing relationship with the Lord that would change their lives forever!

“We…wrestle…against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand…” (Ephesians 6:12b-13a)

When Teens & Kids are Grieving the Loss of a Peer

Grief in teens and kids is felt and processed somewhat differently than for adults. This is okay. Their emotions and cognitions are in developmental progress.

And when youth are grieving the loss of “one of their own,” some of them may attempt to isolate from adults, feeling that their grief is too different to connect through it.

So, what should adults do?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

1. Teach youth how to grieve well.

  • Make sure teens understand that they will move through phases (where they feel emotions of various intensities such as denial, anguish, yearning, guilt, etc.) in a back-and-forth manner until they reach a place of stable acceptance.
  • Let them know that each person’s grief can last anywhere from several months to several years, depending on their relationship with the passed loved one.
  • Explain how grief can trigger other issues such as unresolved grief from the past, or how grief can ignite a teen’s susceptibility to anxiety and depression.
  • Remind them of the importance of taking care of their physical health during the time that their psychological health is strained.
  • Model for them good personal grieving by taking refuge in the Lord. It’s okay to let them see you grieve sometimes, but reserve other times to grieve in private. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know the right amount of transparency for your household. This is so your kids won’t be afraid you’re falling apart.
  • For younger children, provide truth to them up to the limit of what they can process. Embrace their love for heaven and cherish their child-like faith; it will do your own soul good.
  • Offer unending compassion, always pointing them to Christ as the Answer and Comforter.

2. Validate the private relationship among peers.

  • These peers created memories and had feelings for one another that are theirs alone.
  • And it may be important for them to feel like they have a personal grief experience that you might not share or relate to, in their opinion.
  • They may also have some regrets.
  • Consider the role of tangible reminders of their loved one. Pictures, mementos, and gifts in honor of their loved one can play a very important role in the grieving process. It’s important to ask what would be meaningful to them.

3. Temper your expectations.

  • They might not “get over it” as quickly as you’d think.
  • But they also might “get over it” far quicker than you would expect; their lives are full, busy, and distracting.
  • You don’t have to force their journey to be something it’s not. To have a good result, a person can only grieve when s/he is truly ready. And the process really is unique to each individual.
  • Don’t talk too much; except to tell them you love them.
  • Be approachable, but not overwhelming.

4. Consider how they’re getting their needs met.

  • Help them identify which relationships are safe places for being vulnerable, and who is playing what role in their life.
  • Try to invite at least one trustworthy person who will ask good questions to get them talking, and who will be speaking Biblical truths into their processing. But don’t be too pushy about this. Let them have a say in the timing and frequency.
  • Make sure they are not shamed when they take advantage of the cleansing nature of crying; encourage weeping with weeping. (Rom. 12:15). But also note that not everyone is a crier.
  • Incorporate art and music to help express what’s hard to verbalize and to reduce stress.

5. Be full of grace when it comes to those emotions.

  • There may be moodiness, lashing out, disrespect, and tears. Sometimes these outbursts will have everything to do with the loss. And sometimes they will have nothing to do with it. Don’t assume you know, and don’t accuse your kids of acting out grief. Sometimes an emotional reaction is an opportunity to give them space; other times it’s a chance to ask an open-ended question, which can help express the feelings behind the episode. Pray on the spot to help you decide which it is.
  • Emotional maturity – and therefore grieving maturity – takes effort, practice, and time.
  • Nurture the heart, and better behavior will follow in time.
  • Resume routine activities even if it means going through the motions at first. The structure is beneficial.

6. Be open to other means of support.

  • There are certain losses that fall in the category of Complex Mourning and may require professional involvement for a time.
  • Monitor how well a young griever is functioning, to determine if outside help is warranted.
  • Grief can be really hard. And some youth struggle to do it without structured, skilled guidance.

7. Pray very specifically for their grief journey.

  • Remember in your prayers – that when faced with death- there is significant ambiguity for a young person to comprehend (God ordains suffering at the same time that He is very good). And this paradox takes place in a world that tries to convince them that things are “all or nothing” (“God must be cruel to allow such suffering”). Such depth of Biblical understanding will come from the Lord’s opening of their eyes.
  • Intercede using spiritual weapons against lies, poor coping, worldliness, and negative influences. And make bold requests on their behalf, such as asking for eternal perspective and a life of humble service.
  • Let your kids know you are caring for them through your prayers.

He restores comfort to His mourners, and gives His tender touch to the young. (Is. 57:18, Mk. 10:13)

In Memory of 17-Year Old Brady Bullock: Honored to be in “Brady’s Bunch”

Brady didn’t have a pride problem. When he started feeling anxiety last spring (towards the end of his sophomore year of high school), he immediately asked his parents if he could work with a counselor to learn how to manage his anxious thoughts. We met right away, and Brady applied every solution I suggested for him.

He didn’t need to continue seeing me into the first semester of his junior year because he was thriving. But our bond had already formed, we stayed in touch, and I enjoyed seeing him perform in his school play in late October of ’16. In early December, I received a text from his dad. Brady was in the hospital and diagnosed with a brain tumor. Last week – only six months later – I received another text from his dad. Brady had gone to meet the Lord.

When Brady first received his scary diagnosis, it was no surprise to me that he wanted to fight this disease with the help of counseling, and he readily committed to meeting weekly. It was the best and worst six months of my counseling practice to date. His parents and I believe that the Lord introduced Brady and me in advance of his brief illness so that we’d already have our relationship in place when he received the news.

Brady’s six months of cancer were very difficult, but he committed to having a daily purpose of joy. Whenever his circumstances would threaten his ability to feel and express joy, Brady would reach out to me for help. In revealing his greatest weaknesses, he demonstrated his amazing strength.

The final week of his life, I was privileged to meet with Brady in his home three sacred times. Brady was struggling to speak during that first visit, but he was able to respond to Scriptures I read and explained to him. And he indicated which ones he wanted his family to be declaring over him daily. At this point, his anxiety was based on worry for his parents having to endure the loss of their son. But I literally saw the power of God’s Word comfort and encourage Brady before my eyes. I even saw him grow significantly closer to the Lord in one hour’s time. That day, as I folded myself over into his wheelchair to hug him good bye, I told him I loved him. I’ll never forget hearing his impaired voice respond with “I love you too.” Every night that week, countless times I woke from sleep, praying for him, his parents, and sister, while holding tightly to my “Brady’s Bunch” prayer-band that Brady had given to me.

Three days later I received word that Brady was asking to see me. When I arrived this time, the weakness kept his eyes shut, but he willed his voice to tell me his anxiety was gone, the Lord had given him peace, and he was ready to go to heaven. I witnessed the most beautiful sanctification on Brady’s deathbed in that moment. After celebrating with him and reading his favorite Bible passages over him again, it was time to leave. I leaned over into that hospital bed and told him again that I loved him. In his muffled voice, he responded “I love you so much.” I stepped out the front door and let my tears carry me home. Brady was so filled with the Lord’s presence, and I ached to be with him.

By my final visit two days later, Brady could not talk at all, but he could nod and make a few sounds. As I approached his side, he indicated that he knew I was there and was excited by my arrival. One last time, I read his favorite verses over him and he nodded at a few that were most special to him. I promised him I’d take care of his family (to which he nodded) and draped myself over his chest to hug and love him one last time.

Everyone in “Brady’s Bunch” shares the sorrow and grief of a future life here without Brady in it. But we also have in common knowing a teenage boy who used his last days to seek the Lord and His Word, and to care for and connect with his loved ones. I have no doubt that Brady’s life of humility, and death in the Lord, will bring people to salvation in Christ in the coming days! His dying was cradled in an eternal perspective; thus, he displayed the truth that “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

 

Co-Dependent on Purpose: A Modern Day Parenting Identity

In the back of your mind, co-dependency is known to be a bad thing; but if you’re a parent with kids at home right now, you might be in a co-dependent relationship with one or more of your kids anyway. If you feel like you’re living your son’s or daughter’s life almost as much as s/he is, then you could fit in this category of co-dependency. Why is this happening? With the experiences, pressures, and influences the next generation faces today, some co-dependency might not be so black and white as days gone by; and a certain degree of co-dependency might not be so bad anymore.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

If your co-dependency looks like the first list below, it may have gotten out of hand, and you might need some help balancing out your relationships. However, if your co-dependency fits into the second list, you’ve probably just adjusted to parenting the kids of today, and can successfully make changes when necessary.

Co-dependency with your kids is not good if:

  • it’s impacting other relationships
  • it’s tearing down your self-worth
  • you’re trying to control and manipulate
  • you’re jealous and possessive
  • you cannot manage anger
  • you significantly fear abandonment
  • you inappropriately act their age
  • your actions fuel immature actions in your child
  • you’re so addicted you can’t conceive of the relationship changing

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ…For each will have to bear his own load.  (Gal. 1:10; 6:5)

Co-dependency with your kids might be okay if:

  • it’s not significantly impacting your identity, other relationships, or quality of life
  • it’s motivated by love and blessed by the Lord
  • you know it’s temporary
  • the relationship is producing positive results
  • you’re willing to make a plan towards an eventual, interdependent version of the relationship
  • you’re accountable to someone to 1) help you keep it from becoming problematic and 2) support you as you bring the co-dependency aspect to an end, when the timing is right

The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (1 Samuel 18:1)

 

Anxiety: When there are More Symptoms & Solutions Than You Know What To Do With

You probably know that chronic nail biting and stressing-out over loss of control are signs of anxiety, but did you know that resistance to logicbreath-holdingsensitivity to little sounds…and being quick to say “no” can also be connected to anxiety? In fact, there are too many traits of anxiety to include in one blog article.

The same is true with solutions. With so much anxiety in the world today, of course there’s help out there to manage it. Yet, as you have possibly discovered, there are commonly suggested solutions for anxiety that simply do not work for every person.

If there are that many tools out there, and only some of them work, how do you discover the right ones for you or a loved one?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Email jen@keepingroomchristiancounseling.com for an expansive list of anxiety symptoms, along with an equally expansive list of frequently employed solutions. And if you like, this can be a great time for a conversation or meeting to customize a plan for you, and receive accountability and support. “…be able to comfort those who are in any affliction…” (2 Cor. 1:4)

Give yourself time to use “trial and error” as you address and respond to anxiety that is personal to you. There is not a perfect formula, but there is much hope. “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

Engage with the Lord specifically about your unique experience with anxiety so that He can explain each indication of anxiety to you, and bring to mind the best solution for you at that time. “Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and be at ease; without dread of disaster.” (Prov. 1:33)

Ideas for Leaving a Spiritual Legacy in Your Family

The book is written for men, but any family member can read it and help promote the concept. The author, Terence Chatmon, provides 1) compelling inspiration and 2) personal examples in his book, Do Your Children Believe, Becoming Intentional About Your Family’s Faith and Spiritual Legacy. By providing both motivation and practical application, Chatmon emphasizes the importance of having a formalized spiritual plan, while giving you permission to tweak it for the uniqueness of your family.


Excerpts from the book’s Encouragement:

“I’m not championing any certain method…just don’t keep ambling along, doing what is considered normal…and comfortable…while letting your family drift along as well.”

“We’re not talking about merely implementing a program…We’re talking about…helping everyone (in your family) become His active, engaged followers within the various worlds each of you inhabits.”

 

Excerpts from the book’s Sample Plan:

“(Early on) we needed to agree on some commitments that would guard against any slippage in conviction…so we made some covenants…(including) that any future significant others would not agree to marriage (to our children) until that individual had become a part of our family’s devotional experiences.”

“(Now) we and our three children (and their spouses)…from their twenties to their thirties…every other Sunday evening, by shared consent…get together by phone to spend a good hour or more in devotions, prayer, and faith-building with one another.”

“(Once a year) we debrief on what we liked or didn’t like about how things went the previous year. We’ll share with one another what’s most on our hearts and what we’d love to consider doing in the year ahead…and together we work out our spiritual goals, deciding in a group what we want to accomplish.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

1.Take it slow. The man who wrote this book did not get to this place overnight and you don’t have to either. And no matter how old your kids are, it’s not too late. Whether you’re the head of the home but have no idea where to begin…or you’re a mom and don’t want to step out of your place…or you’re a single parent and don’t know what this will look like for you, the first step is to read the book with an open posture. Let it inspire you. Prevent the enemy from using it to intimidate you.

2.Then, let God shape the plan instead of you. As you read each chapter, the Lord will begin to give you ideas for what will and won’t work for your family in the short term. You can have fun creatively experimenting as you set up a system that points future generations of your family to the Lord.

3.Later, come back to the book. Once you’ve run your first phase for a while, return to this resource and see what God has for you next. By this point, others in your family will be used to the new normal, and they will even be expecting more development of the plan. Before you know it, your family members will be helping you create and implement your family’s faith and spiritual legacy!

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.” (Deut. 6:6-7a, Msg)