Teen Anxiety


We are starting a new endeavor by providing a teen anxiety group. The group will also focus on parent involvement.  I have found that I can educate teens on coping tools, but if we can follow it up with parent education, the teen is always more successful.  Also, parents that have teens struggling with anxiety often share that they too are stressed.  This program will allow teens and parents to gather with others and find support as well as education on coping tools, relaxation, mindfulness, and self care.  While the teens will meet with me, Esther Vanderwal, LCSW-C, the parents will meet with Angela Cochran, M.S./Health & Wellness Coach.  The group will then switch at the half way point so that both teens and adults are learning the same material.

My hope for this group will be for the teens and parents to walk away knowing they are not alone, having some new coping tools and a language for reducing anxiety that they both understand.

Please feel free to share this information and to call with further questions, 301-690-8008.


Depression: A Parent’s Heartbreak

“I’ve always heard that a mother is only as happy as her least happy child.”

A friend posted this on her Facebook page and this spoke volumes to me. I have worked with countless teens and young adults and often I see the pain in their parent’s eyes.

When I have to send someone to the hospital for care, I reach out to the family as well as they are going through something too. Mother’s tear up and wonder, what they could have done differently. Fathers too look wounded. Hearts are heavy.

The teen or young adult feels the depression so strongly yet also sees the pain in their parent’s eyes and is torn between allowing themselves to get the help they need or pushing it down to not disappoint their parents.

As parents, when our children hurt, we hurt and often wish we could take their place. I have watched my daughter break her arm and struggle with that pain and wish to take it from her. I have watched my son with a broken leg and struggled to watch him in pain.

When your child is struggling through depression and/or anxiety it’s no different. The pain is very real and as a parent, it’s painful to watch. Unlike a broken arm or leg however, mental health issues are abstract and the healing seems much more difficult. With a broken bone, the doctor can give you a clear picture of what is wrong and how to fix it. With depression/anxiety, it’s a guessing game filled with vagueness. The severity of the issue can even be called into question. How do you know how serious the issue is? When is the right time to get help?

The fear of finding your child after having taken their life is such a real fear and looms over like a black cloud. You do what you can and wonder what else you can do. The challenges of their toddler years seem miles away and you long for them. At least then you were in charge of keeping them safe. How do you now protect them from themselves?

Sleep can be difficult to find much less a peaceful thought. No matter what you are doing, the fear for your child looms. The phone rings and you say a silent prayer that it’s not a person calling you to tell you that your child is no longer alive.

We carry the pain of our children in our hearts. Most parents silently carry this weight because it’s not something you post on Facebook or advertise to your friends. You quietly go about your day and attempt to protect your child’s privacy.

If you know of someone who has a teen or young adult that is struggling, reach out to them and provide some support or make sure they can find support through counseling. Even just a caring listening ear can lift a heart or help provide perspective.

Powerless Parents

In today’s blog, I want to focus on parents who feel powerless. There are many of us out there that feel that issues of caring for our children can be out of our control.

When they are babies, we can protect them and control their entire environment. As your child gets older, you realize more and more that you have less and less control and that can be a scary feeling.

I have talked to parents who worry about their children yet; know that they have very little control over their decisions and/or what they do. One parent shared that his child was either going to go to jail or die if he kept making poor decisions. When your child is 18, 25, 30, etc., how do you manage this?

It’s easy to say the have reached adulthood at 18 and you have to allow them to make their own decisions and that you have reached a point where what you have taught them needs to come into play, but that’s easier said than done.

If our children are making poor decisions, we find ourselves wondering,   “Where did we go wrong?” We take on the responsibility for what happens to our children even when we know that they are ultimately making their own decisions. Surely, if we had been more present or didn’t work so much or went to church more often, this wouldn’t have happened.

It’s even hard to hear that other young adults are doing great with no bumps along the road all the while your child is struggling.

We reach for resources in the hopes that there is an easy answer, but what if your adult child is not able to work and is dealing with addiction demons? There is no easy answer, just on-going cyclical episodes.

I try and remind parents that there are not alone. There are many with the same struggles even when Facebook shows us something different. It does however feel very lonely when this is your lot in life. Wondering if your child will ever be independent, free from jail and alive are all hard issues.

If you are struggling with any of these issues, find support. Often we find support for our children and we neglect ourselves. If there was ever a time to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, this is it.

To make an appointment, please call 301-690-8008.

Before I Share My Body

As I have been working with young people lately, I have noticed that both genders seem to falter when it comes to what they can or can’t say before, during or after sex. I have attempted to write a few things down that our young people can look at and maybe explore with their partner before engaging in sex.

Please feel free to add your own thoughts about what you would have liked your partner to know before having sex.

What I want you to know before I share my body:

  • Before I share my body, I need to know that I am able to have a voice and if I say stop, you will.
  • Before I share my body, I need to know that you care about me.
  • Before I share my body, I need to know that you will look at me to make sure I am still okay with what is happening.
  • Before I share my body, I know that it’s my body and I have ultimate say of what happens.
  • Before I share my body, I will know that it’s sacred, important and will make me vulnerable.
  • Before I share my body, I want to know that this act is between us and not for all of our friends to know.
  • Before I share my body, I want to know I am safe with you.
  • Before I share my body, I will be in full control of my mental capacities.cropped-cropped-photo-1429277096327-11ee3b761c93.jpeg

The Start of the New School Year

The first few days of a school year are always an exciting time for parents. We post the pictures of our kids taking off with new backpacks in tow or driving their cars for the first time to school.

What we often don’t see however is that not all students are excited. Some come home and lay on their beds crying.

The pressure of feeling included or having a social group is paramount. Sitting alone in the cafeteria is every child’s worst nightmare and yet, many find themselves in just that position.

We all know what it feels like to gather our gumption and walk up to a crowd that you are not very familiar with, but what if no one in that crowd even acknowledges you are there much less invites you to sit down? As an adult, we might have trouble coping with such an event, but as a teen, it can be almost too much to bear.

Depression in teens often begins when they find themselves not having any social connections or when they perceive that others are leaving them out.

So, for this start of the new school year, don’t forget those kids who feel alone and are not excited. Talk to your kids to make sure they are looking around for anyone that is siting alone and teach them to make an effort to include others.

There are many parents who feel alone in their pain regarding their child struggling to fit in and many who would take their place just to save their child some pain.

As an adult, don’t forget to have a few minutes to talk to a parent that looks concerned when their child gets on the bus. They too might be struggling to cope with how their child is feeling.

That can make a huge difference in a person’s life and mental health.

Pandora’s Box


Soph's art

Pandora was a mythological Greek woman, who was given a box and told not to open it.  As soon as the giver was out of sight, she opened the box and unleashed the troubles of the world.  The troubles could never be put back in the box again.  

Affairs are very similar to a Pandora’s box.  Once you cross that line, it can never be undone.  The feelings it opens up can no longer be left behind or closed again.  Even if you return to your marriage, there will always be the lingering effects of the infidelity.   

I am not saying that a marriage cannot be repaired after such an event, but I am saying that it will leave a mark.  

Infidelity is like an addiction.  It begins slowly and then, before you know it, you’re partaking in something you never thought you’d find yourself doing.  It seems the more you engage in it, the more of it you want.  The phone calls, texts, meetings become all-consuming and, before long, it’s all you think about.  Your focus is lost and you find it affecting your daily life and interactions, even with your children.  

At first, it’s an exhilarating feeling but as time goes on, it becomes exhausting.  No one can function with all the lies, secrets and high emotions for too long, without feeling the effects. 

If you find yourself in this position, wondering if there is a way out or a path back to normalcy, call to schedule an appointment. While it might seem you can’t rein it all back in, remember one important thing – even Pandora’s box had something remaining under the lid, hope.  

There is hope for you and your marriage. 


Artwork by Sophia Palma

The Sisterhood of Mothering


When my children were infants and toddlers, I had the benefit of having a military family surrounding me. We often hear of the struggles of a military spouse but we don’t always hear about the wonderful gifts that military spouses are blessed with.

When my children were young, the ladies that lived near me were from my husband’s squadron, neighbors, friends, and play date partners. It created a circle of sisterhood for me. We learned how to parent from each other, given an outlet when it seemed parenting was too hard, shared meals when one of us was overwhelmed and just overall created a feeling of a team.

I remember learning from my friend Jackie that it was okay to lose your cool and it was okay to feel like it was all over whelming. She shared that although she made it look easy to me, it was not and she too struggled. Her kind words and compassion stay with me today. I still find myself wondering how she would handle certain situations and use that to guide me.

It was a blessing to have these ladies in my life. Now that we are no longer living a military life, I still call on those ladies to help me walk through the newest stages of parenting but I have also built a new group a long the way. Without these women in my life to just sit and pray, talk, support and encourage, I am not sure what kind of parent I would be.

I have to be honest, I miss the days when we could all sit outside and watch the children play as we laughed, talked and sometimes cried. My kids are teens now and it seems the stakes are so much higher at this point in their lives and I find myself wishing there was time in the day to sit outside and talk while I knew my children were safe and right in front of me.

Not everyone is as blessed as I was or still am to have women in my life to help me be a mother. Now, I try to make sure and pass on what was given to me as a gift and support other mothers. I still need support and often even need the insight of a younger mother to give me perspective. We all have something to offer.

I am hoping this blog will encourage mothers to reach out to one another. Send a quick text, call or send a note to a mom that you know that might need some encouragement. Sometimes, just knowing someone is on the other end of the phone that cares and is willing to listen is all that we need to change the day.

Cell Phone Secrecy

How private should your personal cell phone be? I see couples every day in my practice, and they always discuss the privacy of their cell phones. When someone is suspicious of infidelity, the cell phone is the first thing that is checked.

Cell phones may have made infidelity easier for people with their ease of communication and the available sites. The temptation for some could be a huge hurdle.

How do you combat this temptation or hurdle in a marriage?  Please post your thoughts.

Teens and Sexuality

Lately, in our community we have had a lot of debate and anger regarding Teens and Sexuality.  I understand this is an uncomfortable subject, but it’s also a very important one that, as parents, we are responsible for discussing with our young people.  If, as a parent, you are unable to have this conversation with your child, then find someone you approve of, to help you with it.

Our teens are growing up in such a different time, technologically.  Online pornography depicts women as objects, only to satisfy the male.  How many teens have taken a look at those sites?  I know we would like to imagine that our teens have not, but the ease of access and lack of controls, suggest that they likely have, even if we don’t realize it. 

It’s hard to censor what our young people see and experience at all times and next to impossible to control all access to these materials.  Although I make every effort to prevent it, as much as I possibly can, I also know what it’s like to be a curious teen.  Because of this, I have taken the approach of talking to my kids openly about sex and what they have might have seen.  I am doing the best I can to keep the doors of communication open regarding this area, because I would rather they came and asked me, versus believing the warped view of what they saw. 

It’s an uncomfortable subject, but an important one. 

Young women need to know they have a right to tell someone when something they are doing does not feel good emotionally or physically with an expectation it will immediately stop.  Are we giving them the tools to do this?  Are we talking to our young women and teaching them that, although it’s scary or embarrassing, they need to find their voice? 

More importantly, we need to teach our young women that, if something feels uncomfortable and you are not able to verbalize it to your partner, you’re probably not ready to move to that state. 

Recently I had a discussion with my son regarding his responsibility in a sexual situation.  Again, it’s uncomfortable to have this discussion but, it’s an important enough that I forgo my discomfort.  I want to begin laying groundwork about what he will likely experience.   I explained to my son that it’s not just stopping if a girl says “no” because sometimes girls can be nervous or scared and not say a word, but might actually want you to stop.  I explained that he has to make sure she is enjoying what is happening too and if she does not look comfortable or happy, he needs to stop.  Checking in with your partner is very important.    

I know these are hard subjects to broach with your teens, but it’s our responsibility to teach them just as we might teach them to cook, do laundry, or balance a checking account.