Children and teens face changes all the time, whether it’s growth spurts, losing baby teeth, riding a bike or learning to drive.
But not all changes are exciting and fun, and not all changes are easy to talk about — even for parents. That’s why Tri-City United Community Education presents a personal enrichment talk called “Helping Children Cope with Change” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3 in the TCU Lonsdale Elementary media center.
Following the sudden death of TCU High School teacher and coach Carol Lilla in September 2019, TCU Community Education administrators wanted to find a speaker to talk to parents about how to approach difficult topics with their children. That’s where Jenny Beall, a counselor with Threads of Hope Counseling, came into the picture.
During her presentation, Beall will address how to handle tough topics — divorce, death, mental health issues and moving to a new school, among other hardships — with children and teens.
The age of a child can drastically impact how he or she handles a major life change, Beall explained. But no matter their level of understanding, she said the first key point is to help children talk about the change at hand.
Beall will talk about the various ways children and teens respond to change and how to maintain structure and set boundaries if they deal with aggression. She’ll discuss the timeline of adjusting to big changes, and how it varies from person to person.
While change alone can contribute to uncomfortable feelings for children and teens, Beall also wants to help parents detect the warning signs of underlying mental health issues. Knowing these signs can help parents know if their child needs professional help in dealing with a change, she said.
Indications of mental health concerns like anxiety and depression can look different in young children and teens compared to adults. Beall explained elementary-aged children might complain about stomach aches, headaches and tiredness.
“They might not having insight to say, ‘I’m feeling anxious about this,’” said Beall.
Teenagers might verbalize their feelings more than children, said Beall, but parents still need to discern the difference between normal “teen angst” and a clinical issue.
“It can be hard to sort through how seriously to take it,” said Beall.
Apart from talking to parents about these sensitive topics, Beall will give them a chance to practice holding hard conversations in an appropriate way.
Threads of Hope
It wasn’t long ago that Threads of Hope Counseling underwent its own transition, by opening a Lonsdale office. With offices in Inver Grove Heights, Osseo, Newport and Brooklyn Park as well as offices in two Minneapolis residential treatment centers, Beall wanted to branch out to southern Minnesota. The 102 Fifth Ave. NW office opened in summer 2019.
“We realized there’s not another mental health counselor within 14 miles of Lonsdale,” said Beall. “We saw a need and wanted to fill it.”
Four therapists currently work in Lonsdale, and about 20 staff members, including admins, are employed on the team. Threads of Hope offers counseling services to all ages, individuals, families and sometimes groups. The team members offer a variety of different specialties and take weekday and evening appointments. Threads of Hope takes most major insurances and a sliding scale, said Beall.
Deb Kunze, one of the Lonsdale therapists, said she really likes the people of Lonsdale and felt especially welcome while attending Community Days last August.
“We had a lot of comments from people saying they’re glad we’re here, that they had to go to Northfield otherwise [for counseling],” said Kunze. “They just seemed very welcoming and excited.”
Kunze counsels adults as of now, working in Lonsdale one day a week but otherwise at the Newport office while building her local clientele. She works with couples dealing with parenting issues, and with teenagers. As the mother of a child with special needs, she’ll soon offer a talk called “Parents of Special Needs Children” in Washington County and may bring it to Lonsdale if there’s an interest.