“I want food for Christmas “

The Holiday Season is here again, however, this year it still will not be our typical Holiday Season because we are still dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus and inflation. Over 1,000,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus and people are still dying daily due to the virus (CDC). So we have numerous people who are grieving for spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents, friends and children. Furthermore, due to inflation and a significant increase in the cost of food, many parents are having difficulties affording food, rent and their other monthly bills.

Millions of families cannot afford to pay the rent or buy food. Food Banks are reporting a significant increase in the number of people seeking food. Parents are getting in line at 5 am when the Food Bank opens at 9am. There are doing this because they are desperate for food so they can feed their children. Many of these people have well paying jobs prior to the pandemic and they never dreamed that they would be going to food banks or churches looking for food. However due to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and inflation, they are finding it difficult to pay all their monthly bills.

A teacher asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter asking for food and shoes. However, she was not the only one. Many children were asking for food, clothes and a place to live.

This video details the need that many families are facing and how many children are focusing on food and clothes for Christmas not toys. https://youtu.be/j_05ZuhqCZM

This video is the tip of the iceberg. Currently in the United States one out of five children are going to bed without food and are homeless (CDC). This is the United States, how are we allowing this to occur? While families are having to beg for food and a place to live, the former President Trump continues to lie about how he did not lose the election and spreading lies about the pandemic and inflation which only serve to make these children’s lives worse. Many have asked him to stop the lying and misinformation, but he ignores the pleas.

Many people assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However the current statistics of one in five children living below the poverty level and not having enough to eat and many living on the streets tells us that we have a severe problem in the United States. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, but they still cannot afford the prices for food and gas due to inflation. I have children who tell me they are happy to be going back to school because public schools now provide free breakfast and lunch. Therefore, by going to school they get to eat and not have to starve.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. In therapy I am trying to help them to not give up. The suicide rate has increased due to the Coronavirus pandemic and if a child sees no hope for their future they do think about suicide. Many children I see I need to see pro bono or for a very low fee because their families don’t have insurance or their parents cannot afford the copayments the insurance companies require.

The other sad fact is that the United States government continues not to act. Additionally, the few programs that are helping these families will expire soon. However, the Senate refuses to cooperate with President Biden who is proposing programs to help these families and to give them their dignity back. Many of these programs are their only source of food and shelter for children. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will decrease the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Where are our priorities?

Dr. Michael Rubino has 25 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders . For more information about his work with children visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

College Does Not Make A Teen Successful

College Does Not Make A Teen Successful

Every child is not going to get straight As and that is okay. We live in a very competitive society and parents and students often brag about their grades or where they are going to college. Some teenagers are academically inclined and others are physically inclined. Therefore, instead of being a surgeon may be they will be a plumber. The question is what’s the difference? The amount of money they are making. Is how much money you make the most important thing about your teenager and their life? What about being happy and what type of person they are? Does that matter?

I often do Career Days and the first question I usually receive is how much money do I make? Followed by what type of car do I drive? My answer is, what does it matter? Most people today are working 60 hours a week. If you are working that hard, it’s more important that you enjoy your career instead of being there just for the money. If you are there for the money, you most likely will find yourself unhappy after a while. At Career Days I tell high school students that I would be a psychotherapist if I was making $300,000 or $30,000 a year because I really enjoy what I do and I am happy to go to the office every day. Money makes paying the bills easier, but it doesn’t make you happy.

In addition to money not guaranteeing happiness, I hear many teenagers feel like their parents are disappointed in them because they are not getting As. Some of the teenagers are getting poor grades because they choose not to study and not to do their homework. They are letting themselves and their parents down. However, some teenagers have learning disabilities or other interest such as music or art and they have difficulty learning in a standard classroom. Therefore, they may be trying their best but they can only get a C. It is nothing to be ashamed about. If a student is trying their best and can only get a C, they are successful as the student who tries their best an gets an A. They are both trying their best and they both should be acknowledged for doing their best.

As I said I see many teenagers who feel like failures because they are not getting As. Typically they hide their issues from their parents and this can cause arguments about grades. While researching this article, I found a blog from a parent who listed how she approaches her teenager who gets Cs. Using her approach helps a teen who is getting Cs to feel good about themselves and to know that their parents are proud of them too. It is very important that teenagers know and feel that their parents are proud of them. Otherwise, they look for attention in other ways such as getting into trouble. Here is the way the parent approached her teenager so he felt celebrated and that his parents were proud of him:

1. Your child’s achievements are not a reflection of you or your parenting.

Even though we often judge other parents based on how their child behaves or performs we need to remind ourselves that our teens are their own person. My son is not an extension of me. As an overachiever who works with children and families this was difficult for me to come to terms with.

2. Do not make comparisons.

It seems like this should go without saying, but we can’t compare our C student to their siblings, neighbors, or friends. I struggled to not compare my high school years to my son’s. I made good grades and got involved in school activities. School was my favourite place to be, and I spent much of my time with my nose in a book. Seeing the years go by with my son never touching the books on his bookshelf were hard.

3. Your child likely does care about their grades.

They might pretend they don’t care about school in order to protect themselves from feelings of failure and embarrassment but, chances are, they care very much. Our son cared about doing well in school and he wanted to achieve and make us happy, but regular classes moved too quickly for him and even accommodations could only take him so far.

4. Find out what your child is good at and get them involved in it.

Our son was extremely interested in skateboarding, so we encouraged him to do it outside of school. He excelled at it and we saw his self-esteem skyrocket. We then worked with the school to find classes that were more hands-on. Help steer your child to a future career that fits with their abilities and aptitudes. Throughout the pandemic, my son has been able to finish his high school diploma through co-operative education. He has also been working with a union to earn his apprenticeship hours in the construction trade. Best of all, he already has a good paying job lined up for when school finishes this year.

5. Celebrate your C student the same way you’d celebrate an A student.

My son has always struggled to achieve in school, but he has so many other amazing qualities that have nothing to do with a letter grade. He is proud of his achievements and so are we. After years of trying to figure out how to help him do better academically, we have learned to celebrate every C that he gets because we know how hard he has worked for it. No matter what grades he earns, my son—and every C student like him—deserves to feel accepted, understood and loved for who he is.

The above last line is very important. We live in a society that tends to see success in terms of money and job titles. Some teenagers are not academically inclined and others are more interested in fixing cars instead of being a lawyer. Every teenager deserves to be celebrated and to feel respected. They may choose construction, but it’s an honest living and they are being mature enough to take care of themselves and their families. You raised them to be an independent adult and that is exactly what they are doing. How much money someone makes should not be how we value people. Instead we should look at how they treat others and are they happy with their lives. Being a caring, compassionate person is more important than making a lot of money in my opinion. Parents hopefully you will find this helpful.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Ways for Families to Cope with Holiday Stress

Ways for Families to Cope with Holiday Stress

The Holiday Season is here and so is stress about gifts, family dinners and Holiday parties. For example, many people will be worrying about how they will survive the Holidays with certain relatives and since prices have increased this year many people are worrying about how they will be able to afford the Holiday Season. Additionally, there is the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been vaccinated, but others for some reason have decided not to get vaccinated. Therefore, some families are faced with decisions about do they celebrate with relatives who have not been vaccinated. This can be very difficult and a very stressful situation. In addition, the Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or you have some family members trying so hard to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family? Finally this year prices on everything have increased significantly and many families are struggling with being able to afford the rent, in addition to Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season.

We had Thanksgiving and next there is Christmas and Chanukah depending on your family’s tradition. Since we have had Thanksgiving, you can evaluate how Thanksgiving went for everyone and decide if you want to make changes for the remaining holidays.

After you have assessed how you would like the remaining Holidays to go, the next step is to sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for the Holidays. It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers because they have been isolated from friends due to the pandemic. Are they expecting to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the family or are they expecting to spend time with friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. It is important to settle this issue before the Holidays. By discussing expectations and trying to accommodate everyone’s wishes, you can avoid arguments. However, many times you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes and as the parents you may need to make the judgement call. If this occurs explain to your teenager you know they may be mad, but you hope they can understand and you would appreciate their cooperation. May be you make arrangements for them to spend time with their friends the day before or after certain Holidays.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of the Holidays is to appreciate and to be grateful for the people in your life and what you do have in your life. Therefore, if your grandparents give you something you do not like, be grateful that they thought about you and say thank you. Try not to make faces or act disappointed and hurt your grandparents feelings. Again remind them the Holidays are a time to be grateful for what you have in your life.

Reminding your children about being grateful leads us into the next tip for decreasing Holiday Stress. Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Holiday stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Holiday Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of the Holidays. Ask them what they would like to contribute to the evening or day. Let them what they feel they can contribute.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Be present with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family during this Holiday time.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for the children and for adults too. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

If you notice you are getting angry or your teenager is getting angry use the acronym HALT:

H – hunger, do not try to discuss a difficult situation if you or your teen are hungry.

A – anger, if it is obvious someone is angry give them time to calm down before discussing an issue. Pushing a discussion when someone is angry will only result in making a bad situation worse.

Lonely – lonely, if someone is feeling down or alone again pushing them to talk can make it worse. Let them know when they are ready you are there to listen.

Tired – tired, trying to have a conversation with a tired teenager can turn into an argument fast. Wait until they are ready to talk. There is no need to make a bad situation worse.

Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of an unpleasant Holiday for everyone try to

use the words GRATEFUL and HALT as guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 25 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

What to do When Children Do Not Like Their Grandparents Gifts

What to do When Children Do Not Like Their Grandparents Gifts

At this time of year most people are worried about finishing Christmas shopping before Christmas and making sure they get gifts for everyone they need to. This year due to the Coronavirus and inflation, the Holidays continue to be different including shopping. Many families are spending money freely because they are happy to be out and able to be around people. Other families are being very careful with spending because they are having a difficult time just affording food and gas due to inflation.

Furthermore, as I stated above, many people are short on money. Besides gifts they are worried about having enough money for the Holidays. Besides buying gifts, people still need to pay the rent and buy food for the family. Therefore, some people will need to cut back on how much they spend on gifts and some people may not be able to afford to give gifts at all this year.

A common situation many parents worry about during the Holidays is what to do when your child receives a gift they don’t like or want. They are worried about their child saying something in front of their grandparents or their great aunt that they don’t like the gift and tossing it to the side. The parents feel embarrassed and are concerned that their child hurt their grandparents or great aunt’s feelings especially since many people are having difficulties affording gifts. This definitely applies to grandparents who are living on limited incomes.

All of these worries regarding gifts can ruin Christmas for people. We should be more concerned about the spirit of the Holidays. The Holidays are about spending time with the people who are important to us not gifts. Granted due to the Coronavirus, we may not be able to celebrate with everyone in person, but it’s acknowledging those people in our lives that are important to us which is the most important part of the Holidays.

If you child says something inappropriate about a gift, remember you cannot control what children will say all the time. Also the adults should understand that children do not think the same way as adults and will try not to take it personally.

All you can do is talk to you children about what to do if they receive a gift they don’t like so they will not hurt someone’s feelings. Additionally, you hope that Great Aunt Sally is mature enough to understand how children act. However, once again the focus should be on celebrating life and love not gifts.

As a helpful resource and gift I have included a link to a guide to your questions about giving & receiving Christmas gifts & how to handle gift situations http://www.designsponge.com/20… via designsponge

Dr Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 years experience working with children and adolescents. In addition to working with trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work and services offered at his private practice visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

A Nation of Children Traumatized for Life

A Nation of Children Traumatized for Life

I recently wrote an article about mass shootings and the impact they are having on children. In light of this week’s events it appears another article is needed. This week there were two mass shootings. One in Colorado and one in North Carolina. Additionally, the one in Colorado appears to be a hate crime too. The shooting occurred in the city’s only LGBTQ+ bar and hate crimes against transgender individuals have seen a significant increase this year. This increases the fear and trauma in the LGBTQ+ community in that city and all across the country too. As of today there have been 612 mass shooting in the United States just this year. There are only 356 days in a year so we are have more than one mass shooting a day in our Country (CDC). Additionally, there are 112 shootings every day in the United States (CDC). These include domestic violence incidents, crimes, suicides and accidents. We are experiencing a tremendous amount of gun violence in our Country. It is no surprise that there is an epidemic of anxiety, depression and cutting in children and teenagers in our Country (CDC). It also no surprise that many people such as teachers, store clerks and first responders are dealing with PTSD in significant numbers (CDC).

However, stop and think for a moment. Every time there is a mass shooting the people who were killed and injured, they and their families are traumatized, but so is every person who was at that school or store that day and so are the first responders who must treat the wounded, deal with the families and the paramedics and police officers who must see the bodies torn apart and the blood all over the crime scene.

However, the trauma doesn’t stop at the site of the shooting. Everyone living in the town is traumatized because the illusion that they are safe has been destroyed. Additionally, anyone any where in our Country who has experienced gun violence relives the trauma all over again. This experience of reliving the trauma doesn’t stop in six months or a year. Most people will carry this trauma with them for life. Some people find it so overwhelming that they eventually commit suicide to stop the trauma. Many people refer to it as survivor guilt. We are seeing parents and teenagers who have experienced past mass shootings committing suicide recently. Many first responders also are at risk for suicide because they blame themselves for not being able to save the victims.

Also, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11, or were not even born yet, when the United States was attacked. However, since 9/11 they have seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about numerous terrorist alerts or attacks around the world and here in the United States. They also have heard how the TSA at times are putting tighter security on travelers and places such as Disneyland are increasing security due to concerns about terrorism.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. This is a great deal of stress and trauma for a child to endure daily. For the group we are discussing, suicide was the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old. It is now the second leading cause of death for teens and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide. Also because of school shootings, students have seen increased security on their school campuses. Many campuses have metal detectors that students have to pass through as the enter the campus and there are police officers assigned to school sites due to the fear of violence.

Now, in addition to these facts stated above, think about what these children see on the news nightly and the video games they play daily. Anytime there is a shootings incident in the United States, or any where in the world, there is pretty much 24 hour news coverage of the event for days. Also when there are bombing or shootings in Europe there is 24 hour news coverage for days too. And now we have moved on to covering funerals. When the officers were killed in Dallas the memorial was televised nationally. If we look at the video games these kids are playing most have to do with killing and death. Since computer graphics have significantly improved, many of these games look real.

Additionally, children in the fourth and fifth grades are telling me they are worried about their safety due to the former President Trump. They have heard what the former President has said and they are afraid other countries may attack us. Also Hispanic children who are legal citizens are still afraid that they will be deported. This is a great deal for a nine or ten year old child to worry about.

Looking at all of this it begins to make sense why I am seeing more depressed and anxious teenagers who fear for their lives. These teenagers are being traumatized. They may not be experiencing the trauma personally but they are experiencing vicarious trauma. With all of the pictures on television and news reports and realistic video games these teenagers are playing, they are being traumatized vicariously. We have never had a generation of children grow up with the amount of trauma that these children are growing up with in the world. Even children growing up during World War II didn’t experience this amount of trauma. We didn’t have instant access to news nor did we have the graphic videos being shown by the news media.

The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can demand that the Senate act. Telephone Senator’s McConnell office at 202-224-2541and demand that he stop refusing to not to pass laws which would protect children. Parents can monitor how much exposure children are receiving to mass shootings when they occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. Again, we must demand that the Congress and the Senate pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon or silencer to hunt a deer. All the weapons in this last shooting were purchased legally, no background check or waiting period. In Canada before someone buys a gun their family is interviewed and there is an in-depth investigation of the person. If other countries can do this without terminating someone’s right to own a gun, so can our Country. The government must act.

Another thing parents can do is listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them.

Finally, if you start to notice a change of attitude in your child that you are concerned about have a talk with your child or have them assessed by a psychotherapist. I have included a link to an article by the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which describes what parents can do http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child needs therapy. We are exposing children to situations that most adults have problems dealing with themselves. You may find it very upsetting to talk to your child about these incidents. For these reasons and many more, if you feel your teenager has been traumatized vicariously make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and victims of trauma. Our kids have had to deal with a lot. We can help make it easier for them growing up in this time by providing the help they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers and is an expert treating victims of trauma and also performs Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How to Respond to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

It’s the Holiday Season a time to spend time with family and friends. However, many people have lost a loved one this year or they are still grieving the lost of a loved from from last year or the year before. Grief has no time limits on how long it will last. I have had many patients ask me how to respond to a family member or friend who is grieving especially during this time of year. People ask me questions about grief because our society has a very difficult time with death and grief. We try not to discuss it and avoid the topic. However given the fact we have had 612 mass shootings this year and 110 shootings every day which involve one or two people, in addition to over one million people who have died due to Covid (CDC), there are millions of people grieving during this Holiday Season. Therefore avoiding the topic of grief is becoming very difficult to do.

While doing research regarding grief for patients who have asked me what to say to grieving people, I found this information from the grief center. I think it is very good information and very easy to understand. Therefore, I will present the information in three sections.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us a great deal of insight into how those in grief feel about the responses of others to loss. Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.

You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. I am so sorry for your loss.

2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

6. I am always just a phone call away

7. Give a hug instead of saying something

8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you

9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything

10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2. He is in a better place

3. She brought this on herself

4. There is a reason for everything

5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

6. You can have another child still

7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him

8. I know how you feel

9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go

10. Be strong

Best & Worst Traits of people just trying to help

When in the position of wanting to help a friend or loved one in grief, often times our first desire is to try to “fix” the situation, when in all actuality our good intentions can lead to nothing but more grief. Knowing the right thing to say is only half of the responsibility of being a supportive emotional caregiver. We have comprised two lists which examine both the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD traits of people just trying to help.

The Best Traits

Supportive, but not trying to fix it

About feelings

Non active, not telling anyone what to do

Admitting can’t make it better

Not asking for something or someone to change feelings

Recognize loss

Not time limited

The Worst Traits

They want to fix the loss

They are about our discomfort

They are directive in nature

They rationalize or try to explain loss/li>

They may be judgmental

May minimize the loss

Put a timeline on loss

The above information is meant to be used as a guideline. Everyone goes through the grieving process in their own way. It is very important to understand that point. It is also important to remember while the above is a guideline, the most important thing is your intent. So if you say a worse thing but you said it out of love the person will understand. The guideline will hopefully make you more comfortable to offer support to your grieving loved one or friend. Because someone who is grieving need people to talk to without people feeling awkward.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 years experience treating adolescents, children, their families, trauma victims and first responders. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page

IPhones as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

IPhones as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

The Holiday Season is here and one of the most popular gifts with teenagers is a Smartphone. Many teens may have a cellphone but that is not good enough. They want an iPhone or its equivalent. If they have an IPhone already, they want to upgrade to the newest version. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their cellphone away. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work for them. However, in my opinion, cellphones, especially Smartphones, are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 14. However, since we are dealing with what I call the IPhone generation, most teenagers will not be satisfied and will feel cheated unless they have the latest version of the Smartphone on the market.

Students in middle school or high school will be asking to upgrade their phones. As I stated above, they feel they need the latest version otherwise they cannot function successfully in their lives. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone 14 for example. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone. They also do not need a powerful smartphone, they are not running a business. Additionally, Smartphones provide numerous ways for teenagers to get into trouble. Look at how many adults get into trouble with Smartphones and how they use them.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges not necessities especially for teens and children in fifth grade or in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege any more. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get the phones they want. They tell their parents if they cared, they would buy them the smartphone they need and want. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. Additionally, if their parents are divorced, they often will play their parents against each other as away to get the cellphone they want. Furthermore, many teenagers do not consider how much these phones cost. Additionally, the amount of money you spend on gifts for your child or teenager has no correlation with your love for your children or teenagers. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhone 14? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they need to remember their own doctor appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Also if you do get them one, they do not need it with them all the time. It is important to set limits where and when they use their phones. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of children in fifth grade and teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child or teen understands the responsibility they are assuming, if you allow them to use a smartphone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need:

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with children, middle school and high school students for over 25 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Reducing Holiday Stress for Kids with Autism

Reducing Holiday Stress for Kids with Autism

Typically during the Holidays many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this year the Holidays may be different for families due to inflation and families may not be able to afford gifts or special holiday food. Additionally the Coronavirus is still a factor families need to confront. There may be issues over if someone is vaccinated or not and a debate about if masks are needed at certain family events. In addition to inflation and the Coronavirus, the Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. However, due to inflation many families may not be having big gatherings, but they still will be having gatherings. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them. Additionally, changes that need to be made due to inflation or the Coronavirus can upset children and teenagers on the Spectrum. The changes may disrupt what they have come to expect from Holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving is around the corner so it will be the first test for this Holiday season. Parents can evaluate how Thanksgiving turned out and decide if they need to make any changes or adjustments to the upcoming Holiday activities during this Holiday season.

The Holidays, as I said above, are supposed to be a happy time. Therefore, when parents, who have a child on the autistic spectrum, see their child getting upset or agitated, it is difficult for them. Additionally, many parents who have children on the spectrum worry about how other people will react or judge their child. It would help, if we try to remember that children on the autistic spectrum are still children, they simply need some accommodations just like a child with a peanut allergy or who is ADHD.

All of this worry for the parents and change for the kids can make the Holidays a stressful time for autistic children. Also as I stated above, we may have significant changes to our Holidays in terms of what families can afford this year. This may require changing some traditional Holiday activities and there may not be as many gifts this year as compared to other years

While researching this issue, I did read a very good article by Lori Lite which has good ideas for parents to use during the Holidays. These ideas can help make the Holidays a happy time for your child and for your family. I would suggest trying these ideas and not worrying how other people may or may not judge your child. Being Autistic is nothing to be ashamed about. I treat many autistic children and they are usually very caring, smart children. We need to change our views regarding autism. It is a medical condition like diabetes or being blind. We make accommodations for children with these issues so we can make accommodations for a child with Autism. Therefore, try some of these ideas to help you and your child enjoy the Holidays.

Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.

Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions.

Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t overbook your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece.  Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain for correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens are on the Autistic Spectrum. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenagers and Gratitude

Teenagers and Gratitude

We live in an area where most kids have more than they need. For example, most fifth graders have Smartphones, IPads and laptops. However, many parents still worry are they providing their children with enough. Many parents are so worried about if the teen or child has enough that they often don’t realize how fortunate most children are in this area.

While parents are worrying about meeting the needs of their teens so they have they same amount of stuff as other kids, they often forget to teach their teens about gratitude. Yes it is very important to meet a child’s basic needs, but it is also important that teens are grateful for what they do have and the sacrifices their parents make for them.

Gratitude is an important lesson and gift for children. What some parents may want to do is instead of buying your child a large number of things is to teach their child about gratitude. In the United States, we have many children who are homeless and hungry. Yes, in the United States, we do have homeless children. We also have many children who have more toys than they need and are unaware that there are children who are homeless in our Country. Therefore, think about taking you and your family to the store to buy children who’s families cannot afford gifts, some gifts for the Holidays. May be you and your family can donate some time at a homeless shelter or cleaning out your closets and donate items you are no longer using to the Salvation Army. While doing these things, teach your child about the fact that there are others in need and to appreciate what they have in their lives. Also that giving can be more important than receiving.

Furthermore, I read an article by Joshua Becker and he listed gifts that parents give to their children every day and that children usually do not forget these gifts. I think it is important for parents to remember the daily priceless gifts we give children daily. Especially when your teen tries to make you feel guilty because other parents give their teens more.

Here are some of Joshua Becker’s thoughts. I have countless memories. Very few childhood memories actually include the things I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?

To that end, here is an alphabetical list.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget:

1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.

2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…

3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.

4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.

5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.

6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.

7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?

8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.

9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.

10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.

11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.

12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.

13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.

14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.

15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.

16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.

17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.

18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.

19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.

20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.

21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.

22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?

23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.

24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.

25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.

26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.

27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.

28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.

29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.

30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.

31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.

32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.

33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.

34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.

35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?

Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

If we look around our world, we can see there are a lot of things for us to be grateful for in our lives. It’s important to teach our children about gratitude and how to be grateful for what they have in their lives. It’s very difficult to be happy if you feel like there is always something missing from your life.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 25 years experience working with teens and their parents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or visit his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teaching Teenagers about Thank You Notes

Teaching Teenagers about Thank You Notes

Teenagers like receiving gifts and they like when people are nice to them and help them. While teenagers enjoy receiving gifts and having people be kind to them, they do not always know how to say thank you. Many adults, such as grandparents are use to thank you notes. However, due to the computer teenagers, in fact many adults too, do not know how to or when to write a thank you note.

Many parents try to get their teenagers to write thank you notes, but as I stated most teenagers do not know how to write thank you notes because they are use to texting everyone. This can be frustrating because many grandparents, great aunts and uncles are family friends expect thank you notes. They expect thank you notes because often grandparents and other family members live on the other side of the country. Therefore, thank you notes let the person sending the gift that the teen received the gift and if they liked or not.

Since teenagers are use to texting so parents try to teach their teenagers how to write thank you notes and other notes appropriately. Again since many of us are use to texting, many of us may not be sure how to write thank you notes appropriately either.

Given the fact that we rely on texting a great deal, I did some research into writing thank you notes. Hallmark has some very straight forward guidelines about how to write thank you notes. I have included the guidelines below so parents can refer to them and help their teenagers write thank you notes for Holiday gifts they receive during the Holiday Season. Here are Hallmark’s guidelines regarding writing thank you notes:

1. Use an appropriate greeting: Dear Aunt Sally … Dear Nana and Grampy …

2. Express your thanks: Thank you for the … I loved the … I so appreciated the way you remembered my …

3. Add detail: I plan to use the money to help pay for my trip to California next month … Here’s a picture of me wearing the sweater I bought with the money you gave me …

4. Mention the gift-giver: I look forward to seeing you at Thanksgiving … I can’t wait to celebrate my graduation with you …

5. Say thank you again: Again, thanks so much for the …

Thank you notes may seem old fashioned to some people, but many still think they are appropriate. When you think about it, thank you notes are a good way to help teach teenagers how to express appreciation and gratitude to people who have been kind and caring to them. We tend to focus on receiving in our culture, but it’s very important to be able to express gratitude too. Especially in our world today. We are divided and a lot of people are being hurt due to their religion, ethnicity and sexuality. Expressing gratitude for people and what they do for us is away to try to overcome these divisions and try to work together for the common good.

Therefore, you may think thank you notes are old fashioned, but gratitude is not. Educating your teenagers about saying thank you to people and writing thank you notes is a big step towards teaching teenagers about gratitude and why it’s important for each of us to be grateful for what we have and that it’s important to be grateful to the people who help us have the things we have and be able to live our lives with advantages that many people do not have in their lives.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.