Dealing with Mother’s Day When Many People are Grieving

Dealing with Mother’s Day When Many People are Grieving

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, this year for many people Mother’s Day maybe a very difficult day. We have many adults and children who maybe grieving the death of their mother or grandmother due to the Coronavirus. Additionally, due to the Coronavirus restrictions some people still may not be able to celebrate with their mother’s or grandmothers. Therefore, making it a sad day for them. Remember over 560,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. Many people who died were mothers and grandmothers so there will be a lot of grieving families this Mother’s Day.

In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Mothers Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who died from the Coronavirus or their mother may have left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school is making Mother’s Day gifts it can be difficult for children whose mothers have died or left the family.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

How to Cope with A Grieving Nation

How to Cope with A Grieving Nation

We have a nation of grieving people and families. There are over 560,000 Americans who have died due to the Coronavirus and there are people who are still dying from the Coronavirus every day. Adults, teenagers and children are grieving the loss of parents, grandparents, children, uncles and aunts and friends. Additionally, according to the Gun Violence Archives there have been 176 deaths due to mass shootings in 2021. This is a 73% increase compared to 2020. In addition to these deaths, we have people who have been killed by police this year and Asian Americans who have been killed just because of their ethnicity and people blaming them inappropriately for the Coronavirus.

When you look at the different categories, there are a large number of Americans who have died unnecessarily. All of these people have families and friends who are grieving their loss. I have had many people ask me how to respond and try to support someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Most people have no idea what to do or say when the grieving person is a child or teenager. Hopefully this article may help.

A common problem people face regarding grief is they do not know what to say or do at times when someone is grieving. The reason we have this problem is that we do not really talk about death and grief in our society. There is a tendency to think that after funeral services are completed that people quickly resume normal life. This is not true. The grieving process can take a long time and everyone has their own way of grieving. This makes knowing what to say or do very difficult especially during the Holidays.

I have had many patients ask me what should I say or do when they are talking about someone who is grieving. Therefore, I researched the literature on grieving and came up with these suggestions about how you can respond to someone who is grieving during the Holidays or anytime.

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

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us much 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 needs people to talk to without people feeling awkward. Also everyone is around immediately after the death and through the funeral services. Most people then go back to their normal lives. However, those who were really close to the person are still grieving and trying to figure out how to proceed with life. So don’t forget the person who is grieving can use emotional support for the first year especially. Therefore, do not forget to call, send a card or stop by occasionally. Especially around the holidays and birthdays.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist treating adolescents, children and their families. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Do We Value Children’s Lives or Guns?

Do We Value Children’s Lives or Guns?

During 2020, we heard very little about mass shootings and shootings at schools because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Due to the quarantine rules, most people stayed at home and we did not hear about mass shootings. Instead we heard about how many people were contracting the Coronavirus and dying from it. We were hearing about how many families were being destroyed by the Coronavirus forever. Therefore, we were not paying attention to the issue of mass shootints. Instead we were worrying about how we were going to survive the Coronavirus pandemic, when former President Trump was choosing to ignore it.

Now we are starting to gain control over the Coronavirus and starting to open the country. As we do start to open the Country up, the issue of mass shootings are becoming an issue again. I have written many articles about mass shootings. In November of 2019, I wrote my last article about mass shootings and I was hoping and praying it was my last. However, my hopes and prayers were not answered in the way I had hoped they would be answered. Looking back to November of 2019, as of July 31, 2019, there were 248 mass shootings, 246 people killed and 979 injured. Given the number of shootings in 2019, it averaged out to a mass shooting every 1.2. days. Those statistics were valid until July 31st. However in November 2019, there were three more shootings in California, Texas and Ohio. Therefore, there were 250 mass shootings in 2019.

Since we have reopened the Country, there have been 126 mass shootings, 148 people killed, 481 people injured for a total of 629 victims so far in 2021 (CDC). The first mass shooting was in March of this year in Atlanta. It’s a month later and we already have 126 mass shootings for 2021. Our US Capital has been attacked twice in 2021 and with all this violence the republicans in the Senate refuse to vote for safe and sane gun laws. What are we doing in the United States?

Let’s look back at the history of the mass shooting issue. As of November 15, 2019, which was the 319th day of the year there had been 336 mass shootings. The statistics for 2019 list 1347 killed in 2019 in mass shooting and 1,684 people injured. These statistics don’t account for how many families have been changed forever and how many first responders will be dealing with trauma reactions. Why did we allow the issue to get that big? When will we take action?

Initially after the first mass shootings, the former President said we would definitely be taking action and there would be universal background checks. He then made a public statement from the Oval Office that there would be no universal background checks. The former President stated the background checks we currently have are enough to keep us safe. He also publicly stated that the people who helped him win the election would not be happy with universal background checks. He had been speaking to the chairman of the NRA that day. Therefore it appeared the money the NRA donates to republican campaigns is more important than the children of the United States.

Another sad fact about the history of mass shootings is that the House of Representatives passed several sane gun laws. For months Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, had held these bills on his desk just letting them sit so the Senate could not vote on them. Children and teenagers were being killed daily and a possible solution was sitting on Senator McConnell’s desk and he refuses to allow the Senate to debate and vote on the gun laws. His excuse was he was waiting for permission from former President Trump.

The former President initially said he would support sane gun laws and then he is tried to say it simply was a mental health issue. By doing so he did not help the issue and he reinforced the negative stigma about mental health in our country. When he referred to mental health issues, he called the people “sick” and stated that they needed to be locked up. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues pose a danger to themselves by cutting or committing suicide. The research clearly shows that people with mental health issues are rarely dangerous to society. The Director of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement stating the same information.

Mental health is not an issue causing mass shootings, hate is the issue. In fact the FBI was able to arrest three men planing mass shootings. One of the men arrested issued a statement that he was planing the shooting because he hated anyone who was not white. He was also at the Charlottesville protest and stated to a reporter he believed in only a nation for white people and was advocating killing anyone who was Jewish. This man was not being labeled as mental ill. He was being charged with charges related to a Hate crime. Again in order to be charged with a Hate crime you must be attacking someone because you hate them due to their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation etc. The Klu Klux Klan has held rallies and have been accused of killing people for years, but no one in the group is labeled mentally ill. The KKK is labeled as a hate group.

So when I have children coming into my office saying they are afraid of being killed at school and the mass shooter drills scare them, what do I say to them? How can I say we are doing everything we can to protect them, when our government is not doing anything. How can I say don’t worry when mass shooting are reoccurring and more students are being killed at schools? Children have easy access to the news via their smartphones and the internet. They are aware of what is occurring and who is being honest with them or lying to them. For therapy to work, the children need to trust me. If I lie, they will not trust me. Again, with the statistics I cited for this year alone, how can I tell a child there is nothing to worry about.

The other issue is how do parents get children and teenagers to come to a psychotherapist’s office. The former President has been on national television stating and he continues to state in his speeches that all mass shooting is due to mental illness. He refers to the people as “sick puppies” and that they need to be “locked up in asylums.” He continues to reinforce the negative stereotype regarding psychotherapy. Therefore, teenagers and children will be worried that their parents are taking them to my office to be locked up. Many teenagers need psychotherapy for mental health issues such as depression. According to the CDC, one out of five children need psychotherapy. Anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly since the Pandemic. Cutting is an epidemic in teenagers and children too. I have children as young as 10 who self- mutilate. Also suicide was the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. In the last few months, the CDC changed suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death. There are many children who need psychotherapy, but will be afraid of being locked up and will fight their parents about going to therapy.

Also what about the people who experienced a mass shooting, their family and friends and the first responders, their lives have been changed for ever. They are going to need years of psychotherapy to cope with their PTSD. However, besides be labeled as a victim, they are not going to want to be looked at as a “sick puppy” because they need therapy. This is what they will think and feel because of how the former President and Republican Senators have responded to mass shootings. We already have survivors of mass shootings and family members committing suicide because they cannot stand the pain. We have seen the same thing from veterans committing suicide because they did not have access or were embarrassed to seek psychotherapy. When will we learn? When will we stop demonizing mental health?

Since it appears the former President refused to act, we need to learn from the high school students from the Parkland, Florida shooting and take action ourselves. Remember by acting you may be saving the life of your child or a loved one. Call the Senators for your state and demand sane gun laws and if they are too afraid of the NRA, you will vote against them in the next election.

Some people will say I have no right to be writing this article. However, I see and hear the kids crying daily because they are afraid of being killed or their parents being killed. I also am trained in Critical Indent Debriefing and trauma therapy. I am tired of hearing how the first responders lives are being changed and the night terrors they experience. I am not afraid of the NRA. We have a huge problem with hate and race in our Nation that must be addressed. Also we also do not have adequate mental health services in our Nation. This is why the suicide rate went from the 3rd leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids. Mental health issues is not causing the mass shootings! If it was we would have had the problem in the 1970s and 1980s, but we didn’t.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over twenty years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also trained to treat victims of trauma and to do Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Autistic Teenagers and Sexuality

Autistic Teenagers and Sexuality

Autistic teenagers have sexual feelings and it’s important to acknowledge these feelings & explain these feelings. Sex is a normal part of life so why shouldn’t they have sexual feelings too. Autistic Kids Need to Know About Sexuality | Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/everyday-neurodiversity/202104/why-autistic-kids-need-know-about-sexuality

Do Children Need to Learn that Violence and Death are Now Normal in the United States?

Do Children Need to Learn that Violence and Death are Now Normal in the United States?

When will we learn that we need sane and safe gun laws? People must take a test in order to get a driver’s license and you must wear a seatbelt in a car. The government has not stopped people from driving or eliminated cars due to these laws that make driving safer. Therefore, if we have laws regarding driving and alcohol, how would safe and sane gun laws pose a threat to guns? We have safety laws regarding numerous activities and people still enjoy them and own things. Again, if we can do this with other aspects of our society, why can’t we implement safe and sane gun laws? Or are we ready to accept mass shootings as a normal every day event?

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the country being on lock down, the mass shooting significantly dropped. In fact there were no mass shooting in the United States after April 2020. However, mass shootings have been occurring in the United States since 1999. According to the CDC mass shooting have been increasing every year from 2010 to 2019. In fact, in 2019 there was a mass shooting every 1.2 days. There were so many we started to become numb to the news when a shooting occurred.

Since the last shootings occurred in 2019, many people thought maybe mass shooting were no longer an issue. However, now that we have started to reopen the country, mass shootings have returned as an issue. On March 26, 2021, we had the first mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. Two weeks later, there was another mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Again with both shootings, there were more senseless killings. Considering over 525,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus, we do not need anymore unnecessary deaths in our Country.

We are a Country of grief! People who lost loved ones in mass shootings before 2019 are still grieving the loss of loved ones. There families will never be the same. The grieving process does not stop after a funeral. The grieving process can last for years especially when it is for a child or parent who were senseless killed in a mass shooting. We also have people still grieving the loss of a loved one by a pandemic that former President Trump ignored allowing 525,000 Americans and counting to die from a virus. Also families who have a love one who died due to the Coronavirus never had the chance to personally say goodbye or have a complete funeral due to the restrictions associated with the Coronavirus.

As I said mass shootings are an issue again. Since the mass shooting in Atlanta, there have been a minimum of 22 mass shootings (CDC, NBC, CNN). There have been other shootings which are still being investigated to determine if they meet the CDC definition of a mass shooting. Regardless of how those shootings are defined, they still occurred and people were killed and wounded. Therefore, since the Atlanta mass shooting, we have added to the number of Americans who are grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. Many of these people added are children and teenagers. How do we justify getting upset with teenagers when they act out by refusing to do school work or damaging property, when they are having to continue to deal with grief and trauma on a daily basis and they see no relief in sight.

Given how many families are being devastated by these mass shootings, what is the problem with enacting sane and safe gun laws? Republicans are spending numerous hours and money trying to change our voting laws, but are not willing to implement safe and sane gun laws to stop the senseless killings. How is making it a crime to give a person water who is waiting in line to vote protecting our voting system or our Country? The election of 2020 was the biggest Presidential election in our Country and numerous states and the Superior Courts in Sates and the Supreme Court all agreed in that the election of 2020 was one of the fairest elections with the least amount of problems in our Country’s history. Therefore, why waste time on voting laws? Why not focus on the violence and unnecessary killings that are occurring in the United States.

We need to address the massive amount of violence occurring in our Country. Besides mass shootings, the United States Capital Building has been attacked twice in 2021 with 4 Capital Police Officers being killed or dying from suicide (CDC, NBC, CNN). In addition to the attacks on the Capital, Asian Americans have been the victims of numerous physical attacks. Again, many have been killed by these attacks adding to the number of Americans grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. These are occurring because the former President blamed China for the Coronavirus. However, he takes no responsibility for ignoring the medical experts who were telling the former President what he needed to do. His solution was to tell people to drink bleach. Something many people actually tried (CDC).

The former President ignored that we have a nation grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions. Now, as mass shootings resume and attacks on Asian Americans continue and people continue to die from the Coronavirus, the number of Americans grieving and dealing with traumatic reactions continue to grow. Remember a large number of these Americans are children and teenagers. People say they need psychotherapy. However, as a psychotherapist I can tell you many insurance companies are raising copays so high that families cannot afford therapy for their children and teenagers and also afford to buy food for their family. Many families are going without therapy or going to food banks.

We cannot allow the United States to be a country of grief and trauma. We must enact safe and sane gun laws. We have them for driving, the use of alcohol and for traveling. Therefore, safe and sane gun laws will not destroy the second amendment. Also voting laws are fine how they are right now. We need to focus on the real problems facing our children and teenagers. We need to stop the violence and ensure that anyone who needs psychotherapy can get it.

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

Helping Kids Who are Afraid as We Reopen Schools

Helping Kids Who are Afraid as We Reopen Schools

Over the past two years children and teenagers have had to cope with a lot of emotions. The main emotions they have been facing are anxiety, fear and grief. If we look at their lives over the past few years, it is not surprising they have been dealing with these emotions.

In 2019, there was a mass shooting every day and a majority of these shootings occurred at schools (CDC). Students have been dealing with these shootings for 20 years and since 2010, the number of shootings increased every year (CDC). As a result, students were grieving for friends and teachers and were afraid to go to school. In addition, they were having mass shooter drills on a regular basis. These drills increased children’s anxiety about going to school. They were have more shooter drills than fire drills.

Besides dealing with mass shootings, they have had to cope with the Coronavirus Pandemic and having to go to school remotely. Furthermore, they were not able to see their friends as usual. Finally with over 525,000 Americans dying from the Coronavirus, many children and teenagers have been grieving for the death of grandparents, parents and friends. This has also created a lot of anxiety for kids. Many do not want their parents to leave the house because they are afraid that their parents might catch the virus and die.

Now we are changing children’s world again. We are telling them it is safe to go back to school. However, the Coronavirus is not under control and the mass shootings have started again. This will exacerbate the fear, anxiety and grief that children and teenagers are still dealing with due to the last two years. Honestly, can you blame them?

I have had many parents ask me how they can help their children and teenagers through these difficult times. However, many parents are finding it difficult because they are experiencing some of the same feelings and they know they cannot completely protect their children from mass shootings or the Coronavirus. This is correct, but as a parent all you can do is your best. Hopefully if you and your family work together, you can make it through these difficult times.

Dealing with children and teenagers as a psychotherapist for the past 20 years, I have seen many children with these issues. Additionally, I have researched these issues in addition to becoming certified to treat children and first responders for the traumatic events we are facing as a society. Below is the best advice I have found for parents who are dealing with children who are anxious, afraid or grieving.

As a parent, you can’t protect you children from grief, but you can help them express their feelings, comfort them, help them feel safer, and teach them how to deal with fear. By allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, you can help them build healthy coping skills that will serve them well in the future, and confidence that they can overcome adversity.

• Break the news. When something happens that will get wide coverage, my first and most important suggestion is that you don’t delay telling your children about what’s happened: It’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells her. You don’t want her to hear from some other child, a television news report, or the headlines on the front page of the New York Post. You want to be able to convey the facts, however painful, and set the emotional tone.

• Take your cues from your child. Invite her to tell you anything she may have heard about the tragedy, and how she feels. Give her ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions about upsetting details. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.

• Model calm. It’s okay to let your child know if you’re sad, but if you talk to your child about a traumatic experience in a highly emotional way, then he will likely absorb your emotion and very little else. If, on the other hand, you remain calm, he is likely to grasp what’s important: that tragic events can upset our lives, even deeply, but we can learn from bad experiences and work together to grow stronger.

• Be reassuring. Talking about death is always difficult, but a tragic accident or act of violence is especially tough because of how egocentric children are: they’re likely to focus on whether something like this could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure your child about how unusual this kind of event is, and the safety measures that have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them. You can also assure him that this kind of tragedy is investigated carefully, to identify causes and help prevent it from happening again. It’s confidence-building for kids to know that we learn from negative experiences.

• Help children express their feelings. In your conversation (and subsequent ones) you can suggest ways your child might remember those she’s lost: draw pictures or tell stories about things you did together. If you’re religious, going to church or synagogue could be valuable.

• Be developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters. Difficult conversations like this aren’t over in one session; expect to return to the topic as many times as your child needs to come to terms with this experience.

• Hopefully these suggestions will help parents who have children or teenagers who are dealing with fear, anxiety or grieving for a loved one. Remember there are no perfect parents, so just do your best. If your child knows you are coming from a place of love, they will know you are trying to help and you will help them. If however, you feel your child needs more help than you can provide, arrange for them to see a psychotherapist who specializes in children and teenagers and specializes in treating trauma.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Additionally, he is certified to treat children, teenagers and first responders for traumatic events. 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.

Teenagers Continue to Experience Vicariously Trauma Daily

Teenagers Continue to Experience Vicariously Trauma Daily

Many people tend to assume only people who were directly exposed to a trauma will experience issues related to the trauma and may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, this is not the truth. Many people may not have lived through the trauma, but they may know someone who did or they were exposed to very explicit images of the trauma or have been hearing about the trauma a lot on the news. It may also trigger memories of a trauma they experienced in their lives or in their family. This can cause what is referred to as vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is when someone is traumatized by an event but they did not experience the event themselves. Simply knowing about or hearing about the event is traumatizing to them. This is happening to many children and families in the United States. However, when are we going to pay attention to the way children in the United States are being traumatized over and over?

If this sounds confusing, let’s look at what children and teenagers have been dealing with and living through the last few years. This last year teenagers and children have been living with the trauma of the Coronavirus. Their schools were closed without warning and so were the sports and other after school activities stopped suddenly. In addition they were not able to hang out with friends and had to go to school remotely.

In addition to these changes, many children and teenagers had family members they could no longer see, such as grandparents and many had family members who died due to the Coronavirus. However, they were not able to attend funeral services and say goodbye. Over 525,000 Americans died to the Coronavirus. All of those people had family members and friends who are grieving for them still. A fact we tend to overlook. However, children and teenagers are dealing with it daily especially if they lost a parent, grandparents or a sibling.

While children and teenagers are still dealing with how poorly the Pandemic was handled by the government, now many are being told we are reopening states including schools. Therefore, they no longer have to deal with remote school now they will be back in their classrooms. This brings up anxiety about how school will be because they still need to be cautious so they don’t contract the Coronavirus. Many children and teenagers have told me they are very worried about being exposed to the Coronavirus or their parents being exposed to the Coronavirus.

In addition to the Coronavirus, children and teenagers now have to worry again about mass shootings. We just started opening the Country and already there have been two mass shootings. This brings up the anxiety and vicarious trauma children have been exposed to regarding school shootings for years. They have been increasing every year since 2010 (CDC) and in 2019 by November there had been 336 mass shootings averaging out to a mass shooting every 1.2 days (Gun Violence Archive). These are overwhelming statistics for adults and we are expecting children and teenagers to cope with them. The students know there have been no changes to the gun laws. Therefore, they are having to return to school and worry about mass school shootings.

Look at what they are returning to when they return to school. Today in most United States schools, the classroom doors are kept lock while class is in session and no one can enter a school campus without checking in with the main office and they must wear an identification badge while on campus. In fact, all school employees must wear official school identification badges while at work. Many elementary students noticed these changes and have asked why the door must be locked? Students are told it is for their safety. The school is preventing any people who do not belong at the school from getting near the students. No one mentions someone with a gun, but children have heard about and remember all the mass shootings and they know why the door needs to be locked. I have many elementary students mention this to me during their therapy sessions.

Now when we were in school we had fire alarm drills in case there ever was a fire in the school. No one thought much about them. Some students felt the fire alarm was too loud but no one really worried about a fire happening at school. We never worried about it because we never heard about any school fires and people dying.

Today students face more than fire alarm drills. Schools routinely have active shooter drills. During these drills students are taught to shelter in place and to remain very quiet so the shooter will not enter their room. Therefore, besides having heard about and remembering mass school shootings, school students know they are returning to a place where they could be killed. They know they are practicing what to do in case there is a shooter at their school trying to kill them. Therefore, they worry about could a shooting happen at their school and could they die. As a result of these fears, the CDC has documented that anxiety disorders and depression had significantly increasing in children since school shootings increased and they have documented a further increase in anxiety and depression due to the Coronavirus.

To add to the trauma students now face, if there is an incident, such as a bank robbery, involving someone with a gun near a school, the police put the school on lock down. The students must shelter in place and they don’t know if the person with the gun will come to their school or not. This creates a significant amount of anxiety for children and many are traumatized by the incident. Here is another incident causing trauma for children and teenagers. How many do we expect them to cope with at their ages? When will we provide mental health care for the children, teenagers, their parents, the school staff and the first responders? All of these people are being exposed to trauma regarding the Coronavirus and mass shootings on a regular basis. This creates traumatic reactions and exacerbates old traumatic reactions.

Another issue which adds to this trauma is gun control. Since the shooting in Florida many students have been actively campaigning for sane gun control. However, nothing has been done to enact sane gun control laws. High school students know nothing is being done and elementary children are hearing nothing is being done about guns. This makes them worry because they know guns are still out there that can be used to kill them. The shooting which occurred in New Zealand cause high school and elementary students to wonder why our Country does nothing about gun control. Our government has done nothing even though students and parents are demanding safe gun laws. While our government debates the issue, more students were killed and may be killed. Just look at the two mass shooting this past week. However, New Zealand in a matter of 3 weeks after a shooting banned all assault weapons. This makes students wonder why we have not done anything when we have a bigger problem with mass shootings. Also it doesn’t make them feel safe at school because they do not feel like a priority. Some people will say children and teenagers are not aware of such issues. However, remember with their Smartphones they have instant access to the news and this generation of teenagers are politically active.

Working with teenagers and children I have seen that anxiety and trauma reactions have

increased significantly for children. Also children are afraid of returning to school because they might be killed. These are responses to the mass shootings. Every time there is a mass shooting children become more anxious and afraid. We had two mass shootings this last week and as I am writing this article another mass shooting is occurring in the Florida Keys. We have just started to open the Country and we already have had 3 mass shootings. This will exacerbate previous traumatic reactions and create new ones. We are expecting children and teenagers to cope with the Coronavirus and mass shootings at the same time. For those children and teenagers not directly effected by the virus or shootings, they still have to cope with the issues which results in vicarious trauma.

Furthermore, if we want to reduce the vicarious trauma children and teenagers experience, we must be honest and not lie to children and teenagers. Remember, they have their smartphones phones and easy access to news and videos clips of the news. The best example is when the US Capital building was attacked by people trying to prevent President Biden from winning the Presidential Election. There have been Republican Congressmen and Senators saying they were safe and down playing the event. However, police were killed and injured and people were chanting “hang Pence”. To me that doesn’t sound safe. Additionally, despite the video showing these protesters breaking windows, spraying police with pepper spay and beating officers with flag poles, the former President Trump went on television saying the protesters were hugging the police, waving hello and walking calmly into the Capital. This type of blatant lie causes teenagers not to trust authority figures because they may be lying and it can cause them to second guess what they saw in the video. This creates a situation where teenagers do not know who to trust and this exacerbates their fear and traumatic reactions because they feel they have no one to trust. Children and teenagers need the truth in age appropriate terms. The truth is easier to handle than their emotions.

Summing up, children and teenagers in the United States have been traumatized and vicariously traumatized by mass shootings and the Coronavirus. As we start to open up the Country, they continue to have to deal with the Coronavirus and mass shootings. Therefore, they continue to be traumatized and vicariously traumatized. Many will need psychotherapy to help them with these issues. The American Association of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry has put out the following guidelines. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your child or teenager it explains how to start to talk to your child or teenager and how to find the appropriate psychotherapist for your child. It is important to get a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders and trauma issues http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx.

One final aspect about vicarious trauma that has emerged regarding mass shootings and the Coronavirus is suicide. Family members and survivors of mass shootings are feeling survivors guilt and as a result committing suicide. There was a report of 3 people who committed suicide who either survived a mass shooting or their child died in one. This has been occurring for a long time. It has been occurring since Columbine. Family members feel they can no longer cope with the pain. Survivors can’t cope with the guilt of surviving. Family and friends of some one who was killed or injured in a mass school shooting have had their lives changed forever! People, family members and first responders, especially hospital workers dealing with the Coronavirus are also committing suicide. They are dealing with depression, anxiety and trauma reactions on a daily basis. However, we do not have adequate mental health resources to help these people. Also people assume after a few months, most people may be grieving but can handle their situation. This is not true. They are experience anxiety and trauma that for many of them is very confusing. This only increases the anxiety and trauma. The children experiencing the shooter drills are also confused by their anxiety and traumatic reactions. They do not know what to do and this causes isolation and the feelings increase.

We must eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues. We also need to make sure that anyone who is even remotely exposed to a mass shooting (including first responders and emergency room physicians) or anyone who has had to deal with the Coronavirus have access to mental health care. Not just for a month or two but for as long as they need psychotherapy and they should be able to receive the therapy without worrying about the cost.

We have a generation of children growing up with anxiety and traumatic reactions. If we don’t help them now, they will only get worse as time goes on. May be we need to take a lesson from New Zealand and how they responded to a mass shooting. They banned assault weapons after one shooting. We have been having shootings for 20 years and have done nothing, why? We have a great deal of information about the Coronavirus and we are arguing about wearing masks. Why?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and specializes in treating trauma. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Is it stress or a mental health issue?

Is it stress or a mental health issue?

With all the stress teens have in their lives now, how do parents determine the difference between stress and a mental health issue and the need for therapy? Stress Response or Mental Health Disorder? How to Tell the Difference https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/mental-health-and-behavior/stress-response-or-mental-health-disorder-how-to-tell-the-difference

The Pandemic has Exacerbated Teenage Camouflaging Behavior

The Pandemic has Exacerbated Teenage Camouflaging Behavior

There is a behavior that is becoming common in teenage and tween girls that has been identified by an adolescent psychologist who specializes in treating teenage girls. The behavior that has been identified is called “Camouflaging.” This behavior left unidentified can lead to low self-esteem, depression, cutting, abusive relationships etc. It is becoming very common in teenagers right now. When I was a guest co-host on the Street Solider Radio Show on KMEL, and the teens were talking about how they change the beliefs and how they change how they dress because they are afraid of being rejected by their friends is Camouflaging. Covering up their outside person so no one can identify the true person inside. Friends are a very important issue for teenagers right now. Remember due to the Coronavirus most teenagers have not had contact with their friends in over a year. Many teens are worried about how their friends have changed over the year and are afraid of losing their friends.

Therefore, Camouflaging is when an adolescent girl changes how she looks in terms of make up and how she dresses, her opinions and things about herself she is willing to deny or things she will start doing in order to be accepted by her friends. The real problem occurs when the girl is changing so much about herself or does it for so long that she forgets or losses track of her real self. Besides changing how she feels, she may forget her core beliefs and do things she doesn’t believe in.

While this behavior has been identified in girls and the research appears correct, I believe this behavior applies to boys too.

Many adolescent boys change the way they dress, their beliefs and the way they act to be accepted by their friends. I hear many of these boys telling me in therapy that they feel lost. They tell me they no longer have an idea of who they really are or believe in or feel. These boys often turn to alcohol, drugs, sex and cutting. They usually turn to these behaviors to numb out their lost feeling or to try to remember their real selves. Often they turn to these in order to forget the shame and guilt they have due to something they did in order to fit in with their friends.

As a result, many teens start acting like someone they are not just to be accepted. This fear of not being accepted and forgetting their real self because they has been covering their true self up for so long or denying their true feelings for so long can result in boys and girls having low self-esteem and/or feeling depressed. It can also result in girls or boys getting involved in emotionally or physically abusive relationships because they don’t feel they are entitled to anything more. They no longer love themselves so how could anyone else love them.

As I stated this behavior can result in low self-esteem and depression in addition to behaviors as cutting, eating disorders, drug use, becoming sexually active etc. Often boys and girls cut just so they can feel as I stated above. The constant denying of their emotions or values can cause boys and girls to lose a sense of their true feelings. Therefore, cutting can occur so boys and girls feel or can cope with denying themselves. Denying their feeling or who they are can result in boys and girls feeling very confused or lost. Therefore, they look for behaviors that help them remember who they are or will numb out the list and confused feelings. They also seek behaviors that help them deal with changing their beliefs. Again this can trigger eating disorders, drug abuse or other self-destructive behaviors. This helps numb out the confusion and disappear of denying their feeling and trying to forget their true self. This can cause feelings of depression and anxiety too.

What should parents look for in their teens? If your son or daughter tries to stop wearing his or her glasses or if he or she all of a sudden changes how he or she dresses or acts these are possible warning signs. Another change could be not doing as well in their classes because they are afraid of looking too smart. Basically, if you see signs indicating that your teenager is trying to deny who they are so they will be accepted by others. It’s more than the common issue of trying to be accepted by friends, they are forgetting themselves and beliefs to fit in.

While it is normal for teenagers to make changes in their attitudes or how they dress, we are talking about something that goes far beyond normal self-expression. We are referring to changes where a teenager is trying to deny who they are because they feel they are unacceptable.

This is what we are talking about. If teenagers are changing their hair or how they dress as a way to express themselves that is normal teenage behavior. However, if teenagers are doing it just to fit in and they end up losing a sense of their true self this is camouflaging.

As I stated, Camouflaging results in depression or low self-esteem because the teenager is forgetting their true self. If they are doing it as a way of trying to experiment with their self expression, the teenager is happy and confident as stated above. This is the main point to understand. Experimenting with their dress and beliefs etc. is normal for teens and helps teenagers identify themselves, however denying or camouflaging their feelings results in teens losing themselves and many behavior problems. This is the main thing for parents to watch for in their adolescents behavior.

If you go onto Yahoo and look up Camouflaging you will find a segment on Good Morning America about Camouflaging. In fact, here is the link to the GMA segment https://gma.yahoo.com/video/parents-worry-tween-teen-camouflaging-122935763.html?soc_src=copy. Also if parents look at the February issue of Teen Vogue, you will find an article about Camouflaging.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. Dr Rubino is considered an expert psychotherapist in the treatment of teens. For more information about Dr Rubino and his private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.