Ways to Help Your Teenager Cope with Stress due to Finals

Ways to Help Your Teenager Cope with Stress due to Finals

The end of the school year is around the corner and it is that time of year again – it’s Finals time.

Your teenagers are probably very stressed or getting stressed. There is a lot of things going on right now, Junior Prom, Senior Ball, acceptance letters for college and other end of the year activities. For some seniors, their acceptance into a university may be conditional on their final grades. Therefore, they will be very worried about finals.

As I stated besides finals, there are the Prom and Ball to worry about. Many of the teens are stressed about who to ask, will they get asked, what to wear and how much will it cost? Also then there are the after parties. They worry about which one to go to and there is the issue of drinking that night, using drugs and having sex that night. Parents remember when you were in high school and all the issues associated with the Prom or Ball.

If that was not enough, there are final projects due, research papers and many high schools require community service hours too. In addition to this there is the normal homework and then time to study for finals.

In many classes the final may be worth fifty percent of the students grade. The final grade in a class is very important. This grade will be part of their overall GPA which can affect what colleges Juniors can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. Also as I mentioned for some seniors colleges have put a condition on their acceptance. The student must get a certain grade in a class or maintain a particular overall GPA in order to be accepted to the college.

As you can see there is a great deal of pressure on high school students during this time of year. Also since the competition to get into colleges has increased and the competition for scholarships have increased so has the stress on high school students.

Many students will do what ever they need to in order to survive this time of year. This includes using alcohol or weed to help them relax or sleep. They will also take friends ADHD medication, use cocaine, or start taking caffeine pills or start drinking a great deal of coffee or energy drinks so they can stay awake and study. They don’t realize how much caffeine those energized drinks contain. Also the combination of weed to sleep and caffeine to stay awake can cause mood changes, psychosis and even death.

Most teens want to do things on there on so they will tell you everything is fine and they have it covered. They think it is fine because of the substances they are using. Remember a teenagers prefrontal lobes are not fully developed yet. Therefore, they only focus on the here and now and not on the future.

If your teenager is getting anger very easily or crying easily this is a sign that something is going on. If you notice a change in their eating habits such as going from eating a lot to eating nothing, this is another sign. Also if you notice a change in their sleep pattern such as awake all night and falling asleep at odd times this is also a sign.

What do you do if you notice anything that is making you worry, you sit down and talk to them. Explain you know there is a lot of stress right now and point out the changes you have noticed and what you are concerned about. Reinforce you are not having this conversation because you are mad or they are in trouble, you are having this conversation because you love them. If they are using things or doing things because they think it will help them study, let them know you are there to help. Explain some of the dangers associated with what they are doing. Remind them no grade is worth their life.

Hopefully they will listen to you and confide in you. If they continue to deny everything, then go to any local pharmacy and buy a drug testing kit. Explain you are only doing this for their safety and they are not in trouble. They may be afraid or embarrassed to tell you. They may feel like a failure in your eyes. As their parent they need your love and support right now not a lecture. Again remember when you were in high school and how difficult it was to tell your parents certain things. Good luck.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teens and has over 20 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/Drrubino3

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The Secret Code of Teenage Texting

The Secret Code of Teenage Texting

As a psychotherapist who primarily treats teenagers, I am very aware how important texting is to teenagers. It is the primary way that many teens communicate with each other. This seems harmless, but it can be very dangerous.

Many of the apps teenager’s use involve texting. Many of these sites allow teens to text with teens all over the country and the world. As a result it is done via computer websites, many teens may not know who they are texting to. There are many sexual predators that go on these sites looking for teenagers to prey on.

In addition to adult predators, teenagers use texting as a way to set up drug deals or advertise underground parties and raves. At these underground parties and raves there is usually drugs and alcohol. Many teens accidentally overdose at raves and underground parties because they do not know for sure what drug they are taking or if it is laced with another drug because they are buying the drug from a total stranger. They have no way to know if the person selling is honest or a con.

For these reasons and many others, many parents are worried about what their teens are texting about and to who. There are apps parents can install on their teens’ cellphones to monitor their teenager’s texting. However, many teens are aware that their parents may be monitoring their texts. Therefore, many teenagers have developed ways to hide their texts in apps on their cellphones and a code language for texting. This code language makes it very difficult for parents to know what their teen is texting about or who they are texting to.

The other day I was reviewing a post by “My Body is My Body.” They provided a list of codes many teenagers use to text secretly. Knowing these codes can help parents be more aware about what and who their teenager is texting to. I have included the code list below:

Teenagers Need Parents to be Parents Not Friends

Teenagers Need Parents to be Parents Not Friends

Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. This subject is one I hear daily in my office. Parents are concerned that if their teen is spending too much time with friends, then if their teen is involved with drugs or other issues, they will find out too late. Unfortunately, many parents tell me they have decided that, “”I am going to be my teenager’s best friend” as a way prevent these problems.

Wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.

Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.

Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.

Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.

I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”

The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.

Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.

This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com. You can also email him from this website, if you have questions.

Helping Your Family Adjust to A Divorce

Helping Your Family Adjust to A Divorce

Divorce can be a devastating event for an entire family. Yes there is the financial cost of a divorce, but there is also the impact that a divorce has on a family especially the children. Many children that I have worked with feel like their entire world has been turned up side down. Also for children they don’t feel the divorce has ended after it is finalized in court.

For many children the divorce is just beginning. They now have to adjust to their parents living in separate houses, visitation schedules, often parents continue to fight even though the divorce is final and many children feel they need to choose a side. They feel a pull by their parents and extended family to take a stand as who was right and wrong in the divorce.

Another thing is children have to learn how to cope with is seeing their parents with someone else. Often parents start dating soon after a divorce and a child or teenager have to adjust to seeing Dad or Mom dating someone else. They are not use to thinking about their parents having intimate relationships. This concept is very often something very difficult for teenagers to adjust to.

As a result of all of these changes, many teenagers may act out. They may start getting into trouble at school or their grades may significantly drop. They may start arguing with their parents and they may refuse to cooperate with the visitation schedule. Some of the teenagers I have worked with also start to drink, smoke marijuana or use other drugs so they don’t have to think about the divorce. Also some teens may start to be sexually active and make it obvious to their parents so Mom and Dad have to deal with the same strange thoughts and feelings they have to deal with when their parents date.

Yes divorce is not easy and no matter how you approach it, a divorce is upsetting to everyone. However, how Mom and Dad handle the divorce process and the adjustment period after a divorce can make a major impact on how their children and teenagers are affected.

To begin with, during the divorce and after the divorce, parents should not discuss any facts pertaining to the divorce settlement with their children. Also neither parent should be saying negative things about the other parent to the children. You may be divorcing each other, but that is still your child’s Mom or Dad. Furthermore, both parents need to speak to their family and make sure grandparents understand not to put down the other parent or tell the kids details about the divorce.

If you need to talk to your children about the divorce, do so in an age appropriate manner and only tell them what they need to know. For example, if the house needs to be sold obviously the children need to be told. If children are asking questions about things that are inappropriate such as about the finances, let the children know that is an issue just between Mom and Dad. Also reassure them that no matter what happens that Mom and Dad will make sure they are taken care of and you understand the divorce is scary but Mom will still be their Mom and Dad will still be their Dad. Let them know both of you will take care of them and they don’t need to worry.

Obviously after the divorce is an adjustment period and learning period for everyone. This period can be easier if you work together as a team and co-parent. Trying to have similar rules at both houses help. Also backing up each other helps. So if a child is talking disrespectfully about Mom or Dad, the other parent lets their child know that will not be tolerate that they are still their Mom or Dad and they need to respect them.

If they are having issues at school such as poor grades or cutting school again if you work together as a co-parent team, you can help the teen accept the divorce and help resolve the school issue.

If you suspect your teen is drinking, smoking or using other drugs, again the most effective is if you function together as a co-parent team. By doing so you reinforce that you have not stopped being their parents, you have just stopped being married to each other. Also by acting together as a team you have a better chance of your teenager cooperating with treatment. If they can see that the two of you still disagree and argue about most issues, they will use this to their advantage. They will try to play the two of you against each other. And they will play the two of you against each other anytime they want something. The end result is the two of you spend more time arguing than you need to, probably more money on attorney bills and your children do not get the structure from the two of you that they need.

Now, as for the issue of you dating. You are both adults, no longer married so you have a right to see someone if you want. If you have children, just use common sense when you decide to date. The children will be spending time with Mom or Dad during their visitation time. Therefore, when you don’t have the kids that is the perfect time to go out with someone. I would suggest not mentioning to your children or introducing your children to anyone you are seeing until you are sure this is a serious relationship. If you introduce your children to someone you have only been seeing for two weeks and then you end the relationship two weeks later it feels strange and awkward to your children. Remember, most children don’t think or don’t want to think about the fact that their parents have sex.

This brings up the issue of having someone spending the night or spending the night at someone else’s house. As I stated above, the children will be spending time with the other parent during visitation. Therefore, when you do not have the children it is fine to have an overnight guest. Besides the fact children don’t want to know anything about their parents having sex, if you have a teenager, you could be creating a problem. If you are having guests spend the night, what do you do when your 16 year old son announces that his girlfriend is spending the night? You say no, but he argues you do it. Yes you are an adult and its different, but there is no need to take that risk. Also as that parent it is your responsibility to be the role model.

Basically, while a divorce is difficult on everyone and there is an adjustment period after, if you and your ex-spouse treat each other with respect and work together as a parenting team, you can minimize the stress and anxiety on your children. Remember, the children had no involvement in you deciding to divorce or what happened during the divorce or the decisions that were made. Therefore, as their parents it is your responsibility to help your children adjust to the divorce.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and working with high conflict divorces. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Healthy Communication Patterns for Family

Healthy Communication Patterns for Family

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I often hear from parents how they feel they are always arguing with their teenagers. We must remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and other executive functions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to have a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough therefore they are more likely to argue. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy argument and ways to have destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement with another person.

Another common issue regarding communication is fighting or disagreements. Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.

Coco Loco A New Teenage Drug

Coco Loco A New Teenage Drug

Coco Loco is the new way teenagers have found to get a high. This product just entered the United States. It is not being marketed as a drug so the FDA has no authority over it. Teens assume it is safe because it is chocolate and natural.

Since this substance is so new, I have included a link that you can look at so you are more familiar with this substance. https://youtu.be/MV6QIsqA_f4

While chocolate is one ingredient it also includes ingredients common in energy drinks so the person feels a burst of energy. What is the problem? Since this is not regulated, there is no way to determine the amount of caffeine or other substances used to increase your heart rate are in it. Therefore, if a teen has been drinking a number of energy drinks and then snorts Coco Loco, they won’t know if they have had too much until it is too late.

Increasing your heart rate can be dangerous. Most people who do cardio exercises take their heart rate to make sure their heart rate is in a safe zone and not too fast. When a person’s heart rate is too fast, they can have a heart attack or a stroke just to mention some of the physical dangers. Also if a person ingest too much caffeine they can cause themselves to have a psychotic episode.

The problem with Coco Loco is since it is marketed as “natural” it does not have to comply with the labeling or health codes that substances considered as medical have to follow. If you go to a store such as GNC that tends to sell products to help lose weight or improve your energy level, you will find many of the items do not list ingredients or health warnings. By law they do not have to.

So the problem is that many teenagers may assume this product is totally safe when it is not. The problem is that they may discover this when their hear is beating 200 beats a minute and their health is at risk or they have had too much caffeine and find themselves waking up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital because they had a psychotic episode.

So parents, take a few minutes and discuss Coco Loco with your teenagers. In fact, discuss it with any of your children who are going to school. There is no age restriction on who can buy it and children may not hesitate to try it because it is chocolate. Explain the difference and the risks so they can make a good choice.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years working as a psychotherapist treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Children Are Not Messangers

Children Are Not Messangers

As a child psychotherapist, I hear from many parents about their concerns for their child when there is a divorce. A divorce is a stressful event on the entire family including the children. However, there are ways parents can reduce the stress, but they do not. The most common mistake I see is using the child as a messenger.

Many divorces are hostile and neither parent wants to speak to the other one. However, when you have children, you must speak to each other. You need to co-parent which means communicating with the other parent. You do not have to talk about your lives or even be friends. However, you must communicate with the other parent about issues involving your children. You need to provide each other with information about school, your child’s health, if they have an activity coming up, etc. Basically, anything that involves your child.

However, I see many parents choose to use the child as the message carrier. They tell the child do not forget to tell your father to look at your homework or tell your mother to look at the note regarding your school conference. Many of these children are 10 years old so they forget or get the message wrong and then there is a big fight. The child blames themselves because if they did not forget, there would be no fight.

This is a great deal of responsibility to put on any child at any age. When parents use their child as a messenger, at times children feel they have to take sides or protect a parent. They know mom and dad do not get along and they will do anything to decrease the fighting. So if they have a message that might upset dad, they will worry about it and try to solve the issue so they do not have to give dad the message. The children I see in this situation are very anxious and resentful. They are mad that mom and dad got a divorce and now they feel they have to keep the peace between their parents.

When children are older such as 12 or 13 years old, they may start to act out. They may start using marijuana or alcohol as a way to escape. They also may start to make parenting decisions on their own. They feel if I have to carry the information back and forth, I might as well decide for myself. This can really hurt the relationship that a child has with one parent or both.

What is the solution? Parents, you need to communicate with each other directly and not use your child. The two of you divorced not your child. No one asked them and they should not have to take responsibility for any divorce issues. Also you really cannot get mad at the child for make parenting decisions, if you are putting them in the middle. You can go to co-parenting classes or co-parenting therapy to help the two of you with communication issues. You can also use email. Many Court systems have an email service you can subscribe to so you know messages are delivered. In Contra Costa County they call it the family wizard.

The main point is you can stop being married but you cannot stop being parents. It is important to remember this fact and set up a co-parenting plan during the divorce process not after. Trust me your children will thank you for it.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers and in high conflict divorces. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com.