My Teenager Makes Me Crazy

Many parents of teenagers feel like they are going crazy. One day their teen is acting like an adult and like they don’t need a parent and the next their teen is acting like a child and cannot live without parents. It becomes very frustrating to many parents because they never know how their teen will be acting that day. Parents feel like they cannot win because if they treat their teen like an adult that is the day their teen is acting like a child. Besides not knowing what mood their teen will be in parents get tired of their teens being angry at them because their parents guessed the wrong mood. Well parents, you are not crazy and the confusion you are feeling is real. Teens do switch from acting mature to acting child like very quickly and very often. It has nothing to do with how you are parenting your teen, it has to do with their biology. The Prefrontal Cortex in teenagers is not fully developed yet. As a result, you see and experience the mood swings in your teens that we just described. The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning skills and the ability to make mature consistent decisions. One of the best ways that I have seen to deal with this situation is make no assumptions. When dealing with your teen see what mode they are in and respond accordingly. As your teen is getting older make suggestions how they could have looked at the situation or sit down with them and discuss how they made their decision. The most important thing is to remember they are not doing it on purpose, it is part of the process they need to go through as they become adults. They need to learn how to make rational, mature decisions. Right now when dealing with a teen, the best thing as a parent can do is to take a deep breath and assess the situation. The way you respond to them is modeling how to act like an adult. Also this will reduce fights in the family and improve communication. If you remember back to when they were toddlers you did not expect them to understand everything because they were a little child. Just because physically your teen may look and can physically act like an adult doesn’t mean that emotionally they are adults. Remember they are still maturing and need your help. A little understanding can go a long way.

Dr. Michael Rubino has a private practice in Pleasant Hill and specializes in treating teens. You can learn more about his practice by visiting his web site http://www.rcs-ca.com or you can email him at DrMike@rcs-ca.com

Advertisements

Cutting & Teenagers

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in kids 10 to 18 years old. In this article we are going to explore a teen behavior that can result in suicide and that is cutting. This is a very common behavior among teenagers and many parents know little about it. Cutting is usually used as a method to deal with emotions, but it can lead to permanent damage or suicide, if the teen is not aware of what they are doing.

Cutting is any behavior which results in self-mutilating. Therefore it could be cutting oneself, scratching, burning, erasing ones own skin etc. Anything that results in damaging ones own body.

A recent study by Rhode Island hospital found that 46% of high school students admit to engaging in some form of cutting over the past year and 20% of college students admitted to it. ABC news found that 1 in 12 teens engage in cutting. Girls are more likely to cut than boys, but boys still do cut. I have both teenage boys and girls admitting to some form of cutting.

You may ask, why would someone cut themselves? Most teens engage in self-mutilating behavior because they find it easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are experiencing. Some teens prefer just to cut and that helps release the pain and others need to watch the blood or watch the act of cutting or erasing as a way to deal with the pain.

This behavior is very common now among teenagers. Most teens have engaged in one form of self-mutilating behavior as a way to deal with their feelings.

What they do not think about when they are engaging in this behavior is the risk. If they cut too deep or in the wrong area they can cut a major artery and bleed to death. They can cut a nerve or tendon and lose control over their arm or leg. The site they cut or erase can become severely infected and lead to a number of medical issues. Most teens who cut are not suicidal but they are looking for a way to cope with their emotional pain.

Signs that your teen may be engaging in cutting are personality changes, where long sleeves or not allowing anyone to see their body. They often cut on their stomachs, chests or thighs because it is easier to hide. Picking at scabs is another sign. Changes in their appetites and sleeping pattern. Also a tendency to withdraw from family and friends. They also have a tendency to act depressed.

If you feel your teen is cutting, don’t be afraid to ask. However, if you do ask don’t act shocked or like they are doing something bizarre. Teens who cut are very afraid of being shamed. If you act like you cannot cope with their behavior they will not tell you.

Obviously if your teen is cutting there are emotional issues going on. The first thing to do is to have them examined by their pedestrian. You want to make sure there are no infections or damage that needs medical attention. The next step is to have them see a therapist who specializes in teenagers and especially one who specializes in cutting. Again if the therapist acts uncomfortable with the subject the teen will not talk. The good news is that with appropriate care most teens learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthy manner and stop cutting.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and specializes in cutting and self-mutilating behavior. For more information about Dr Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Why Boys Resist Therapy

This link demonstrates what boys hear everyday and what they believe about life.

May is Men’s health month, so let’s address it. The trailer above contains explicit language, but it is language your third grader hears every day at school, from friends and television. Men and teenage boys are very resistant to taking care of their physical and mental health. The question then becomes, why? If you watched the trailer, you have a very good idea why.

In our society there is a stereotype of what it takes to be a “man.” A man is strong, healthy, can take care of himself, knows everything about sex and is sexually active, has a lot of money and never afraid to fight and never cries. These are a just a few parts of the stereotype. Many parents may be saying, “but I don’t bring up my son like that” You don’t have to it is part of our society. If a little 5 year old boy falls down at school, the staff picks him up and might tell him shake it off, don’t cry, take it like a man. A boy playing soccer or baseball gets hurt during the game, the coach says shake it off, take it like a man. You even saw examples of it recently on Dancing with The Stars. A couple of the men started to get teary eyed and the asked for the camera to be moved because they did not want anyone seeing them cry.

Boys continue to be exposed to the stereotype in high school. There is a major focus on losing their virginity as fast as possible and sleeping with as many girls as possible. They can’t be a man if they are a virgin. Also boys are getting into fights and having a friend record it and post it on YouTube. They want everyone to see how tough they are and it makes them feel like a man. Also in High School boys stop accepting and asking for help, they are a man and they can handle life on their own. Also look at the movies and video games boys play. They have to do with fighting, killing and sex. Emotions are never mentioned and if a boy does he is called a “sissy, a fag” just to list a few.

If men and boys are living with this stereotype going to a physician or a therapist is a very dangerous thing to do. They might have to confront the fact that they are not able to do everything by themselves and they might need help. This would mean they are not the tough guy. Also they know physicians and therapists have treated other men and they are afraid how they might compare to other males. If they are not as tall or as strong or don’t measure up to the other men they are not a man.

Going to a therapist is extremely dangerous for boys and men. Therapists ask you to deal with your feelings. What if they cry or admit they feel overwhelmed by life or inadequate to other men? If they do, they worry about their identity as a man. I have men teenagers and men who cry in my office. They all get really embarrassed, ask me not to tell their family and want to know if other guys cry too. They need reassurance that they are still a man. The truth is it takes more strength to cry than not to cry, but most guys don’t believe this due to the stereotype.

In this month of May when we are supposed to focus on men’s health, the best way for us to help men is to eliminate this stereotype. Parents contact your son’s school and ask them to invite groups to the campus that are trying to eliminate this stereotype; Challenge Day is an excellent organization. Monitor what they watch and how they talk with friends. Fathers don’t be afraid to cry and go to the doctor regularly and ask for help. Look for movies that show males as men even though they don’t follow the stereotype. This is a problem in our society which leads to crime, killings and needless deaths from heart attacks and strokes. It is going to take all of us to solve the problem.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a local therapist who specializes in treating children and teens. To find out more about Dr. Rubino and his practice or to contact him visit his web site at http://www.rcs-ca.com.

Is My Teenager Selfish?

Many times I hear parents ask for help because there teenagers are too self-absorbed. All they do is think about what they want and what they need. Well, teenagers are supposed to be self-absorbed. Okay yes some teenagers can go overboard, but in general being self-absorbed is part of being a teenager.

Developmentally, teenagers are in the process of defining their own identities and discovering their own value systems. They are trying to define themselves as young adults and how they are going to relate to people in their lives and what they do and don’t believe in. In order to accomplish this goal, it does require a fair amount of self-reflection and exploring the world. It also requires a great deal of focus on their feeling so they can form their identities and value systems. At times, it may seem like a teenager is self-absorbed and only thinking about themselves. Externally this is how it may look to parents, but internally it feels very different to the teenager.

Remember when you were a teenager or some of the things your teenager may have said to you. Teens often talk about feeling very confused about their emotions or overwhelmed by their emotions. They often state they are not sure what to feel or think about their emotions. Also many teens often express feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in the world and are not sure what they should do as an adult or what people expect from them. It is a very confusing time and requires a fair amount of introspection from the teenager.

Very often in therapy, I serve as a sounding board for teens to sort out the feelings they are having about themselves and the expectations they feel from people in their lives. Also they often are trying to sort out how they want to act as an adult and they are trying to understand what is expected of them as an adult.

This is a very confusing time and requires a great deal of introspection because no one teaches teenagers about what it takes to be an adult and often no one discusses these issues with them. Some parents do try to discuss feeling and expectations with teenagers, but often these conversations result in an argument. Remember a teenager’s brain is still not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex which handles most of what we are discussing is still developing in a teenager. Because of this many teens may feel like they are being talked down to and they get angry. Parents often forget how teenagers think and don’t know how to approach their teenager which can result in an argument. Even though the parent and teen may have the best intention of trying to discuss this turmoil it still can result in an argument.

As I said in the beginning some teenagers are too self-absorbed. They are not trying to resolve emotional turmoil they are just selfish or spoiled. If your teenager appears more self-absorbed than they average teenager or if people are commenting on how selfish your teenager is then you need help. At this point I recommend therapy. The teenager won’t listen to you because parents know nothing in their opinion. Often in therapy I say the same things as parents and the teen will listen because I am not Dad or Mom and they don’t feel like they are admitting they are inadequate accepting my suggestion. The main point is they understand they are too self-absorbed and how to change it.

So if your teen is somewhat self-absorbed, relax it is part of being a teenager. They will out grow it around 17 or 18 years old. In the meantime, work with your teen doing your best to help them sort out the emotional turmoil they are experiencing internally. If you feel lost as a parent or if you see your teenager struggling very hard then you may want to consider having your teenager attend therapy to cope with this emotional turmoil.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents and is recognized as an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

The Violence Children Experience in Their Lives

Parents it’s sad to say but in today’s world toys can kill. We would like to assume we still live in a world that is safe for our kids, where they can go outside to play and we know they will be safe. However, this is no longer the truth. The world has changed and kids are no longer just safe to go out and play.

One major change is the increase in violence in our society. Since the year 2000 there have been 160 mass shootings and there have been 56 in this year alone (ABC News). Because of this law enforcement and people in general are more sensitive to guns and violence.

The problem for our children is a number of toy manufactures are making toy guns that look real. There was one man selling toy assault weapons on the Internet and he had a waiting list for people wanting to buy these “toys” for their kids. We need to think about the toys kids are playing with. If they are outside or at school playing with a “toy gun” that looks real they may end up getting killed. Kids video games have become violent and many involve shooting and killing. If a police officer tells a little child to drop their gun, they may think it is a game and pretend to shot back. What happens, the child gets killed because they thought they were playing a game. One child gets killed by a gun every 30 minutes in the US (CDC). This rate is higher than the Middle East.

Video games and movies have become very violent. In the 1990’s a movie received an R rating for swearing. Now those movies are PG. Movies that receive R ratings are very graphic violently and sexually. Our kids feel this is normal life. The children I work with are now only interested in watching movies and playing video games that are graphically violent with people getting killed. Remember children don’t reason like adults. They can hit the reset button on a game and start over and everyone is a live.

In addition to movies and games becoming violent children today are being exposed to mass shootings all most daily. As a result, children are accepting violence as an everyday fact of life. I do an anger management group for teens. When the topic of caring knifes or guns come up most teens favor the idea. When I asked about being killed accidentally, they don’t care. Most of them feel there is such a big chance already that they could get stabbed or shot that they might as well protect themselves.

Teens are also using guns as an answer to their problems. We have seen news stories where teens have planned and murdered another kid because they did not like the other child. For teens 10 to 24 suicide is the third leading cause of death and using a gun to commit suicide is one of the top three choices (CDC).

What does this mean to parents? It means when you are buying Holiday gifts or birthday gifts that parents need to think. Do not buy the video games rated mature and deal with killing or raping. Do not allow them to play with realistic toy guns and teach them never to point it at someone. Monitor the movies they watch. Do not allow them to watch movies or television shows that glorify violence. Remember their brains are not totally mature yet, so they need their parents to think for them when it comes to violence.

When the US in ranked number one in kids being killed by guns and are children assume they have a good chance of being killed by a gun, and kids think a video game or movie is good only if there is killing, parents must act. Parents must try to re-educate our children. It’s not too late.

Children Need Love Not Abuse

It seems that many adults do not really understand what children want from adults. It also seems from what I have seen and heard that many adults do not understand that children are not bad. Children are not born bad, we make them bad by how we treat them. Yes you do have children with loving parents and families who make very poor choices in their lives. As a result, they end up in jail or hurting people. However, these are the rare cases.

The most important relationships in a child’s life is his/her relationship with his/her parents. A child wants love and to feel wanted by their parents. Parents are a child’s safety net. As long as Mom and Dad are okay then they are okay. If their parents are not okay, then a child’s safety and life is in danger. Children cannot tolerate this fear. Therefore, if their parents have a problem instead of seeing their parents with problems a child changes the situation so their parents are great and the child is bad.

I have seen this many times with foster children. Their parents are usually great people and Social Services are being mean to their parents. They can be living is the best foster home in the world and if you ask them if they want to return to their natural parents, they say yes. They are desperate for that validation from their parents.

The problem is many parents do not know how to express love to their children because they never experienced it themselves as children. Therefore, they do the best they can do and feel they are good parents because they are better than their parents. However, when they hear their children asking for more they get mad at their children. They want their children to validate them for being good parents. They do not understand that a child doesn’t have the cognitive abilities to do so.

Therefore, a child tends to feel unloved, unwanted and form a belief they are useless. They tend to hang around people who reinforce this belief. They are afraid of people who might love them. They are afraid these people will discover the truth about them and leave them. They feel safer with the people who tell them they are worthless.

Walking around with this feeling can hurt a great deal. As a result, kids start to do drugs, alcohol and hang out with gangs. The drugs and alcohol help to numb out the pain of feeling worthless while at the same time it reinforces the belief that they are worthless.

Most often these kids act out at school and tend to get arrested for stealing or drugs. Some people try to help but the child pushes people away. It is better to leave someone than to be left. Most people get tired and say there is nothing else they can go and give up. Once again, reinforcing the child’s belief.

These are the children and teenagers who really need our help. The harder they push us away, the harder we have to say we won’t go. There have been many times that I have hint to Juvenile Hall to do sessions. The teen is shocked! I tell them that I told them they can push as hard as they want, but I won’t believe they are bad or walk out. At times this is difficult because they often test me over and over to see if I am for real. If they see I am for real, I am only one person they need other people to stay.

What I have seen in working with teens who act out for over 18 years, is they are looking for someone to say I care and you are important. They prefer that it comes from their biological parents, but once they accept their biological parents cannot provide this, they look to other adults.

Those of us who work with acting out teenagers as therapists, teachers or foster parents need to understand how severely these children have been hurt by their biological parents and the hard work it takes helping them over come that wound.

Extended family such as aunts and uncles, you too need to understand how deep the wound is for these kids. If you are not dealing with your own wounds, they need you to be in it for the long run.

This may seem like I am asking for a great deal, but look at how many teens are dying from suicide, drug overdose, shootings etc. When you see the number of young lives being lost you can see that it is worth the effort.

Yes it takes a great deal of effort but when you communicate to a teen that yes you are worth something, you are love able and I care about you. Watch how they go out into the world and help others and share love with others. So the price is worth seeing a teen full of life and going out and sharing it with the world. Watch some of Challenge Day’s videos on YouTube to see the love teens can spread if we give them love.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with high risk teenagers & foster children and is an expert in this area. For more information on Dr Rubino visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Warning Signs Your Teen is Struggling with Finals

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.

Besides Finals there is the Junior Prom and Senior Ball. Many of the teens are stressed about who to ask, will they get asked, what to wear and how much will it cost? Aka 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 they can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. For seniors some colleges have put a condition on their acceptance. The student must get a certain grade in a class or maintain a particular overall GPA.

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 18 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/Drrubino3