Children View Their Parents as Role Models

High school and the teenage years are a very difficult time for a majority of teens and parents. This time of life has become even more difficult with the advancement of social networking, smart phones and computer technology not to mention the increase drugs that are available to teens. These drugs are designer drugs such as ecstasy and spice as well as prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Concerta.

Things are advancing and changing so fast that life is becoming overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and for parents too. Not to mention society in general. One thing that has not changed, is that parents are a child’s main role model. However, with the rapid changes in our society, a lot of parents have forgotten that they are their teenagers primary role model.

Since your child was born, s/he have been watching you and studying you regarding how to act and what actions are appropriate or inappropriate. They have been listening to what you have been saying to them about how to act as a responsible, decent members of society. I know many parents feel that once their child started middle school that their child stopped listening to them, but that is not true. They may act like they are not listening or that they don’t care about your opinion but they do.

I have teens come into my office all the time and complain that they feel like their parents do not care about what they do. Often teens make this assumption because they say their parents set no boundaries for them or they feel that the parent cares more about their careers than their children. At times parents do focus more on careers or stop setting limits because they feel that their child doesn’t listen to them. Parents often feel this way because their teen will say, “I don’t care what you think or I don’t care what you do”. However, they do care and often they say these things or act this way because they feel hurt.

Every child, no matter what they say, wants to know that they are important to you, that you care about what they say and you care about what they do. One major problem that I encounter with parents is that many parents do not practice what they preach. Yes you are an adult and you have a right to drink alcohol or engage in other adult behaviors, but you need to do so responsibly. If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Yes you are an adult but using marijuana is illegal no matter how old you are. Also watch how you speak to your teen and others. Do you do so in a respectful manner or are you rude to people?

The issue that really upsets teens are cellphones and social media. Teens complain all the time how their parents tell them they spend too much time texting or on Facebook. However, the teens point out when we are having dinner or watching television as a family, “my mom is texting.” Bottom line, teens know adults can do somethings such as drinking alcohol, but not texting at dinner. If you want your teen to respect the house rules, you have to respect them too.

A lot of parents will come in and tell me that their behavior doesn’t matter and that their child has no idea what they do so they can do what they want. The truth is, your behavior does matter and your children know what you are doing even if you think they do not know.

I have had eight year old children complain that “my mommy drinks too much wine”, or “my daddy smokes pot in the garage” or “my daddy talks mean to people”, or “my parents fight too much.”. When I try to talk to a teen about their behavior after they have said something like this, the teen responds if my parents can do it, why can’t I? This is difficult to argue with if the parents are using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol. Also the fact that eight year old children also make these comments demonstrate that if you want your teen to act respectful, then as a parent you need to model respectful behavior starting when they are born. Also children want to know that they are important to you and setting rules and enforcing rules communicate to your kids that you care about them.

The bottom line is that as a parent you have the most significant role in your child’s life. If you want your child to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult, then you have to act like a mature, responsible adult and you need to do so from the day they are born.

In this world where things are changing over night, children need to know they can rely on their parents to protect them and guide them. Again given how fast society is changing, this is not an easy job for a parent. The easiest way to sum it up is to remember to practice what you preach.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents. For more information about his work or his private practice visit his website at

How Divorce Impacts Children

Parents say all the time that they are waiting for their children to graduate high school before they divorce. The belief is that divorce hurts children for life. This is not true. Of course every child has difficulties adjusting to a divorce, but it does not ruin their lives. What ruins a child’s life is how their parents act prior to or after the divorce.
I have had many children say to me, “I wish my mom and dad would get a divorce.” Often children are exposed to domestic violence, the issue of a parent having an alcohol or drug problem or emotional abuse between the parents. The children have to listen night after night to their parents fight. This is not good for a child. Most children never tell anyone outside the house because they are embarrassed or afraid that their parents will get mad.

This type of environment will have negative affects on the child as they grow up and when they are adults. The child learns not to trust so forming relationships is difficult and they also tend to associate relationships with emotional pain so they tend to avoid them.

Another common issue that creates problems for children is if their parents decide to divorce. The divorce is not the problem. The problem is how the parents decide to divorce. Some parents decide to make their divorce a war and their primary weapon are the children. The parents make the child feel like they have to choose between mom and dad. This is an impossible choice for a child. Some parents tell their children everything that is happening in Court. A child is not emotionally or cognitively ready to handle this information. As a result many children act out. It is usually the only option the child sees. They are afraid to say anything because dad or mom might get mad. The child is often too embarrassed to say anything because they know their parents are acting immaturely so they say nothing. Again this situation causes younger children to act out at school or day care. In teenagers the common responses are using alcohol or drugs, not doing school work, spending more time in their rooms or out with friends and another common response is to engage in sexual activity. Furthermore, because children have seen the battles of divorce, they become fearful of relationships. They may be afraid that they cannot have a healthy relationship because they had no role model. Therefore, they feel they will continue their parents’ pattern. They may form an idea that a healthy relationship is impossible. As a result, they may stay away from relationships, have superficial relationships or go from relationship to relationship due to their fear of commitment.
If a marriage or a relationship is not working and if the parents can decide to end the marriage in a healthy adult manner, there should be no long term effects on the children. A healthy adult manner means being civil to each other and not using the children as weapons. Remember you can always decide to divorce each other, but that doesn’t mean you stop being parents together. Because the two of you have children together, you have to deal with each other for the rest of your lives. You don’t stop being a parent when a child turns 18. There will be weddings, grandchildren and holidays. So if you don’t want a divorce to have a negative impact on your child, then the two of you need to act like mature adults. This means being civil to each other during the divorce and after. You cannot stop being parents together – remember that fact.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with family’s going through the divorce process. For more information on Dr. Rubino and his private practice visit his website at or Facebook page,

Is Your Teen Camoflouging?

A new behavior for teenage and tween girls has been identified by an adolescent psychologist. The behavior that has been identified is called “Camouflaging.” This behavior left unidentified can lead to low self-esteem, depression, cutting etc.

Camouflaging is when an adolescent girl changes how she looks, her opinions or things that she does in order to be accepted by the other girls. 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.

While this behavior has just been identified in girls and what the researcher explains 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 or feel. These boys also turn to alcohol, drugs and cutting. Usually to numb out their lost feeling or to feel something.

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 it up for so long or denying their true feelings for so long can result in boys and girls having low self-esteem or feeling depressed.

This low self-esteem and depression can result in such 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 can cause boys and girls to lose a sense of their true feelings. Therefore, cutting can occur so boys and girls feel. Denying their feeling or who they are can result in boys and girls feeling very confused. Therefore, they look for behaviors that help them remember who they are and help them identify their true feelings. They also seek behaviors that help them deal with denying their feelings or changing their behaviors. This can trigger eating disorders or drug abuse. This helps numb out the feeling and confusion 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.

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.

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.

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 Also if parents look at the February issue of Teen Vogue, you will find an article about Camouflaging.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 18 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

Why Kids are Stressed Today

In today’s society there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety and suicide among teenagers and children. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children 10 to 18 years old. Yes 10 year old children are committing suicide.

In my practice I am seeing more and more children and teens reporting they feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. One of the main reasons I hear for these feelings is that children feel a great deal of pressure to succeed in school. I have kids in 5th grade and 6th grade worrying about grades. Not because their parents will get mad because if they don’t get As they wont get into a good college and won’t get a good job and won’t be able to afford a house.

This is a great deal for a 5th grader or 6th grader to worry about at their age.

I also see middle school students and high school students involved in several sports and other activities such as Boy Scouts. The kids are feeling pressured to do extracurricular activities not for fun but for their resume. They are again concerned about getting into a good college and being a success. This pressure is not coming from parents either. It is pressure kids are now placing on themselves.

Recent studies are showing a correlation between lack of fun and time to relax with the increase in depression in children and teenagers. A study in Psychology Today discusses this issue. I have included the link so parents can read this study and think about it. Also so you can look at your children and talk with them. See if they are enjoying life or feeling overwhelmed because they need to succeed. Money pays the bills but doesn’t guarantee happiness

Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert working with children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website

April Child Abuse Awareness Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention month. This is very important. We often think because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children are safe. This is far from the truth. Our children are at risk like any other child.

The reality is 889,000 per year are abused in the United States according to the United States Health and Human Services. This averages out to be 1 out of every 12 children in the United States are abused. This includes physical, sexual, emotional abuse and severe neglect to name a few. Every year 1,500 children die from child abuse. Children from birth to the age of 3 are at the highest risk for abuse. Children under 3 years old are 76% of the children who die every year due to child abuse (USDHHS). The statistics indicate that boys and girls are equally as likely to be a victim of abuse.

A common mistake we make is that we assume child abusers are strangers. This is a very big mistake we make. Most children are abused by adults that they know and trust and because the children have been taught to trust the abuser, they are afraid to say anything. They are afraid that people won’t believe them or be mad at them. Also it is very common the children who are abused by their parents. Often their parents are abusing drugs or alcohol or both. Therefore, most children who are being abused are in a situation where they see no way out. A child is dependent on their parents and have no choice but to suffer in quiet.

Another common mistake we make is we assume abusers are adults. Quite often the abuser is another child. Often when children are abused they turn around and abuse another child. They do this to try to restore their sense of security. Therefore, you may have a situation where an older sibling is abusing a younger sibling or a child maybe being abused by a friend who is being abused by their parents.

Another mistake we make regarding sexual abuse is that we assume girls are always the victims. This is totally wrong. Boys are abused on a regular basis. However, they are afraid to say anything because they are afraid that people will call them gay. Boys are also afraid of being blamed. Because people assume boys are strong and can defend themselves so they won’t be a victim of abuse, boys are afraid that people will think they did not fight hard enough to stop the sexual abuse or that they allowed it to occur because they liked it.

Another problem that occurs with abuse is that the family feels a sense of shame. They are afraid of how people will judge them as parents. Therefore, children who are abused pick up on the family cues not to say anything or the family decides not to say anything to avoid the possible shame. This fear of how the family will be judged allows abuse to continue. These are a few of the misconceptions that we have about child abuse and how our misconceptions allow abuse to continue. Due to this fear it is not uncommon to see a family where physical or verbal abuse has been occurring for generations.

We need to get beyond this fear and think of the children. Victims of childhood abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and are more likely to commit suicide. Also as I stated before, they are more likely to abuse someone else.

We often do not think about the abuser. As I stated above, odds are they are victims of abuse too. They are not happy repeating the cycle. They want help, but they hate themselves so much they feel they cannot be helped. People putting them down only reinforces this belief. We need compassion if we are going to help.

As you can see this is a very big problem. If you feel a child is being abused or that there is abuse happening in a family, consult a professional about what to do. You don’t want to make a bad situation worse.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with abused children and their families. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website at

High School Graduation & Divorce

Your Divorce is not Part of Your Teen’s Graduation
With the large number of divorces, brings a lot of new situations in life especially if you have children. Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle of the divorce. This is the ideal situation, however, we do not always get the ideal situation. Very often divorces are high conflict and the two of you argue over everything and anything. Usually in these high conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation.
This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays. Parents argue about pick up and drop off times, how long they have the children for holidays and there is often arguments about can a child bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. In short, parents argue about everything and the children become sick and tired of the arguing.
The other factor that adds to this is grandparents saying negative things about the ex wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress the children are dealing with after a divorce.

The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a long term boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments about she is not my child’s mother or he is not my child’s father and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life. Also a new girlfriend or boyfriend can cause teens to argue with their parents because they want their parents back together.

In short in a high conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become use to arguing about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times some children do choose sides hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused.
This type of divorce creates a great deal of issues for children and I cannot cover all the issues in this blog. I would need a book to cover all the issues.
Most the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish that their parents would stop fighting so they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument.
Graduation is one of those issues. Parents will often start arguing about issues such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school and now he wants to come.” Or “if your mother shows up, after everything she has done, I won’t be in the same room as her.” And of course there is always the issue of “he better not bring her to my child’s graduation.” What is a teen to do?
They have spent the last four years working very hard in high school and graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishment. They also usually want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate their accomplishment. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about how graduation will be because of the divorce.

Your teenager did not get divorced. You and your spouse divorced and even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents for your teenager and you need to act like parents. This means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else. Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice. Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teen’s graduation a happy day for them.

What you need to do is you and your ex spouse sit down together or email each other and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold one day so your teen can have a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not. This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties. The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. If you can allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight will there be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, being parents and relationships.
The most important thing to do is remember this is a celebration. So let your teen celebrate and allow yourselves to celebrate with your teenager as their mother and father. Remember the divorce ended your marriage not your relationship together as parents