Dad’s are Important for Kids

June is around the corner and so is Father’s Day. We often hear how important a mother is for a child, but a father is just as important.

I have heard very often how important a mother is to a child especially a young child. While this is true Dads are just as important to children and young children. I say Dad because any man can father a child, but it takes work to be a Dad to a child.

The difference is a father is needed to create a child and a Dad is the male role model who takes care of a child. A Dad is the one who teaches a child about the world and provides unconditional love.

Because of the stereotype we have about men in our culture, Dads are often not considered that important. Because men work too much or don’t express emotions so they are not emotionally available to their children.

However, if we look at the stereotype it also demonstrates why Dads are important. Dads are the male role models to their sons. Dads teach their sons how to treat women, their wives and their children. They teach their sons how a man is supposed to act in a relationship.

Dads are also role models for their daughters. They see how Dad treats Mom and how their relationship works or doesn’t work. This teaches girls how they should expect to be treated by a man while dating and when married. If Dad was verbally and physically abusive, they expect their boyfriend or husband to treat them that way. It also often results in a girl having low self-esteem.

Boys look for validation from their Dads that they are doing a good job developing into an adult man. If their Dad is not emotionally available, many boys interpret this as they are a failure to their Dad and they become hurt and angry. Unable to express their emotional pain because men don’t express disappointment, they express anger. They project their pain onto others.

If we change our mind set and see how valuable a Dad is to kids then may be Dads can start meeting the emotional needs of their children and families. However, this requires men to take off the mask they have learned to live in.

I have a friend who was able to take of his mask and write a wonderful poem to his son. He wanted his son never to doubt how he felt about him and he wanted to make sure he shared it with his son. What a tremendous gift he gave to his son! Also what a fantastic role model he is being to his son about how to be a Dad.

I asked for his permission to print it here and he graciously said yes. I hope other Dads will read this and share a gift like this with their son or daughter. Also I hope it helps to eliminate the false stereotypes we have about Dads.

Here is an example of a Dad saying I love you to his child. Something every child needs to hear.

I never want this to go unsaid, about my son,

So here in this poem, for all to hear
There are no words to express how much you mean to me,
with a smile upon my face, and warm feelings in my heart, I must declare!
A son like you, always polite and full of joy,I thought could never be.
Since the day you were born, I just knew you were like a mini me,
from your first breath I knew,
God sent me a blessing- and that was you.
For this I thank him every day,
You are the true definition of a son, in every way.
Your kindness and caring with love for all,
you give my life meaning, for us to share.
Becoming your father has shown me a new sense of being.
I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,
Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.
Always remember that I know how much you care,
I can tell by the bond that we share.
For a son like you there could be no other,
And whether we are together or apart,
Please do not ever forget-
You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 18 years experience working with children & teens. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

How to Handle Teens having Cellphones

In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. However, it’s a privilege and we need to remember that fact.

Many people have forgotten that cell phones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and child is how much and where the cell phone is being used. Teens basically accuse parents of child abuse if they say no to a phone or if the parent sets limits. You are not being abusive, you are being a responsible parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You need to do what you feel is best for your child.

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

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

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

If you decide that your middle school or high school aged child is mature enough for a cell phone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class or while driving and not taking it into the bedroom at night. Many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school.

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

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

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

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cell phone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child does not get into major trouble with the phone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need. I will not bring my cell phone to the family dinner table. I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cell phone privileges. I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition. I understand that my cell phone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cell phones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings. I will obey any rules my school has regarding cell phones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus. I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t kno.w I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cell phone. I will not use my cell phone to bully another.

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

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

Cell Phone Contract: Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cell phone and using it responsibly. I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cell phone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cell phone away Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents) Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino has been working with middle school and high school students for over 18 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Children’s Reaction to Divorce

I often hear parents tell me their kids are doing fine with the divorce, when the child is not. I also have many parents who are thinking about divorce ask me, “how will this affect my child?” This is a tough question to answer.

What I have seen as a psychotherapist working with children whose parents are divorcing is that how the parents handle the divorce determines how a child will react. Many children are put in the middle during a divorce. The parents make them feel like they must choose between Mom and Dad. No child can make this choice. They love both parents. Children who are caught in the middle like this tend to act out at school, at home and get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Also divorce takes a long time and children have no say about what happens in regards to custody. This takes a toll on a child. Also it is very hard not where you are going to live and having no say about how often you see Mom or Dad. Again this is very stressful on children and this stress often results in children acting out or becoming depressed. Many children can benefit from therapy during a divorce, but many parents argue over therapy. Therefore, many children don’t receive therapy or only receive it after a long fight.

The other difficulty is that many parents tell a child everything about the divorce even though they are instructed not to. This is extremely stressful on a child. They are too young to fully understand the situation and they are hearing things about their parents that they should not hear. This creates a tremendous amount of stress on a child. As a result, their grades suffer, they feel overwhelmed and often turn to alcohol, drugs or sex as a way to decrease their stress. Also many children become angry and start to get into fights at school or vandalize things.

Everything I have described is because of parents putting children in the middle of a divorce. Remember you can get a divorce and stop being married, but you cannot stop being parents. You must learn to co-parent and you need to keep your child out of the middle.

Many people tend to down play what I say because they feel I am exaggerating. Therefore, I have included a link to a video where a child gives tips to other kids and adults about divorce. Therefore, you will not be hearing it from a therapist, you will be hearing it directly from a child dealing with divorce. Please watch and learn, Listen to a kid give kids & parents very good tips about coping with divorce. A must see

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years working with children and teenagers who have parents who are divorcing. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice please visit his website

What Parents Should Know About An IEP Plan


Dr Michael Rubino
Parents here is important information about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 agreements. Besides ensuring that your child receives a good education, you do not need to pay for items such as special computer programs that the school district should be paying for not you. If your child has an IEP the school district is responsible for most educational expenses even a private school if necessary. Please read this article so you understand your rights and your child’s rights.

We are coming to the end of the school year and it is time for the annual review of students IEPs. I am already hearing from parents how school districts are misleading them and pressuring them to sign an agreement for a 504 before the parents clearly understand the difference between an IEP and 504 plan. The definition for both is further down in this article. An IEP and 504 are not the same. An IEP is legally enforceable and has legal guidelines and time frames. An IEP follows a student from school to school or state to state. A 504 is not legally enforceable and doesn’t follow a child nor are there legal guidelines.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting a job or from getting into college. In fact and college because they still would be entitled to assistance and the State of California may pay for their books. Also educational records are confidential therefore, no one would know your child had an IEP in school.

Many schools say your child must be two grades below in order to qualify for an IEP. If you said your child had a math or reading disability this is true. However, if they have ADHD, Bipolar, school anxiety etc. they can qualify under OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS. All your child needs is a diagnosis such as ADHD which would interfere with their ability to fully benefit from their learning experience in the classroom. The 2 grade below level qualification doesn’t apply to this category.

Also if you have a child in private school and they would benefit from additional assistance, contact your child’s public school district. Even though they attend private school the public school district is legally obligated to provide your child with services.

One more issue, never pay for outside testing before the school district tests your child. They have the right not to accept any outside testing until they test the child. If you disagree with the district’s testing then you can request an objective testing from an outside professional and you can request that the school district pays for the testing and you can select the evaluator.

An IEP or an Individualized Education Plan is a document that outlines the specialized education services that a student will receive due to their disability. It ensures the student will receive the assistance necessary so they will receive an education.
When most parents hear disability, they usually think of a person in a wheelchair or a student wIth a learning disability. There are various condItions that can qualify as a disability. Depression, Bipolare Disorder or even diabetes. The disability is any condition that will interfere in the student receiving the same education as other students. The students who qualify for an IEP need accommodations which meet the criteria of needing specialized education. As I stated above their are numerous conditions which may qualify a student for an IEP.
if a student does qualify for an IEP, they also qualify for Special Education. Many parents hear this and are afraid or embassies. There is nothing to be afraid of or embossed about. If a student qualifies for Special Education, if the student needs speech therapy or special computer programs, the school district is obligated to provide the services to the student at no expense to the student’s family.
There is also an option called a 504 Plan. This was established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 plan ensures that a student with a disability will receive accommodations so they will receive the same education as other students. However, the 504 plan does not qualify a student for Special Education services and It is not overseen as closely as an IEP plan.
Currently, many districts are telling parents that their child does not need or qualify for an IEP and a 504 plan is just a good. This is not true. Many school districts are telling parents that their child does not qualify for an IEP because the IEP is more expensive for the district and most districts are trying to save money.The districts take advantage of the fact that as parents, you do not know all the differences between an IEP and a 504 so they can talk a family into a 504 plan easily.
If you find that your child is having difficulties at school due to a learning disability, health issue or emotional issue, consult an outside professional before you automatically assume that the school is giving you the appropriate recommendation.
I see many parents who have been told that their child is better with a 504 plan and that is not the truth. You can consult an educational consultant or a therapist who works with children. You can contact me at I help many families at their child’s IEP meeting. The main thing is, do not be afraid to ask if your child should have a 504 or an IEP. Also don’t let the district make you feel guilty because you want time to think and investigate the options. This is your child and you should never sign anything until you are sure it is in your child’s best interest.
I have added a link to a chart that will help you compare the two and understand the differences.

504 Plan vs. IEP – Education pages lists the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan.

I have also added a link to a video which helps to explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 18 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’’s practice visit his web site at

Teens are Caring Too

We often complain and criticize teenagers for being selfish. Parents and teachers often complain about the lack of respect or the lack of dedication teenagers have today. In fact when many people think about teenagers they also think about drugs, alcohol and sex. Many people assume this is all that teenagers think about.

However, this is not reality. As a psychotherapist who works with teenagers I hear the amazing things they are doing daily. The problem is that teenagers seldom receive recognition for what they do. You would be surprised that with just a little bit of praise means to a teenager. Just one person acknowledging what they did and you see their entire face light up. It also increases the likelihood that they will continue to do positive things with their lives. Parents and adults who have teenagers in their lives or work with teens need to remember this fact. Also besides correcting their mistakes, which we need to do, we need to acknowledge the positive acts too. If we don’t why would teenagers want to continue with their positive acts. If all you get attention for is negative behavior, after a while you give up. You simply focus on the negative because that is what people expect and the only way you get attention. A teen will feel negative attention is better than no attention.

This high school in Ohio should be an example to us. These teenagers have received positive attention for their acts of kindness and look what they have created. This is not the first school video they have done. They also did a video in 2014. These kids have received positive feedback for their acts of kindness and they are turning around and helping thousands of other people. We need to keep in mind that teenagers are amazing and are capable of tremendous acts of kindness. They just need our support. Besides its nice to tell a teen that they did a great job rather than always giving them a lecture.

I have included a link to this amazing video by this amazing high school. I encourage you to watch it, donate to their cancer cause and think about how you can encourage and acknowledge a teenager in your life for their acts of kindness. Look at what high school students & teachers can do when they decide to help others. We need to support them and encourage other teens

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teenagers. To learn more about his work and private practice visit his website or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy