What is Teenage Camouflaging?

The teenage years are a time when teens are trying to identify themselves. However, for some teens they want to fit in with their friends. This need to fit in can cause teenagers to do things they usually wouldn’t do such as drugs, alcohol etc. This need to fit in has been considered normal for teenagers for years.

However, 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 https://gma.yahoo.com/video/parents-worry-tween-teen-camouflaging-122935763.html?soc_src=copy. Also if parents look at the February issue of Teen Vogue, you will find an article about Camouflaging.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 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 http://www.rcs-ca.com

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Vaporizing and Teenagers

It’s summer time and many teenagers will be hanging out with friends. Because most parents need to work most teens will not be supervised by an adult. Therefore, many teenagers will take advantage to use vaporizers or Hooka pens. Unfortunately, many parents don’t know a great deal about this new way to smoke

Vaporizing is the new things teens are using. They use it when the use an E cigarette and they use vaporizers for using weed.

Many people will say E cigarettes are safer. However the newest research does not indicate that is true. They have not been on the market long enough to know the long term effects. The newest research indicates that E cigarettes can cause health problems. Therefore, you should not assume they are safe.

Teens are also using vaporizers to use weed. Again they claim it is healthier. While vaporizing prevents some chemicals from getting into a teens body, vaporizing allows more THC into the teens body. People state it creates more of an intense body high that lasts for a day or two. People warn that if someone is not use to this it can create a traumatic experience for the teen. With vaporizing someone can do what is referred to as a volcano. The weed is vaporized into a plastic bag so it can be inhaled over time.

People who I have spoken to state vaporizing is not as safe as teens think. The body high it creates and the length of the high could be traumatic for a teenager. However, they are seeing more teens getting into it even though they don’t know exactly what they are getting into.

Parents do your own research and talk to your teens. There are more and more drugs out there and more ways to use them than ever before. Teenagers don’t know exactly what they are getting into and can end up in a bad situation. They need your guidance more than ever regarding these new drugs and methods of use.

The Hookah Pens and Vaporizers are more popular today. In addition so are the designer drugs Mollies and Thunder Bolts. No one knows exactly what is in them so many Emergency Room doctors are unable to treat these teens and they die.

Another thing teens are using is GNC stores. Everything in there is a vitamin so it does not have to be tested by the FDA. However many of these vitamins used at the right amount give teens a long lasting high. Many parents don’t suspect anything because their teen says they are taking vitamins for their sport team their on. Look at and research anything they are taking.

Well your teenager has found a new toy to use. Many teens have been smoking Hookah because they believe that it is safer than cigarettes or marijuana. Unfortunately they are wrong. It is just as dangerous and might be more dangerous.

Smoking Hookah is a group activity that is common in the Middle East and India. Since it is a group activity, it is appealing to teens. Also since many adults here in the United States know little about it, this makes it more appealing to teens because it is easier to lie about. If you look up Hookah, you will find there are numerous places that teens can go in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Concord to buy a Hookah pipe and Hookah to smoke. There are also Hookah cafes similar to Starbucks where teens can go and smoke it. And now finally there is the Hookah pen. It looks like a regular pen so they can take it any where such as school and smoke.

However, the Hookah pipe can be used for smoking more than Hookah. The teens are combining Hookah with marijuana to get high. Now that there is a Hookah pen, or vaprorizer pen, teens can easily take this to school and smoke during class. As a parent you may want to discuss Hookah with your teen and see what they know or don’t know. You may want to discuss the pros and cons too. Also remind them if they get caught with the pen on campus, they are in trouble.

One thing this should point out to parents is that you should never let your your guard down. Teens are always developing new ways and new devices to get high. Check out this video on YouTube to learn more about these pens.

Read more about the effect of these “waterpipe” smoking devices from the World Health Organization.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating teens. For more information on Dr Michael Rubino visit his web site at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Life After 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 responsiblity to help your children adjust to the divorce.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 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.rcs-ca.com, http://www.drmichaelrubino.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Why Parents Should know Thier Teenagers Friends

It is summer vacation and your teenagers are going to be spending more time with friends Today’s society has become very violent. Due to that fact, it is important to get to know your teenagers friends and what they do when they hang out. Knowing their friends could stop a potential bad situation.

Having friends and hanging out with them after school and on weekends is what most people think about when they think about teenagers and their friends. No one really thinks about being concerned. It seems harmless and it’s part of being a teenager. However, with the advancement of technology and the rapid changes in society, this has changed. It now is necessary for parents to be concerned about who their teen has as a friend and what they are doing.

Now with the Internet and such things as Facebook, teens face a number of different issues. One issue is the number of friends they have. Teens are looking at Facebook pages and see that people claim to have 400, 500 friends. They look at their page and they have 50 and they start to worry what is wrong with them. But they fail to stop and think no one can have 500 close friends. The person has acquaintances or they just sent out a bunch of invitations, but it is impossible to know 500 people closely. Also the number of friends you have, has nothing to do with who you are as a person.

Another issue teens are facing with the Internet is cyber bullying. It is very easy to say very mean cruel things when you can hide behind a computer and no one knows who you are. However, the target of the bullying can feel like their world is falling a part and feel their life is hopeless. They may see suicide as a way out. Suicide in teens is now the 3rd leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 and the rate is increasing every year. We also have seen a tremendous increase in school shootings. The teen who usually does the shooting is a teen that feels powerless and that no one cares about him.

A very important issue that this has exacerbated is the need to feel accepted by their peers. Teens will do anything to feel accepted. They are using drugs, stealing, beating up other kids, anything they are being asked to do by the group. In the Alive & Free Movement, we refer to these as “”fearships.” Teens are doing things because they are afraid of being rejected by the group. The group leaders are intimidating other teens into doing these dangerous things so they feel important and worthy. This is not a friendship. A friend accepts you for who you are and they don’t intimidate you into doing things that might get you killed or arrested.

This is why parents need to get to know their teenager’s friends. If you think they are involved in a fearship you need to talk to your teen and you may need to forbid them from hanging out with these kids.

Also parents need to talk to their teenagers about what a real friendship is and how friends act. A friend accepts you for who you are they don’t demand changes. They are there to support you during difficult times and friends don’t want to see you hurt. If you are doing something that could get you in trouble or hurt you a friend will tell you to stop. Parents many teens are still figuring these issues out. This is why you need to talk to your teens about friends and why you need to get to know their friends.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and their parents. For more information about his work or private practice please visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Honoring Fathers

I wrote an article about the importance of Dads and posted it in Patch. I also am fortunate enough to work with Dr. Joseph Marshall of Alive & Free. He wrote an article for the Huffington Post about Fathers. I think it is very good so I am going to share it with you.

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A Tribute to Dads: Why Our Kids and Our Communities Need Them

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. I just want to say thank you for being a father to your child. You’re doing the most important job of all. There’s nothing better than a good dad. This is Father’s Day and it’s our time to say, “Thanks!”

Having grown up with my dad, being one myself and now seeing my son be a great father to his children, I fully understand the importance, benefits and joys of fatherhood. And yes, I’m very sorry for all those men who don’t get to experience those joys and even more sorry for their children. I really think they’re being cheated.

Let me acknowledge a couple of things first. I am not intending in any way to slight all the single moms out there doing double and triple duty raising their kids. I’m also not saying that you can’t make it without a father—many of you have and you can. I’m not saying you can’t make it without a mother—you can do that too. You can even make it without any parents at all, because I know people who have done that also. People make the best of the hand they are dealt, but I don’t think anyone would recommend these scenarios for any child.

In my mind, every child deserves and good mother and a good father.

In my years of community work with young people, the toughest day of the year by far is Father’s Day. It’s not rocket science to figure out why. It’s because many of them don’t have one. Their dads are dead, in jail or just not involved. As much as they try to hide it, play it off or just bury it, those feelings and emotions are right there front and center. For many, it’s the main issue in their life. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the lack of fathers is the biggest problem I deal with. That might surprise some of you, but please hear me out.

Because I had a father—and very good one at that—I know the benefits and the joys that dads bring to the table. The kids I work with don’t know that. Just about all of them know what mom does and what mom brings and they swear they couldn’t make it without her. With dad, they’re not so sure. “I think this is what they do,” they say.

Here’s a true story that says it all for me when it comes to the importance of fathers. I was talking to the kids one evening at our regular Tuesday night group meeting and one of the girls said that she hated taking the bus so late because she had to make the walk home from the bus stop and men always accosted her along the way. I told her to call her dad and have him pick her up from the bus stop. She replied that she didn’t have a dad. Then I told her to call her uncle or cousin or somebody in the family to make sure she got home safely. She told me that she didn’t have any male to call, because there weren’t any men in her immediate family. She felt totally unprotected. I felt so bad for her that I told her to call me anytime day or night and I would come and get her. I then wrote my phone number on the board—and every girl in the room wrote it down. Every girl. Wow! None of these young women had any fathers or men they felt they could count on.

A few years ago, I asked the young people (and the listeners of my radio show) to tell me what they thought the qualities of a good father were. I want to share their responses with you. Some of them might surprise you as they did me. Here is what they said:

A good Dad is………
A teacher
Provides leadership by example
A protector
A provider
Has the ability to balance sternness and sensitivity
Instills organization and structure
Is kind
Is loving and supportive
Is calm, patient and understanding
Listens and inspires
Believes in you
Urges you to be the best that you can be
Has consistency in presence; is there
Is the foundation for everything else
Provides discipline
Teaches you that your word is everything
Provides balance
Shows quiet strength
Is resilient
Is responsible
Is able to express emotions
Provides quality time and is attentive

When we finished the list, the kids—both boys and girls—just looked at each other and said, “Wow, look at what we’re missing out on.” And then I said, “Yeah and look at what’s missing in the community. We’re out of balance. We’re trying to do this child raising thing with one hand tied behind our back. We need both our mothers and our fathers.”

After taking stock of what these young people said, maybe it will help some men out there understand what your kids are missing when you’re not in their lives. Maybe you don’t have any idea what your value is or what you bring to the relationship. Maybe if you did, it wouldn’t matter how difficult the court proceedings are or how much child support you’re paying (or not), or if you’ve got another family, or if your ex has a boyfriend, or if you’re feeling guilty because you can’t buy them things—or any other reason you’ve come up with. Maybe you won’t engage in any illegal activity that puts them in harm’s way or that jeopardizes your freedom and your ability to parent them.

And maybe this list will help some women understand not to deny a man who wants to be a father because he’s got a new girlfriend or because he doesn’t want to be with you anymore or because he legitimately can’t pay the money. Realize that he wants to be a dad just as much as you want to be a mom.

Our kids and our communities need their Dads!

My father of the year, of the century, of the millennium is a gentleman named Gus Smith. Maybe you’ve heard of him, but more than likely you haven’t. His only daughter Kemba Smith got involved with a drug dealer while she was a student at Hampton University in the early 1990’s. She was ultimately sentenced to 24 years in federal prison without the possibility of parole under the mandatory minimum drug sentencing guidelines. Many viewed the sentence was grossly unfair as Kemba never used or sold drugs herself and also suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. Her father, more than anyone, realized that and then set out to do the impossible—to free his daughter. To him it was the present day equivalent of Moses telling Pharaoh to let his people go. Certainly it was just as daunting a task.

But don’t tell that to a dad. Not this dad. Not Gus Smith. Gus spoke everywhere and everyplace he could and to anyone who would listen. He organized rallies and garnered petitions. He reached out to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Congressional Black Caucus. He even wrote a letter to President Clinton.

Dear President Clinton
I am the father of Kemba Smith, a young lady who is serving a 24.5 year sentence in a drug related case. I appeal to you not as President of the United States but as a father. You see, I have a special bond with my daughter as I have seen you have with your daughter.

I have gone through a transition by having my daughter incarcerated. I lost my job… had to liquidate all my savings… mortgage my home and finally had to file for bankruptcy, not once but twice… You see Mr. President, we love our daughter… and are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary for the future of our family.

…I leave Kemba’s fate, her son, and our family’s in God’s hands and your hands, the President of the United States, who has the express power to send Kemba home.
I thank you for your consideration.

[Excerpt from Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story]

Pharaoh, let my daughter go!

Have you ever seen a miracle, a real miracle? Do miracles really happen? I’d heard about them and read about them but never actually witnessed one. Well I have now, because on December 22, 2000, Kemba Smith walked out of prison a free woman 15 years before her actual release date. President Clinton granted her Executive Clemency. Now if that don’t beat all. Amazing. Never underestimate the power of a dad.

Job well done, Gus Smith. You’re my all-time Father!

So this tribute is for all you dads out there—sung and unsung. We salute you. Thank you so much for the doing the most important job in the world day in and day out.

Thank you for being a father to your child! Happy Father’s Day!

Dr Michael Rubino has worked with teens for over 18 years for more information about his work visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com

Why do we forget Dad?

Sunday is Father’s Day, but I don’t see all the ads on television or in my email about remembering Mom. In fact, Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for florist. However, it seems like fathers are an after thought. On Mother’s Day you need to make brunch reservations a week in advance. I haven’t heard anything about brunches this Sunday. It seems like Fathers are not considered as important as Mothers.

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.

Something we are forgetting is many men are opting not to pursue a career and stay home and raise their children. Maybe the stereotype is wrong and maybe men can be nurturing and loving.

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.

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 http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.