How Does Divorce Impact Your Child’s Future?

How Does Divorce Impact Your Child’s Future?

Does Divorce Hurt Children for Life?
by Dr. Michael Rubino | Rubino Counseling Services | Pleasant Hill, CA 

Michael reassures parents that divorce won’t scar their children for life. 

Parents often tell me their kids are “doing fine” with their divorce when the truth is, they aren’t. The fact that the children have no say in what happens plus anxiety over custody issues takes its toll. Consequently, parents often tell me they’ve decided to wait for their children to graduate high school before they divorce. The belief is that divorce hurts children for life. In my overall experience, it’s how parents act prior to or after the divorce that causes these issues.
As a psychotherapist working with children whose parents are divorcing, the most common scenario is that children are put in the middle. The parents have made them feel that they must choose between Mom and Dad, a choice no child can make. This type of environment will have a negative effect on the child as they grow up and when they are adults. Children embroiled in the battles of divorce become fearful of relationships. The fear stems from the belief that they are doomed to become their parents, and that a healthy relationship is impossible. The child associates relationships with emotional pain. As a result, they may avoid all relationships or have brief superficial ones due to their fear of commitment.
If a marriage or a relationship is irreparable 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 one another, and not using the children as weapons. Your marital relationship with your spouse can end, but your co-parenting relationship requires continual development, nurturing and support forever.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teenagers and high conflict divorces. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice, visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com and http://www.drmichaelrubino.com, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RubinoTherapy.

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Making Decisions during A Divorce 

Making Decisions during A Divorce 

As a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have worked on many high conflict divorces. I have been the therapist for the children, an Expert Witness regarding custody, worked as part of the mediation team and served as a 730 Court Appointed Expert regarding custody and visitation. In the various roles I have had in high conflict divorce cases and also the average divorce cases, there is a common issue I have encountered. The issue I have encounter is making decisions. Many times I have seen divorce cases become vicious because one parent is reluctant about making a decision. They feel they have made too many concessions already or they feel they will look weak. So in other words the decision now becomes a matter of pride and not what is in everyone’s best interest.
Divorces are very emotional and hurtful experiences for both partners. They are also very hurtful and emotional experiences for the children. The children feel like they are in the middle of a civil war and that they need to pick a side. This is usually an impossible task for a child. They have to decide who the love more, mom or dad, how does a child make this choice? Parents often get so caught up in the fight that they do not see what they are doing to their children. I have had children tell me they wish this whole divorce stuff would go away because they cannot stand it. They cannot choose between their mother or father. They are also afraid of what will happen if they make a choice or if they do not make a choice. They feel they are in a no win situation.
I usually meet with the parents to tell them how their child is handling the divorce. Very often the first half an hour to 45 minutes I hear from the parent how unfair this whole divorce has been and how much it has cost them and they are running out of money. Mothers have their reasons about how unfair Courts and attorneys are to mothers and fathers also complain that the Court and attorneys are unfair to fathers. They also talk about a particular decision that is being made at that point. Such as what school the children will go to or how holidays will be divided.
Typically at this point both parents feel they have had to give in a lot and they are not going to give in anymore. All this attitude does is create more attorney bills and put the children under a great deal of stress. By this point in the divorce process many children are having difficulties with their school work, their parents and teenagers often have started to use alcohol or pot for a temporary escape from the stress. Younger children usually start reporting stomach aches and headaches and often have started to wet their beds at night again. These are all common reactions for younger children under stress.
When I do meet with the parents, I encourage them to take a step back and look at the entire situation. What is the divorce costing them financially, emotionally? Also what is the divorce costing their children emotionally in the short term and long term? I ask them is the price worth the fight? They are possibly doing damage to their relationship with their children and they are effecting how their children will view and think about relationships. Also they are damaging their relationship with the other parent. After the divorce is finalized, the other parent is not going to disappear. They have children together. Therefore, they are going to need to co-parent together. With all the bad blood being created, it may make it very difficult to co-parent together so the arguing and attorney bills will continue. However, the most important point is the children will still be caught in the middle. This will create emotional damage for the children. They can understand the arguing during the divorce, but not after. At that point, the children expect their parents to act like adults.
Trying to help the children, I encourage the parents to put their egos away and what ever one is telling them that they deserve. I encourage the parents to use their emotions and imagine how their children are feeling and how their children will feel the longer that the fighting continues. I recommend to parents that they need to put their children first and make the decision that is best for their children not their ego. They may win this battle, but is it worth losing the war. They lose the war by the emotional turmoil they are creating for their children. We also know from research studies that putting children under this type of stress can have long lasting effects.
Therefore, I point out it is more important to do what is best for the children. It might be hard right now, but in the long run their children will be happier and so will they. Therefore, my recommendation when making decisions regarding child support, visitation or anything to do with the children is to put pride to the side and do what is in your children’s best interest. It is your responsibility as a parent. Also remember you are ending your marriage, but you still need to co-parent with the person you are divorcing. Again as a responsible parent, you need to make the decision that will allow you to co-parent.
One issue that I have not explicitly stated. The approach I am discussing are for divorces where a spouse had an affair or is tired of being married etc. I am not discussing a marriage where there was domestic violence, child abuse physically or emotionally or severe substance abuse by one parent. If any of these issues exist then it is a different matter and requires a different approach.
Dr. Michael Rubino has worked with children, teenagers and divorce cases for over 19 years. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Understanding the Issue of Bullying

Understanding the Issue of Bullying

It is back to school time and many kids are really excited about their new teacher and being able to see and play with their friends on a daily basis. However, some kids are not as excited and even worried about returning to school. Many of these kids were bullied last year and they are afraid of being bullied again this year.
Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. It is how our society is today. Children, especially boys, receive messages from television, music, video games about being strong and defending yourself. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address, but that is a different topic.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. Now bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they be better off dead. We have an example of this from the 13 year old boy who recently committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. Other kids are turning to drugs and alcohol and we are seeing a number of accidental overdosages resulting in death. We assume they were accidents, they could be suicides staged to look like accidents.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. Remember a few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He did not know what to do and ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying, suicide and drug use increase with kids in middle school and now beginning in Elementary school, we must take this issue seriously. I saw it has entered Elementary schools because the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children is suicide according to the CDC statistics.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:
Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school the first day of classes or a few days before and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school or volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying before school starts. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. By acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 19 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page at Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Daily Tramua For Children

Daily Tramua For Children

I have been seeing more and more teenagers who are complaining of anxiety and depression. Many of these teenagers are also afraid to go to school too. I have also been seeing more teenagers being placed on home/hospital for school. This means a teacher comes to the house once a week instead of the teenager going to school. This is an alarming trend.
I have also been hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend.
However, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11 when the United States was attacked. Since 9/11 they have also seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about terrorist alerts or attacks around the world.
In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. According to the statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. This does not include suicides. For the group we are discussing, suicide is the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide.
Now, in addition to these facts stated above, think about what these children see on the news and the video games they play. Anytime there is a shootings incident in the United States there is pretty much 24 hour news coverage of the event for days. Also when there are bombing or shootings in Europe there is 24 hour news coverage for days. And now we have moved on to covering funerals. When the officers were killed in Dallas the memorial was televised nationally. If we look at the video games these kids are playing most have to do with killing and death. And since computer graphics have significantly improved, many of these games look real.
Looking at all of this it begins to make sense why I am seeing more depressed and anxious teenagers who fear for their lives. These teenagers are being traumatized. They may not be experiencing the trauma personally but they are experiencing vicarious trauma. With all of the pictures on television and news reports and realistic video games these teenagers are playing, they are being traumatized vicariously. We have never had a generation of children grow up with the amount of trauma that these children are growing up. Even children growing up during World War II didn’t experience this amount of trauma. We didn’t have instant access to news nor did we have the graphic videos being shown by the news media.
The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can monitor how much exposure our children are receiving to mass shootings when they occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. We can demand that the Congress pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon to hunt a deer. We can also listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them.

Finally, if you start to notice a change of attitude in your child that you are concerned about have them assessed by a psychotherapist. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child needs therapy. We are exposing children to situations that most adults have problems dealing with themselves. You may find it very upsetting to talk to your child about these incidents. For these reasons and many more, if you feel your teenager has been traumatized vicariously make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and victims of trauma. Our kids have had to deal with a lot. We can help make it easier for them growing up in this time by providing the help they need.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 19 years experience treating children and teenagers and dealing with victims of trauma. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

The Teenage Brain

The Teenage Brain

Parents there is something you can do that can make your life as a parent much easier. You can remember that your children are children not little adults. Many parents expect their children and teenagers to be able to function as little adults. When they don’t, parents often get mad and then we have an argument.
Remember when a baby is born their brain is still placid. What this means is their brains are still developing. Just like the “soft spot” in a baby’s skull. When they are born all of the bones in a baby’s skull have not grown together. They are still developing.

This placidly is there usually until a child is around 18 years old. If any of your children have had a head injury around age 9 or 12 and the physician tells you their body can compensate, this is what they are referring to. Since their neurological system is not completely developed, if there is an injury, their neurological system can find away to bypass the injury.

This is a wonderful thing for children considering how often they are injured. However, there is a cost to this developing neurological symptom. Children’s frontal and prefrontal cortex do not fully develop until the age of 18.

What does this mean to you as a parent? It means that you cannot expect your child to reason as an adult would reason. Children and teens typically have concrete reasoning skills until their brain is fully developed. When the brain is fully developed then they have abstract reasoning and can think a head about consequences. Until such time their ability to do so is limited. This makes teenagers more vulnerable to peer pressure or making impulsive decisions which can result in trouble for the teenagers that they never expected.

If parents will remember this fact and adjust to it, you can decrease your stress. This is why I recommend contracts and agreements. They reduce the need for a child or teen to have to do abstract thinking right on the spot. When you make agreements and contracts with your teen you assist them with and model abstract reasoning. You also increase the likelihood that they will make a good choice versus a poor choice.

Also if you remember the limitations your child is dealing with, if they make a mistake you can respond in a more appropriate manner. If you expect them to reason like an adult and they make a mistake, you are going to be more stern in your reaction. If you remember that they cannot handle abstract reasoning yet, your response and consequence you set will be more appropriate. Also your teen will learn more.

Remember, we are always telling kids you will have to wait until you are an adult. Therefore, when they make a mistake even if they are 15, we need to remember they are not an adult yet and respond in that manner.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 19 years experience working with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino or his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

What to Expect in Middle School

What to Expect in Middle School

As the school year is starting many people have focused on the transition into High School or Kindergarten. However, there is another important transition for children. Beginning Middle School is a major transition for pre-adolescents. As a therapist who works with adolescents, I am very familiar with what is happening on High School and Middle School campuses. Often when I mention to parents who have a child going into middle school or a child in middle school, if they have spoken to their child about drugs and alcohol, I am told no.
I hear these parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs or alcohol with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is these parents are wrong. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved in very adult activities.

To begin with, most campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on the campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to succeed and fit in with friends.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse and they are engaging in oral sex that it doesn’t count. The kids say they are just messing around with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are disrupting condoms to middle school kids.
Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school. Often there is a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and texting by phone to tease and harass other kids. And as many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing at school. Also a number of middle school students have been arrested for photos they text and for harassment. Texting a photo of a child in middle school means the middle school child violated child pornography laws. Something many parents are not aware of is that when a child texts a nude photo of a middle school age student it violates child pornography laws and the child who text it and received it can both be arrested. 

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or afraid school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. If they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp” so they have to fight. Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad kids have to live in fear for their safety. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to terrorist activities, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older so are there issues regarding drinking, sex or being teased that they need to talk about. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 19 years experience treating adolescents. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s practice check his web site http://www.rcs-ca.com or his profile on LinkedIn.

Coparenting Issues

Coparenting Issues

Parents often tell me their kids are “doing fine” with their divorce when the truth is, they aren’t. The fact that the children have no say in what happens plus anxiety over custody issues takes its toll. Consequently, parents often tell me they’ve decided to wait for their children to graduate high school before they divorce. The belief is that divorce hurts children for life. In my overall experience, it’s how parents act prior to or after the divorce that causes these issues.

As a psychotherapist working with children whose parents are divorcing, the most common scenario is that children are put in the middle. The parents have made them feel that they must choose between Mom and Dad, a choice no child can make. This type of environment will have a negative effect on the child as they grow up and when they are adults. Children embroiled in the battles of divorce become fearful of relationships. The fear stems from the belief that they are doomed to become their parents, and that a healthy relationship is impossible. The child associates relationships with emotional pain. As a result, they may avoid all relationships or have brief superficial ones due to their fear of commitment.

If a marriage or a relationship is irreparable 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 one another, and not using the children as weapons. Your marital relationship with your spouse can end, but your co-parenting relationship requires continual development, nurturing and support forever