Making Decisions During A Divorce

Making Decisions During A Divorce

Making Decisions During Divorce
by Dr. Michael Rubino | Rubino Counseling Services | Pleasant Hill, CA 
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 on mediation teams, and served as a 730 court-appointed expert regarding custody and visitation. In these roles there is a common issue I have encountered: Making decisions.
Divorce cases become vicious when one parent is reluctant to make decisions. They feel they have made too many concessions already. The decisions become a matter of pride rather than what is in everyone’s best interest.
I meet with parents to tell them how their children are handling the divorce. Inevitably, within the first half-hour the parents tell me how unfair the divorce has become, how much it has cost them, and that they’re running out of money. Mothers believe the courts and attorneys are unfair toward mothers; fathers believe the courts and attorneys are unfair toward fathers. The children feel like they are in the middle of a civil war and that they need to pick a side. The stress causes them to have difficulties with their school work and their parents. Teenagers often begin using alcohol or drugs as a temporary escape from the stress. Younger children usually start reporting stomachaches and headaches and often start to wet their beds at night again.
I encourage parents to take a step back and look at the entire situation. What is the divorce costing them financially, emotionally? More importantly, what is the divorce costing their children emotionally in the short-term and long-term? I ask: Is the price worth the fight? Is it worth damaging the relationship with your children and how your children will view relationships for the rest of their lives? Are you causing irreparable damage to the relationship with your spouse? After the divorce is finalized, will you be able to co-parent together?
For the sake of their children, I encourage parents to put their egos away. I encourage them to imagine how their children are feeling and will feel if the fighting continues. I recommend that when making decisions, such as child support calculations and visitation schedules, to put your pride aside and do what is best for your children. This is a save-all in all high-conflict divorces except when domestic violence, child abuse, or severe substance abuse is an issue and a different approach is required. It is your responsibility as a parent to seek an amicable resolution that paves the way for successful co-parenting.

Dr. Michael Rubino has worked with children, teenagers and divorce cases for over 19 years. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino, visit his website or Follow him on Twitter at 

Why We See Teens Bullying & Acting Out?

Why We See Teens Bullying & Acting Out?

October is dedicated to preventing bullying and domestic violence. However, as a psychotherapist who treats teenagers these two issues are related to a number of other teen issues. They are related to teenage suicide, cutting (self-mutilating), drug use and early sexual behavior. These are a few of the teenage issues that have a common cause that result in bullying or domestic violence in teenagers who are dating.

I have been working with teenagers for over 19 years. In those years I have seen many teenagers for many different reasons. However, when the teenager tells me why they are doing what they are doing, I often hear very similar answers for a number of different issues. It sounds odd and surprising, but when you look at it from the teenager’s point of view it makes sense.

What I have heard very often over the last 19 years is that the teenagers who are bullying, cutting, depressed, using drugs or having sex, do not feel loved by their families. In fact, they feel no one cares about them and no one cares how they feel or what they do. Therefore, they act out. They have decided negative attention is better than no attention. So if they are bullying someone, coming home high, threatening suicide or having sex, they will get attention for their negative behavior.

Furthermore, teens are now forming friendships with other teens who bully, use drugs, are suicidal or sexually active. This common bond makes them feel someone else understands and cares about them. This is how gangs form and pressure members to do things they usually would not do. The teenager feels they have a family and people who care about them. They are so desperate for love that they will do anything to stay as a gang member. They will do anything to avoid that lonely, empty feeling.

This really should not be surprising. We have seen and heard about this is in the popular media for years. The Disney movie, Frozen, mentions that people make poor choices and mistakes if they do not feel loved. The movies, The Breakfast Club & Good Will Hunting, both demonstrate the point of teens acting out and doing anything for friends so they feel loved. The play, West Side Story, is another good example. Also in her last show Oprah said that one thing she had learned is that everyone wants to know, “am I important to you, do you hear me, do you see me?.” The teenagers that I have worked with all tell me the same thing. Also it is amazing that when they test me enough and they see that I do care how they are willing to try to change.

The problem is that with society today everyone is concentrating on their own lives and they have little time to acknowledge the people around them. Parents are having to work two to three jobs to support their families. Parents assume that their teenagers will see how hard they are working and know their parents are working that hard because they love them. However, teenagers’ brains are not fully developed yet so their reasoning skills are not like an adult’s reasoning. Teenagers need to hear, I love you, from their parents and need one on one time with their parents.

Parents cannot be the only people letting teenagers know that they are important. We are asking too much of parents to be the only ones. Teachers need to show they care by staying after school to help teens who have questions or are confused or need to talk. We need to look at the movies, television and music that teenagers are listening to. Also we need to look at society. Society gives a message of looking at for number one. There are not a lot of role models encouraging teens to accept one another as they are and to support each other. Just look at the election this year and how minorities and women were insulted.

What is the answer? We need to change our priorities and tell our teenagers and children that we love them and care about them. Schools need to bring in programs such as Challenge Day which teach teenagers to accept each other and care for each other. We need to encourage our teenagers to follow the Harlem Globetrotter’s program. They refer to it as the ABC program. A is for being assertive, B is for being brave and C is for compassion. In other words, when you see someone being a bully or harassing someone, speak up and say it is wrong, report it and show the victim some compassion. If every time a teenager notices that someone in their class seems down and they ask the person if they are alright we can make a big change in these negative behaviors such as suicide, bullying and drug use. Also if parents ask their teenager how they are doing without judgement or fear of punishment we could change a lot of these negative statistics. Think about it, why would a teenager say yes I have been using drugs or cutting if they are afraid of getting into trouble?

Summing it up, if we are going to solve issues such as bullying, domestic violence, suicide and cutting to name a few, we need to all work together. We need to let people know that we care and show it. We also need to be brave enough and assertive and speak up when we notice someone being bullied or report when we have noticed someone vandalizing someone’s property. We need to provide teenagers with positive role models and insist that our schools use programs such as Challenge Day and Alive & Free. We all need to work together and speak up about things that are wrong if we want things to change.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist in private practice with over 19 years experience working with teenagers and children. He is considered an expert in the treatment of teens and children. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website or visit his Facebook page at

Stop Bullying Month

Stop Bullying Month

Since October is dedicated to stop bullying, I thought this article would be appropriate. If we are going to stop this problem we need to understand the bully and the other children who are not being bullied must stand up to the bully.

We all have heard about kids being bullied at school and about the anti-bullying programs being developed to stop bullying. However, do we really know how severe the problem is? Research shows that 1 in 4 children are bullied at school. It also shows that children who are bullied are more likely to do poorly in school, are more likely to become depressed or suicidal, more likely to develop eating disorders and tend not to tell anyone (CDC). The statistics also indicate that children who are teased in school are more likely to develop emotional problems as an adult (CDC). One surprising statistic is that if another student intervenes while someone is being teased the bullying is likely to end by 51% (CDC).

While we know bullying effects the student being teased, there are interesting statistics about bullies. Students who bully are more likely to have emotional problems and school problems too (CDC). The research also shows that students who bully are also more likely to become depressed, suicidal or be involved with violent acts as an adult (CDC). As we can see the person being bullied and the person bullying are both at higher risk for significant problems as a child and as an adult. Therefore, it makes sense that we do stop bullying in childhood as soon as it starts.

One statistic I would like to go back to is 51% of bullying tends to stop if another student intervenes. However, this does not happen often. I hear many of the children I work with who are bullied tell me that no one ever helps them. They say that none of their friends or other students get involved. They tell me the other kids look the other way and ignore it. These children also tell me that they often receive little assistance from their teachers. They say that if they say something to the teacher often the teacher often ignores what the student reported or blames both students for the problem which provides no help.

This is what I hear from the children who decide to tell someone. Most children I work with decide not to tell anyone. They are afraid of people thinking they are weak, “a cry baby”, things getting worse and letting their parents down. They feel their parents will think they should know how to handle the situation and if they don’t they will disappoint their parents. This helps no one and it only helps to perpetuate stereotypes such as all boys and men need to be big and strong physically and fight to prove their manhood. This type of thinking hurts boys and it hurts girls too who have to grow up with boys who act on this stereotype. Often girls become the victims of the stereotype such as date rape.

There is another issue involved in the bullying situation. It is called the Bystander Effect. It was first widely described when we were focusing on “road rage,” where people felt the permission to be rude or felt no responsibility to get involved in a situation they witnessed. With “road rage,” since the person’s identity was protected by their car they felt safe swearing at people or running the person off the road. In the other situation, people felt like no one could positively identify them it was alright not to speak up when they witnessed someone hurting someone or committing a crime in public.

We have part of this happening in schools. Students feel that since no one else is saying anything it is okay for them not to say anything. After all no one else is getting in trouble for not saying anything so how could they get in trouble, therefore it’s better to say nothing.

The other factor fueling this lack of students speaking up against bullies is the “typical male stereotype.” According to this stereotype if you speak up and tell a teacher you are a “tattle tale” and you might get beat up. Another part of the stereotype is if you speak up then you just made yourself the same as the kid being teased so you will be teased. Students who are being teased are usually viewed as the “weird kid” and no one wants to be labeled the “weird kid” so most kids will say nothing about another student who is being teased.

Think back to when you were in school. There was that one kid who was labeled “weird” and teased, but did you say anything? Most likely not. You did not want to be associated with the “weird kid” and risk getting teased, getting beat up or losing friends. So instead of saying anything, you did what most other kids did, you said and did nothing. All this did was help keep the male stereotype alive and allowing bullying to continue.

Therefore, in my opinion if we want to eliminate bullying, we need to start working with are children. We need to teach boys and girls that this old “male stereotype” is wrong and to ignore it. We need to teach our children if you notice or are aware of someone doing something to hurt someone else or someone else’s property, they have an obligation to speak up and if you don’t you are as guilty as the person who did it. You need to explain that they are just as guilty because by not saying anything you are allowing the bullying to happen and continue. Some parents may say I am going to far, but if you are aware of a crime such as an assault and saying nothing, you can be charged as an a compliance. By not saying anything, you allowed a crime to occur and you can be punished. Therefore it’s good to teach our children this lesson early.

As I started this article out with various statistics about bullying, it is obvious bullying is very serious. It is something that we need to address and to address it and help everyone, we need to work together.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes as a psychotherapist for children and teenagers with over 19 years experience. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at or on Twitter at @RubinoTherapy

Teenagers are Children in Adult Bodies

Teenagers are Children in Adult Bodies

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 or Facebook page at

Concussions Happen to Girls too

Concussions Happen to Girls too

School has started again and teenagers and high schools are back playing sports such as football, baseball, basketball etc. There is a concern about players getting concussions with the recent research findings. We have even seen professional athletes give up their careers after a concussion. The long term effects of concussions can be quite serious. Mohammed Ali is the best example of how multiple concussions can impact someone.
Typically, when we think about concussions we think about boys who play football. However, this does not give an accurate picture of the issue of teenagers and concussions. Girls are at risk too. Girls can suffer concussions from gymnastics, cheerleading and other activities. Even on the television show, Dancing with the Stars, we see how someone can get a concussion from dancing. Basically, any activity where you can hit your head can result in a concussion. Also research is showing it is not just boys who suffer concussions, girls do too.

The other facts that are coming out in the research is that a single concussion can have long term effects. A concussion can cause severe headaches, difficult concentrating, memory problems and mood swings just to name a few symptoms. These symptoms can last a month or several years. There is no way to determine how long these symptoms will persist.

I see this often in my office with teenagers I see for psychotherapy. They are suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome. This is very scary and frustrating for teenagers and their parents. The teenager gets frustrated because they can do their homework like they could before the concussion and they don’t know if these symptoms will last a month or forever. This is a very scary situation to be in for anyone. All I can do is help them manage their anxiety and learn how to adjust to the symptoms. This helps slightly but it doesn’t give the teen the result they really want. They want the symptoms to disappear.

Another frustrating issue teenagers face due to the symptoms they have after a concussion is they may need to take a brake from school or they may need an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to help them cope with their symptoms. For more information about IEPs visit

Since we are getting more and more information on concussions and head traumas, parents need to pay attention to news reports or search online for the most recent studies regarding concussions. In the mean time, parents use your best judgement. Demand that your teenager’s high school has all the latest equipment to protect your teenager from a head injury. Also training how to protect their heads and avoid head injuries should be part of their practice whether they are playing football or cheerleading. Finally, if your child hits there head, play it safe and have a physician evaluate them. We are learning that there are minor symptoms that may indicate a concussion. A person does not always have to black out or be confused after hitting their head. Yes these are symptoms, but there are many more that we are becoming aware of and physicians can look for.

I have included a link to a video where a cheerleader discusses her experience with concussions. Please watch it because it demonstrates my points that girls suffer concussions too, Post Concussion Syndrome can last a long time and often symptoms are minor. Also with Post Concussion Syndrome many teenagers do benefit from therapy. The Syndrome often creates depression and anxiety. So overall, parents use your best judgement and if you are concerned have your child evaluated. Here is the link to the video

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 19 years experience working with children and teenagers. He is considered an expert in the treatment of children and teens. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at