How to Raise A Respectful Teenager

How to Raise A Respectful Teenager

High school and the teenage years are a very difficult time for many teens and parents. This time of life has become even more difficult with the advancement of social media, a majority of children over 12 years old having smart phones and computer technology not to mention the increase in drugs that are currently available to teens. Teens have access to designer drugs such as ecstasy, spice and pink as well as prescription drugs such as Vicodin or Concerta can easily be obtained on any middle school or high school campus today. And yes, this is the true. These drugs are available on middle school campuses. Furthermore, the current state of politics in our country has made life more difficult for parents. It is hard to ask your teenager to be respectful of others when they see the leaders of our nation being disrespectful to people.
Our society is advancing and changing so fast that life is becoming overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and for parents too. One thing that has not changed is that parents are a child’s main role models for life. However, many parents have forgotten that they are their teenagers primary role models. Many parents have also forgotten that they can tell their teenagers no. They do not have to buy their teenager the latest smart phone or the latest fashion.

I have many parents tell me that they do not feel respected by their children in middle school or teenagers. However, very often, parents don’t require teenagers to be respectful. Many parents may set rules and their teenager blatantly ignore their parents and their are no consequences. Parents tell me this often and I suggest suspending their teenager’s phone service or not taking them on family trips. Many parents looked at me and say they cannot do that to their teenager. Their teen relies on their cellphone or have been counting on a certain family trip. Parents also tell me if they take such actions their teen will become very difficult to live with and might break things in the house.

So who is in charge? Your teenager is in charge. Remember they know you very well. They know you will be anxious or feel guilty about imposing tough consequences. Therefore, they are not afraid to disrespect you and do what they want because they know there will be little to no consequences.

Therefore parents if you want respect, don’t be afraid to impose consequences. Remember your teenager needs you to pay their bills and give them consent to get a drivers license. Parents you have more power than you realize. Also if you don’t expect respect and allow disrespect that is what you are going to get.

Many times I have explained to the teens I work with how much their parents do for them. I then ask what would happen if mom and dad stop doing all these things? Teenagers always stop and think at this point. If the teen still chooses to test the limits with their parents, as soon as they see mom and dad will stand by what they say, they soon learn to respect mom and dad. Parents you must remember to only set limits that you are willing to follow through with and impose. If you don’t impose the limits you have set, your teenager will not respect your word or authority.

Parents it is also important to remember that you cannot just start teaching your child about respect when your child turns 13 or 15 years old. By this point in their life, you have established patterns of disrespect. You need to start setting limits and taking to your children about respect when they are one or two years old. This way it is a concept they grow up with through their lives. It is a process that takes time. It is important that you remember this fact.

Besides discussing respecting their parents it is important that you also talk about respecting authority figures such as grandparents, police and teachers. It is also important that you talk about respecting themselves. Remind them they are special and worthy of being treated nicely by other people. It is important that you educate your child and teenager that no one has a right to use them or make them feel bad about themselves. They need you to remind them that they are important and no one has a right to disrespect them either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. Dr Rubino is considered an expert in this area. For more information on Dr Michael Rubino and his private practice visit his website at or Facebook page at

I Have a Teenager and I’m Stressed

I Have a Teenager and I’m Stressed

I often hear for the teenagers that I see for psychotherapy how stressful it is to be a teenager. I hear about difficulties with school and parents. However, being the parent of a teenager is stressful for parents too. Parents also have to deal with school issues and other teen issues.
One on the first concerns parents face is the fact that their child is going to have more exposure to alcohol, drugs and sex. Many parents I talk to are shocked at the drugs high school kids are using today. Heroin is now common on high school campuses and parents are shocked. They are also shocked that middle schools are passing out condoms. They cannot believe how sexually active some teenagers are and how teens think about sex.

So what should parents do? Parents need to educate themselves about drug and alcohol use on high school campuses and about sexual activity rates for teenagers. After educating themselves then parents need to talk with their teenagers. Explain the risks associated with alcohol, drugs and sex. Also explain how to protect themselves if they decide to engage in any of these activities. This is not giving your teen permission, but you cannot control their decisions. If they decide to use drugs, you want them to be safe. Also explain your opinions about if you think they are ready for these issues or not. You do not want to preach, but it is important that your teenager is aware of your expectations. You cannot control their decisions, but you do not have to approve of their choices. This is something your teenager needs to understand. If they feel they are old enough to make these choices, then they are old enough to deal with your reactions.

Another major stress for parents is curfew. This is a common argument I hear in my office. As high school is starting you need to sit down with your teenager and agree on a curfew time. Ask find out what time curfew is for your city. It is not asking too much that your teenager is home at a decent hour. For Freshman, 11pm really is a realistic time. When you discuss curfew I suggest a contract where you specify the time and consequences for breaking curfew. If you have it in writing, if there is a disagreement you can settle it easily by referring to your contract.

Another major concern for parents is driving. Parents worry about who will be driving and how well do the drive. The other concern is the driver driving drunk or high. Parents worry about getting a call in the middle of the night that there was a car accident and there child is in the Emergency Room. With the recent changes in driving laws they decrease the chances of teen accidents. However, they do not stop teenage driving accidents. As parents you need to again sit down and discuss your concerns and agree on a contract. Agree about who they can drive with, who they cannot and keeping you informed. Again agree on consequences and write out a contract to decrease arguments.

Another major stressor for parents is money. Your teen wants to go out with friends and they need money for food, Starbucks or going to a movie. Parents also have to deal with the bills if your teen wants to play a sport or play an instrument or be a cheerleader. Parents have to pay for uniforms and a wide range of extras. Plus parents have to drive their teen to and from practices and games. Some sports such as football, there is practice daily.

These are only a few issues parents face when their child starts high school. They have to adjust to these and the fact that their child is getting older and is no longer a little kid. They are now young adults. We expect parents to adjust to all of these changes over night. Just like we need to give teenagers time to adjust to being in high school, we need to give parents time to adjust to having a child in high school. We also need to understand that parents will make mistakes during and after this adjustment period.

Parents you need to remember that you are going through a big adjustment just like your teenager. Also just like your teenager you need to allow yourself time to adjust and accept that you will make mistakes. You need to be patient and kind to yourself. Also if your teen is getting frustrated with you, do not be afraid to mention that you are going through an adjustment period too and they need to be patient with you.

Dr. Michael Rubino has worked with teenagers and their families for over 20 years. If you would like more information on Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website or his Facebook page

Teenage Drug Abuse & Suicide – Information for Parents

Teenage Drug Abuse & Suicide – Information for Parents

Many teens die from suicide and drug abuse. Suicide is the third leading cause of deaths for children 10 to 24 years old. One thing that contributes to teenage suicide is drug use. Specifically, the use of pain killers and heroin. In this article I attempt to describe both issues for parents. It is important for parents to be aware of these issues if we are going to stop them.
ABC 20/20 did a very good show the other night about the epidemic of heroin use in the United States. If you did not see it, you can probably find it on their website. Parents this is a show you need to see because many teenagers I work with are not afraid or concerned about how dangerous heroin can be.

According to ABC 20/20, 129 people die every year from a heroin overdose. A majority of these deaths are teens and people in their twenties. Heroin is used by people in the lower income level and by people who are the wealthiest in the country. It is used by whites, blacks, Hispanics basically every ethnic group. It is also used by males and females. Therefore, for the families in Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Danville who say we don’t have that problem here, yes you do. Also for parents and educators who think that if their child is in a private school they are less likely to use, you are wrong too. Heroin crosses all ethnic and economic boundaries. The epidemic is so severe some schools are teaching children in the 6th grade how to use Narcan. This drug can reverse an overdose of heroin if administered in time.

Therefore, parents in the Bay Area, you need to pay attention to this issue and these facts. You might be saving the life of your child or someone else you love.

As stated Heroin use to to be a drug of the past but it is now very popular with teens. Heroin is a cheaper alternative to many other drugs. For $10 a teenager can buy a capsule of heroin. This is much cheaper than other drugs.

Heroin is still mainly snorted or injected. Because it is injected teens are exposing themselves to HIV and Hepatitis C. Both are life threatening conditions with no cure. Also many girls who use heroin get pregnant but don’t realize they are pregnant until the 4th or 5th month. The girls stop but it is too late. The babies will be born drug addicted and if they live through withdrawals, these children will have on going health issues and learning disabilities. In addition to exposing themselves to diseases most teens use Heroin with other drugs such as alcohol. This makes the probability of overdosing on Heroin even higher. Heroin lowers a persons breathing rate and the drugs they are combining it with lower the breathing rate even more making an accidental over dose more likely. The rate of overdosing from Heroin has quadrupled over the years.

Why is Heroin coming back and very popular with teens? Heroin is very similar to the Opioid based pain killers that teens have been using for years. However, with the cost of pain killers rising on the streets and becoming harder to get due to new prescription laws, heroin is easier to get and cheaper. Also teens tend to like the high better. It is not uncommon for someone to get addicted after using heroin one time.

In the last few years heroin use has doubled in teenagers. What teens are at the highest risk? Those who have been using Opioid pain killers, those abusing marijuana and males. Remember it is very common for teens to combine heroin with other drugs and they are unaware of the impact it has on their breathing. They may collapse and not know why and by the time their friends get them to an emergency room it’s too late. Also teens may go to sleep after using and their breathing rate is so shallow they never wake up.

This is a very dangerous drug. If it doesn’t kill when the teen uses it the drug can kill when the teen contracts HIV or Hepatitis C. The rate of teens using this drug has doubled and the amount of people dying from an overdose has quadrupled over the last few years. Again, parents you cannot ignore this issue. Heroin is being used by upper class children and poor children, athletes, and all races. So it is impacting all teens.

The other major issue with this drug is stopping. Someone cannot just go off heroin. People can die from withdraw. However, finding a treatment center that is affordable or with an open space is very difficult. They may have to wait four months to get into a rehab center. This is very dangerous. When someone decides to stop heroin, they need to enter rehab immediately. If they have to wait even 2 days, they may not make it because they cannot stand the withdrawal symptoms.

If we get involved we can hopefully stop teens from using this highly addictive killer. I have attached a link to a handout by the CDC with facts, warning signs and suggestions to help your son if you think he is using heroin.

In addition to these issues, Heroin and drug abuse is linked to teenage suicide. These drugs besides creating a high, create depression. At times a depression so severe that a teenager decides they would be better off dead and they commit suicide. For the age group 10 to 24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Therefore, we need to pay attention to the pain killers and other drugs kids are using. And yes 10 year old kids are using these drugs too.

Many times the teen has decided they want to get clean and stop using the drug. However, as I mentioned above, finding an affordable treatment program with an open bed can be very difficult. Some teenagers may need to wait 2 months. This can be two months two long. The teenager may be so depressed and tired of living the drug life that they decide to kill themselves rather than endure the emotional and physical pain of waiting two months.

Another point is for some teenagers they have to try four or five times in rehab before they are successful. Again most teenagers are usually dealing with severe depression at this point. For them the thought of trying again and not succeeding is to much to tolerate. Therefore, they chose the option of suicide to eliminate their pain.

Finally, I mentioned a number of teenagers can overdose by accident, however it may not be an accident. These teens know these drugs very well so they know how to stage what will look like an accidental overdose. Therefore, we really don’t know how many teenagers are committing suicide due to being sick and tired of using drugs and living a drug life. Many of the accidental overdosages could really be suicides. There is no way to tell.

What we know is drug use and suicide are at an epidemic rate for teenagers. It is at a point where we need to get aggressive and provide better access to rehabilitation programs and better access to psychotherapy so the depression can be treated. We need a multi-disciplinary approach to this issue and we need to make it easy for teenagers and parents to use it.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with teens for over 20 years and he is considered an expert in this field. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino and his private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at

Ecigarrets are Dangerous to Teens

Ecigarrets are Dangerous to Teens

Many teenagers have started vaporizing or using ecigarettes because they believe they are not as dangerous.  They believe because they are not smoking nicotine and tar that are in cigarettes that vaporizing is healthier.

However, the reality is that vaporizing is still dangerous to their health.  Teenagers have also started using a substance called “wax” because they feel that is safer too.  Wax is a highly concentrated form of marijuana.  It is advertised that all the harmful aspects of marijuana have been removed.  However, that is not true either.

Now ecigarretes are being sold in flavors such as strawberry and bubblegum.  Marketing the ecigarettes this way makes them sound safe and like candy.  However, this is not the truth.  UCSF has released a report regarding teenagers and ecigarretes and vaporizing.  I have a link below and I encourage parents to read this report and learn the facts.

Read the Facts about the dangers of ecigarretes‬.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families.  For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at

Autism and Sexuality

Autism and Sexuality

‪A webinar clinicians and parents should participate in. This is a topic we ignore but it is real. People are autistic do have sexual feelings and desires. 

However, because of society’s attitude about autism we never discuss the issue with autistic teenagers nor do we even consider the possibility that they have sexual feeling.  

I work with many autistic teens and they have sexual feelings. They are also able to express them in an appropriate manner and enjoy a sex life with a partner as an adult, if we discuss the issue with them.

Please sign up for this webinar.‬

Wevorce Newsletter 

Wevorce Newsletter 

At Wevorce, family is our focus every year, month and day. In December, when holiday celebrations with family take center stage, that focus is magnified. When you can find a way to allow family unity to take precedence over divorce actions, you’ll discover even more to celebrate. 

Read our stories. They are yours and ours. Share them.
Thank you,
Michelle Crosby – Founder & CEO



Our monthly feature focus from Wevorce’s valued Divorce Checklist highlights steps to take for informed divorce preparation. This month’s focus is: 

Reimagining Spousal and Child Support
The problem with traditional spousal support is it keeps couples bound to the same financial dynamic that strained their relationship in the first place: one partner still has to keep tabs on the other’s spending and lifestyle habits. But there are creative solutions beyond forcing one partner to write a check. For example, you can transfer communal property to build assets, or support one partner’s career path. There are also cooperative and inclusive methods for child support. For example, having a children’s checkbook with agreed purchases, so both parents can participate equally in the child’s care. If you and your spouse are willing to work together, your Wevorce team can help find a creative solution. 



The Divorce Archetype™ profile reveals the DNA of a relationship. This is the science behind divorce, unique to Wevorce and drawn from 15+ years of research. This month’s focus is: Infidelity: The Path to Recovery 

 Reading Lounge

Collateral Damage: Guiding and Protecting Your Child Through the Minefield of Divorce
by Dr. John Chirban


Press Arena

50 Things to Do After a Breakup
as seen in Redbook 


Welife Vault

Rekindling JOY: Creating New Traditions for Happier Holidays 

Each month we’ll offer access to inspiring stories from Wevorce-certified professionals. Their complimentary advice is yours, all yours.


Shifting the Holiday Focus: Looking Outside the Divorce Bubble ©
by Karen D. Sparks, CDFA™, J.D., Founder
Divorce Financial Strategists™ | Santa Clara, CA
There is an undeniable hole in the holiday season when the family unit is fractured by divorce and life begins to turn into an insular journey. However, it is important to recognize that your life has a broader purpose outside of the divorce scenario. Try to look up and look out. Reach up and reach out.
During the holiday season and at all times during the year, develop a unifying space in the family by creating a culture of service. When you instill an attitude of service within yourself and the family you are providing a permanent gift that keeps on giving. You are also demonstrating to children positive ways to channel energy during difficult times in life.
Here’s what’s going to happen: Space will open up in you mentally. In giving to others in need and becoming engrossed in someone else’s struggle, tragedy or life circumstance, you begin to focus on the unique gifts that you have to share and you think about individuals and situations in life differently.
If your child is good in a particular subject and one of their classmates is not, encourage your child to reach out and offer assistance. If you had a great team of divorce professionals assisting you and someone you know is now going through divorce, help them out with some reliable referrals. In addition to waving to your neighbor as you come in and out each day, make a point of really trying to speak with them and find out what’s going on in their world. Teach your children to give their gently used items that they have outgrown to charity. Help out at shelters or food kitchens that serve the homeless and disadvantaged population. Do these things from the heart all year long.
Look up and look out. Reach up and reach out. Step outside of yourself and see the joy of life that exists beyond divorce.


Christmas and Divorce
by Dr. Michael Rubino | Rubino Counseling Services | Pleasant Hill, CA
The holiday season is usually a difficult and stressful time for all families. Everyone’s trying to make plans, trying to see grandparents and other family members. It can be especially difficult for divorced families — after a divorce this time of year can become even more stressful.
One thing parents need to remember is they decided on the divorce, their children did not. I often hear arguments between parents who want “their time” or want to continue their family’s holiday traditions. They often ignore what their children want to do.
Many times a divorce may be finalized, but the parents continue fighting with each other. They use Christmas as a reason to continue to argue or try to hurt one another. What they don’t realize is they are hurting their children more than each other.
In my work with families who are divorced, I’ve given the following recommendations to parents. First, remember Christmas celebrations are often more about the children than the adults. Next, develop a plan together regarding the holidays. Talk together about what your children enjoy the most about Christmas, and ask your children what they enjoy most.
After you have this information, sit down civilly and see how you can allow your children to do what they enjoy most about Christmas. Come up with a plan for the children to have equal time with both parents, as well as, grandparents, cousins and other extended family from both Mom and Dad’s side. The children should not be forced to choose between Mom and Dad.
Another tip: Don’t turn Christmas into a competition. Gifts should not be used to influence the children. You should discuss with each other what your children want and what you plan to buy just as you did when you were married. After divorce, you can continue to co-parent and discuss what is realistic and what is not.
Finally, remember Christmas is a time to get together as a family and enjoy each other’s company. For the sake of your children, whenever possible put your divorce aside and decide how to share this time. If you can do things together, that is always the ideal situation. If you can’t, being kind to one another and making the holiday season fun for your children is the ultimate goal. Things may be done a little differently because of the divorce, but your children will still have one united family at Christmas.
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 

“Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”
– Michael J. Fox 

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Wevorce, Inc. | P.O. Box 6441 Boise, Idaho 83707 United States | 855.WEVORCE


Allowing Teenagers to Make Choices

Allowing Teenagers to Make Choices

Working with teenagers, I hear very often from parents that they feel their teenager is not responsible and they have concerns about trusting their teenagers. I also hear from teenagers how they are upset with their parents for not trusting them and not allowing them to make decisions. I understand the parents’ concerns, but at times they are being unfair and unrealistic about their ability to control their teenagers’ decisions.
We routinely tell teenagers that they need to be responsible for their choices and actions. However, we seldom allow teenagers the ability to make their own decisions. It is not uncommon that parents have set rules and curfews for their teenagers. Also with the advancement in technology many parents have software installed on their teenagers’ cellphones so they can read their teenagers’ emails or texts. Also they have GPS programs so they can determine where there teenager is and try to figure out what they are doing.

Teenagers are aware that their parents have software programs on their cellphones so they can read their emails or texts or use a GPS program to determine where they are and what they are doing. This usually makes teenagers upset that their parents do not trust them. Teenagers’ tell me if they want me to be responsible how can I be responsible if they do not give me a chance?

The other fact that parents need to accept is you cannot control everything your teenager is doing. You can monitor your teen all you want, but if a teenager wants to do something they will figure out away to do it. Also if you want your teen to be responsible you have to learn to accept their decisions and the consequences that may result from their choices.

What parents need to do is have a calm conversation with their teenager. During this conversation you discuss issues that your teenager will be facing such as alcohol, drugs, sex and their futures. Explain what you expect and what you are willing to do or not to do. Therefore, they understand what consequences they will face depending on the decision they make.

This is an important lesson for teenagers to learn. They need to understand that their actions have consequences and they are responsible for dealing with these consequences. One consequence may be that as parents you may be upset with their decision. This is a consequence that they need to be able to accept. Not everyone is going to always accept or approve of your choices. Teenagers need to learn this fact.

It is important that parents learn to accept the fact that they cannot control their teenager’s choices. Allowing them to learn from their choices is the best way for them to learn responsibility. It is also away for parents to learn to allow their teenagers to grow up and be responsible adults. Yes at times this may be difficult, but parents need to be realistic that you cannot control their teenager. Part of your teenager becoming an adult is allowing them to make choices and to learn from those choices.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. He is considered an expert working with teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at 

How Closely Should Parents Monitor Their Teenagers 

How Closely Should Parents Monitor Their Teenagers 

In today’s world there are many things for parents to worry about regarding their children. Parents worry about drugs, alcohol, sexting, teenagers send naked photos of themselves and online predators just to name a few. Teenagers have also developed ways to engage in activities without their parents knowledge. They have developed a texting language and apps that look like a way to get help for homework when it is really a way to chat online just to name a couple. So what is a parent to do?
Many parents have resorted to installing software on their teenagers cellphones and laptops so they can monitor everything their teenager is doing online. Other parents insist they must be present if their teenager is going online. However, are these approaches effective? From my experience as a therapist working with teens, the answer is no. I have many teens who tell me they now their parents are spying on their cellphones and they simply use different apps or have learned how to deactivate the program without their parent knowing. As for their parent being present again teenagers tell me they have developed a text language that their parents don’t understand so they don’t care if parents are present.
Another tactic that parents are using is monitoring where there teenagers are all the time via their cellphones. In addition parents are questioning their teenager about everything and wanting to meet all their friends and their friends parents. This often causes a number of arguments. Teenagers tell me they feel smothered by their parents and they resent the lack of trust. The most common result is this pushes the teenager a way from their parents and damaging the parent-teen relationship.
One final example is that more parents are using their teenager’s school website. Parents are often checking weekly, some daily, what grades their teenager are getting in their classes and have they been doing and turning in their homework. Again, this creates a number of arguments. Teenagers feel like their parents don’t trust them and they feel like they are being treated like a ten year old. The result I usually see are angry teenagers who don’t want to talk to their parents due to the lack of trust.
When I speak with these parents, most parents are using these approaches out of fear. They hear about all the risks teenagers are exposed to these days and they don’t want their teenagers to get hurt. In the parents defense, I have many teenagers in therapy because they are in trouble at school and/or probation for doing something they didn’t think they could get in trouble for. The best example are pictures. If a teenager sends a naked picture of themselves to their boyfriend or girlfriend, they are guilty of transmitting child pornography. They are under 18 years old so they broke the law that they never were thinking about.
Since most parents are concerned about safety and not invading their teenagers privacy, I recommend a different approach to parents. We need to start discussing all of these issues with children in the third grade. Yes the third grade and it needs to be an on going conversation. Third graders are using computers and the research indicates this is usually the age when most children see porn for the first time.
Parents need to start discussing drugs, alcohol and sex too at a younger age. The research shows many kids try marijuana for the first time in the fifth grade. Also on middle school campuses many kids are selling Vicodin, Concerta etc. Furthermore, many middle schools provide condoms to sixth graders because research shows many children in middle school are sexually active.
The point is for parents to start having conversations early so your child is educated about risks and so they feel comfortable coming to you if there is a problem. Monitoring your child at this young age is appropriate. They still don’t understand everything yet and as a parent it is your job to educate your child and keep them safe while doing so.
If you do so, this should reduce arguments and help build an open, honest relationship with your child.
As for teenagers who are 16 and 17 years old. Parents need to start to take a step back. The spyware is inappropriate and checking their homework all the time is inappropriate in my opinion. Knowing where there are going and coming home is appropriate especially if they are using your car. You need to remember in a year, year and a half your teenager will be 18 years old. They are then a legal adult and are responsible for their behavior.
Yes if you step back they may make some mistakes, but that is one way we learn. Also if they are going to make a mistake, it is better if they make it at 16 versus 18 years old. I understand that it may be frightening to let go, but if we want them to act like an adult, we need to allow them the opportunity to act like an adult. If you have been discussing issues with them since they were nine years old they should be prepared. Additionally, this way strengthens your relationship and helps your teenager make appropriate decisions because they know they can ask for help by talking to you.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers especially high risk teenagers. For more information about his work with teenagers or his private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at

The Difference Between an IEP and a 504 Plan

The Difference Between an IEP and a 504 Plan

School are starting their annual (Individualized Educational Plan) IEP reviews and testing children for an IEP or 504 plan. Many parents need to decide between an IEP or a 504 plan for their child and I receive many questions about the differences and which one is more appropriate for a child. 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.

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. Besides the mad dash to get ready for school and schools are going to start assessing students to determine if they qualify for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). 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, Bipolar 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 via my website 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 20 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 20 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 website at or his new website that deals specifically with IEPs,

Teenage Boys Cut Too

Teenage Boys Cut Too

As a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls.
The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting. If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I have more and more teenage boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Cutting occurs in boys too. We need to be aware of this fact. Cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Teens who are severally depressed state that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic and the little research we have about it supports this idea. When I mention cutting to a teenager now, they don’t look shocked and discuss it like the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills


Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He had treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites , , or his Facebook page,