“Not in our area”

“Not in our area”

I have spoken to a number of schools in the Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek area about showing the documentary, The Mask You Live in, and about providing anti-violence and anti-gang education. The common response I receive is, “we don’t have those problems here.” However, we do, last year in an upscale neighborhood in Concord an 8 year old boy was shot in a drive by shooting. Today a teenager was shot and killed in Concord as he was walking to Olympic High School. Unfortunately, this proves my point. We do have these issues in Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek.

I hear very often from teenagers and kids in middle school that they need to take a weapon with them to school or when they are downtown for protection. They tell me they are afraid of getting jumped. When I point out that if they have a weapon, such as a knife, with them at school or downtown that they can be arrested, they respond that is a risk I’m going to have to take. If I say that by having a weapon they are increasing the odds that they will be hurt, I hear, “if I don’t have one I will get hurt any way. So what’s the difference?”

What is the difference? We have 6th graders willing to take a chance of getting killed because they believe the odds are high enough that they will be severely hurt by someone taking the chance of being killed is not a big risk. What are we doing to help are kids? Nothing, because we don’t live in Oakland or Richmond.

We need to wake up. The shooting tonight is not the first one. A few years ago a teenager was shot in Danville standing outside his front door. There are many kids who regularly carry knives to school or with them to downtown Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill. These are not black teenagers or Mexican teenagers. These are Caucasian teenagers from families that make well over One hundred thousand dollars a year. It could be your son or daughter, you are saving. Yes girls are carrying weapons too.

What do we do? First we stop hiding behind a stereotype. These problems do not just exist in East Oakland, Richmond and Pittsburg. We need to admit that these issues do exist in Pleasant Hill, Concord, Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Danville. No one is immune from these issues any more. The next thing we need to do is to start to deal with the issues facing our teenagers. Drug overdose, violence, such as shootings, and suicide are at an epidemic rate in teenagers. These are the primary ways teenagers are dying today. They have a better chance of dealing with cancer than they do with these other issues.

Therefore, we need to educate ourselves. Ask your schools or churches to get a copy of The Mask You Live In and watch it. Ask professionals to come speak to your parent groups about these issues and how to help your teenagers. We have two fantastic groups which started in the Bay Area and are respected world wide right here. One is Challenge Day and the other is Alive and Free. We cannot help our teens until we are aware of these issues. Teenagers want the help too. They are tired of living in fear and they are beginning to believe that no one cares this is why they are taking matters into their own hands.

Show them you care by doing something to educate yourself and stop this cycle of violence and abuse teenagers are living with daily. Also I am on the national Alive & Free Board and I am available to work with teenagers and parents. I am one of the few therapists who runs an anger management group for teenage boys in this are and we deal with all these issues. In fact, I had just decided yesterday to start another group. If you have questions, contact my office.

This may sound scary, but if we all work together we can help our teenagers and ourselves.

Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert in this area and has been works with teenagers and these issues for over 20 years. For more information on Dr. Rubino or his private practice groups visit his website www.rcs-ca.com, his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.


Having a Teenager Creates Stress for Parents

Having a Teenager Creates Stress for Parents

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 when their teen is in high school 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. For example, 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. Before high school starts you need to sit down with your teenager and agree on a curfew time. 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. It is also important to remember that being a parent is not a popularity contest. At times, you will need to make decisions your teenager does not like. However, as a parent sometimes you must make those unpopular decisions.

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 www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page facebook.com/drrubino3.