Lessons from Sandy Hook Elementary School

Lessons from Sandy Hook Elementary School

Today it has been five years since the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school where many children and adults where senselessly killed. Since that day more than 500,000 people in the United States by senseless gun violence.

Recently, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Also since is the five year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, Fenwick’s article connects guns to senseless shootings and teenagers who committed suicide with guns. The article by, Fenwick, confirmed what I am hearing from teenagers and children in psychotherapy. Additionally, the other school shootings such as the one in Nashville, to name one, confirmed the need for gun control. A point the statistics in Fenwick’s article support.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence. Therefore, teenagers in our area are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living?

The study indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of deaths by guns were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking, they tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.

Dr. Rubino has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com.

The Holidays are not Happy for Everyone

The Holidays are not Happy for Everyone

The holidays are here again. As I have stated before, many people assume it is a happy time for everyone. We have signs of the Holidays and being happy everywhere. The decorations are everywhere, in stores and in homes. The music seems to be on every station. The parties are happening. The secrets and the giggles. Gets you feeling good just thinking about it, no? I read an article by a psychotherapist, Bea Armstrong, who indicates, like I have, that the Holidays are not a happy time for everyone and why. I have included her thoughts below.

No. Not for everyone.

The holiday season can be joyful AND painful. Holidays can hurt.

And they often hurt because of past experiences. Holidays can remind us of the year that some trauma occurred. And then we can never celebrate the current holiday without awakening memories of Decembers when Mom or Dad or a spouse died. Or a friend passed — way too soon. Or a child had a horrible accident.

Sometimes, we remember alone. Other times those memories are shared with a sibling or a partner or a friend. And that can make them easier. But the sting is still there.

Childhood can also be the source of hurtful holiday memories. Not every child experiences a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade Christmas or Hanukkah. And if our childhoods were replete with scary adults who were abusive verbally or emotionally, or who abandoned us, we might decide that “I don’t do holidays.” And I’ll just “get through” and “be happy when it’s over.”

Sometimes the adults in our childhood weren’t scary….just clueless. They bought us presents that could have gone to anyone, despite how obvious we were about our preferences. Or the color came in a hated pink; or a size that we stopped wearing a year or more ago. When that happens, we don’t feel seen accurately by those who are supposed to care about us. We believe that we don’t matter enough to those people to get it right. To get us right.

This particular holiday might be difficult because our lives are in chaos now. Maybe a divorce is about to happen. Or we’ve lost a job. And we can be struggling to make the holidays joyous for others, for the kids. But we sure don’t feel it. The carols bring on tears of pain more than gratitude as we watch dreams unravel.

Or we’re seniors and find ourselves more and more often alone at the holidays, and unsure what to do about that.

If you are hurting this year, realize that you aren’t alone in that experience. Jealousy doesn’t help, and it’s rarely accurate. Even people who seem to have the best holiday season in tow can be covering up some deep wounds. Naming those wounds and normalizing that helps us feel more connected – to ourselves and to others.

If, on the other hand, you hear someone asking what’s going on for you, then share some of what you are going through. You don’t have to do an exhaustive history, but don’t slough it off either by saying something like, “It’s not that bad. I’m OK.” You’re not. And that is your truth.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience and specializes in treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Saving the CHIP Program

Saving the CHIP Program

Many people may not be aware but there is a program called CHIP which provides life saving medical care for children whose parents make to much to qualify for Medi-Cal. Many middle class or lower middle class families make to much to qualify for Medi-Cal. However, they do not make enough to pay for health insurance or what their insurance does not cover. The CHIP program helps parents pay for their child’s life saving surgery or medication.

It is in danger of being cut due to Trump’s proposed income tax program. Due to cutting the tax rates on corporation and lowering the tax bracket for people who make more than a million dollars a year, there are not enough funds to cover this program.

For this to happen in the United States is insane. We are supposed to be the super power in the world and the United States is supposed to be the advocate for human rights. We go to counties which violate human rights and threaten to impose sanctions. However, in our on country we are violating the rights of children to life saving medical care. This is the first time that this program is in danger of being cut.

Jimmy Kimmel discusses this issue on his show. His son was born with a life threatening heart condition and has needed several surgeries. He can afford it, but he has seen many families who cannot afford their child’s health care. Please watch this video of Jimmy Kimmel with his son so you can really understand this issue. Here is how Jimmy Kimmel explained this very serious situation https://youtu.be/yqulWPljawo.

If you have a child or care about children call your Congressperson and Senator and urge them not to pass income tax reform without the CHIP program.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Facts about Twice Exceptional Children

Facts about Twice Exceptional Children

Many parents are very happy to hear that their child has been classified as “gifted.” They assume that their child will do very well in school and have a very bright future because they are “gifted.” While “gifted” children may excel in certain academic areas, often they have difficulties in other social situations or academic areas. These children are called twice exceptional children. Research by John Hopkins estimates that one out of five children are twice exceptional or 2E which is a more common term. Therefore, John Hopkins estimates that there are approximately 700,000 2E children in the United States.

Wikipedia defines 2E children in the following way:

A 2e child usually refers to a child who, alongside being considered gifted in comparison to same age-peers, is formally diagnosed with one or more disabilities. Although 2e can refer to any general disability, it is often used to refer to students with learning disabilities, although research is not limited to these areas, and a more holistic view of 2e can help move the field forward. The disabilities are varied: dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, autism, Asperger syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, or any other disability interfering with the student’s ability to learn effectively in a traditional environment. The child might have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or diagnoses of anxiety or depression.[6] Often children with 2e have multiple co-morbid disabilities than present as a paradox to many parents and educators.

Many people may find this hard to believe, however, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have seen many “gifted” children who do have the disabilities listed above. A common issue I have encountered is that “gifted” children often have difficulties making friends and dealing with social situations. If they had not been classified as “gifted”, parents would see that they do meet the criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome. Another common issue I have seen in psychotherapy with “gifted” children is that they have difficulties organizing their ideas and maintaining sustained attention. These children meet the criteria for ADHD.

One of the primary difficulties for these children is since they have been classified as “gifted,” many schools do not want to offer support services for a “gifted” child who has ADHD or a processing problem. Because they are not receiving the academic support they need, many of these children suffer with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. I have seen this many times with “gifted” children that I see for psychotherapy. It also creates a great deal of stress for the parents. They can see their child is having difficulties and the child is complaining about difficulties, but the school tells the parents the child is doing fine because they are “gifted.”

The research from John Hopkins University shows us that the two are not mutually exclusive. A child can be “gifted” in one area and have a learning disability in another area of life. Therefore, a “gifted” child may need a 504 plan or an individualized educational plan (IEP). Therefore, if you are the parent of a 2E child and you notice that your child is having difficulties at school, do not be afraid or nervous to advocate for your child. To make this easier, I have included a link which discusses misconceptions about 2E children, 7 Myths About Twice-Exceptional (2E) Students http://u.org/2hp0dNU. I am also providing a link to a newsletter for an organization which helps parents with 2E children and advocates for them, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwiv8PmrxYDYAhUH6oMKHbmyD10QFggiMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.2enewsletter.com%2Farticle_2e_what_are_they.html&usg=AOvVaw35GmKdn_P9FJzqMBPkMMrD.

If this sounds like your child do not panic. Arrange to have your child evaluated by a mental health clinician who is familiar with 2E children. They can help you develop a treatment plan and let you know if your child needs accommodations at school.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. In fact, he specializes in treating children and teenagers. If you want to know more about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com\drrubino3.

Coping with Divorce and the Holidays

Coping with Divorce and the Holidays

The Holiday season is usually a difficult and stressful time for many families. Everyone trying to make plans and trying to see grandparents and other family members. It can be especially difficult for divorce families. After a divorce the issues often become even more stressful.

One thing that parents need to remember is that they decided on the divorce the children did not. I often hear arguments about parents want their time or wanting to continue their family’s holiday traditions. However, they often ignore what the children want to do.

Many times a divorce may be finalized, but the parents are not done fighting with each other. Therefore, the use Christmas as a reason to continue to argue or try to hurt each other. What they forget is they are really hurting their children more than each other.

Based on dealing with families who are divorced, I would make the following recommendations to parents. First, parents need to remember that Christmas is more about the children not them. Next they need to develop a plan together regarding the Holidays. The first step is for the parents to talk together about what the children seem to enjoy the most about Christmas. Also parents should also ask the children what they enjoy most about Christmas.

After you have this information then sit down civilly and see how you can allow the children to do what they enjoy most about Christmas. Another thing to remember is the children should not be forced to choose between Mom and Dad. Come up with a plan where the children have equal time with both parents. Also they should have equal time with grandparents, cousins and other Extended family from Mom and Dad’s side.

The other thing is 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 get the children. When you were married you discussed what to get them so even after the divorce you can coparent and discuss what is realistic and what is not.

Finally, remember Christmas time is a time to get together as a family and enjoy each other. Therefore, for the sake of your children put your divorce aside and decide how this can be a happy family time for everyone. If you can do things together, that would be the ideal situation. If you can’t then being kind to each other and making the Holiday season fun for the children is the goal for you as parents. Stated another way, the children should still feel like they have one family at Christmas not two. Maybe things are being done a little differently because of the divorce but they still have a mother and father.

If you achieve this goal, it will make you feel better too. A divorce should not wreck your lives. Obviously, your lives will change after a divorce but you can still be a family.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years working with children/teenagers and families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

The Holiday Season is here and people are stressing about buying gifts and spending the day with relatives. For many people this Holidays are a happy time and for others it is a stressful time. The Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or everyone is trying to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family and what will happen if their child receives a gift they do not want?

Thanksgiving has passed and next we have Christmas. Parents you can start by looking at what occurred on Thanksgiving. Overall we’re you happy with it or are there somethings that you would like to change?

Next after you have assessed how the day went sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for Christmas. It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers. Are they expecting to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the family or are they expecting to spend time with friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. It is important to settle this issue before Christmas. By discussing expectations and trying to accommodate everyone’s wishes, you can avoid arguments. However, many times you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes and as the parents you may need to make the judgement call. If this occurs explain to your teenager you know they may be mad, but you hope they can understand and you would appreciate their cooperation. May be you make arrangements for them to spend time with their friends the day before or after Christmas.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of Christmas is to appreciate and to be grateful for the people in your life and what you do have in your life. Therefore, if your grandparents give you something you do not like, be grateful that they thought about you and say thank you. Try not to make faces or act disappointed and hurt your grandparents feelings. Again remind them the Holidays are a time to be grateful for what you have in your life.

Reminding your children about being grateful leads us into the next tip for decreasing Holiday Stress. Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Holiday stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Holiday Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of the Holidays. Ask them what they would like to contribute to the evening or day. Let them what they feel they can contribute.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Be present with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family during this Holiday time.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for the children and for adults too. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

If you notice you are getting angry or your teenager is getting angry use the acronym HALT:

H – hunger, do not try to discuss a difficult situation if you or your teen are hungry.

A – anger, if it is obvious someone is angry give them time to calm down before discussing an issue. Pushing a discussion when someone is angry will only result in making a bad situation worse.

Lonely – lonely, if someone is feeling down or alone again pushing them to talk can make it worse. Let them know when they are ready you are there to listen.

Tired – tired, trying to have a conversation with a tired teenager can turn into an argument fast. Wait until they are ready to talk. There is no need to make a bad situation worse.

Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of an unpleasant Holiday for everyone try to

use the words GRATEFUL and HALT as guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.