Helping Teenagers Grieve Another School Shooting

Helping Teenagers Grieve Another School Shooting

Unfortunately, our Country suffered another school shooting in Texas this week. High School who were rehearsing for their graduation had to run for their lives because someone was shooting. Unfortunately some of those students were killed including a teacher. Graduation, which should be a happy day, has become a sad day for these students. When this occurs no one knows what to say or do. Many patients have asked me about what to do in these situations. While doing research regarding grief for patients, I found this information from the grief center. I think it is very good information and very easy to understand. Therefore, I will present the information in three sections.

The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

Sheryl Sandberg’s post on Facebook gave us much insight into how those in grief feel about the responses of others to loss. Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.” We meant no harm, in fact the opposite. We were trying to comfort. A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Where as an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.

You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. I am so sorry for your loss.

2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

6. I am always just a phone call away

7. Give a hug instead of saying something

8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you

9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything

10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2. He is in a better place

3. She brought this on herself

4. There is a reason for everything

5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

6. You can have another child still

7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him

8. I know how you feel

9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go

10. Be strong

Best & Worst Traits of people just trying to help

When in the position of wanting to help a friend or loved one in grief, often times our first desire is to try to “fix” the situation, when in all actuality our good intentions can lead to nothing but more grief. Knowing the right thing to say is only half of the responsibility of being a supportive emotional caregiver. We have comprised two lists which examine both the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD traits of people just trying to help.

The Best Traits

Supportive, but not trying to fix it

About feelings

Non active, not telling anyone what to do

Admitting can’t make it better

Not asking for something or someone to change feelings

Recognize loss

Not time limited

The Worst Traits

They want to fix the loss

They are about our discomfort

They are directive in nature

They rationalize or try to explain loss/li>

They may be judgmental

May minimize the loss

Put a timeline on loss

The above information is meant to be used as a guideline. Everyone goes through the grieving process in their own way. It is very important to understand that point. It is also important to remember while the above is a guideline, the most important thing is your intent. So if you say a worse thing but you said it out of love the person will understand. The guideline will hopefully make you more comfortable to offer support to your grieving loved one or friend. Because someone who is grieving need people to talk to without people feeling awkward. Also everyone is around immediately after the death and through the funeral services. Most people then go back to their normal lives. However, those who were really close to the person are still grieving and trying to figure out how to proceed with life. So don’t forget the person who is grieving can use emotional support for the first year especially. Therefore, do not forget to call, send a card or stop by occasionally. Especially around the holidays and birthdays.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist treating adolescents, children and their families. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.rcs-ca.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

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Facts About High School Sports and Concussions

Facts About High School Sports and Concussions

Many high school students look forward to participating in high school sports and other physical activities as part of their high school experience. While school may be ending for the year, many athletes will be practicing over the summer for next years games. Football is one example of a sport where the players practice the entire summer in order to be ready for the next school year’s season. Typically most people look at the fun and the positive experience these activities provide for students. However, high school athletes do get hurt, sometimes seriously. High school athletes do suffer broken arms and legs, but they also suffer concussions, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. Parents are now learning that “basic” concussions in teenagers are more common than people think and can create more problems that people think. A concussion can cause physical impairment such as not being able to walk or emotional issues such as a teenager suddenly having anger problems or depression. Unfortunately, this year we had example of these issues, when a wrestler from College Park High School suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed.

As a result of these head injuries, many teenagers develop Post Concussion Syndrome after a concussion. Teenagers can have violent mood swings, difficulties concentrating and with memory. This can cause problems at school and with family and friends. I have seen teenagers who get so depressed by these changes that they become suicidal. Post Concussion Syndrome can last a year and often physicians do not warn parents or teenagers about this syndrome. This makes matters worse because they feel like they are crazy because they don’t understand why they have the symptoms. Also these symptoms can create problems at school that the student may need accommodations for in order for the student to understand the classes.

We have been hearing more and more about concussion in professional sports in recent years. We have also seen professional athletes walk away from their careers because they are not willing to risk the after effects of multiple concussions. A fact that some in professional sports do not want to be publicized. Will Smith stared in a movie regarding a professional football player and how his life significantly changed after several concussions. The National Football League tried to stop this movie from being made and shown, but they lost.

However, we do have examples. Mohammad Ali is the most notable example of how multiple concussions can change a person and leave them disabled. Also a news anchor for ABC News documented how his life changed after receiving a traumatic brain injury while covering the war in Afghanistan.

Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Spinal Cord Injuries also occur in teenagers. Teen athletes such as football players routinely suffer concussions, traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. Many of these athletes suffer permanent brain damage such as difficulty remembering things or emotional issues such as mood swings. Also a number of high school athletes do die from concussions every year.

A research study from Boston University released shows that boys who play football before the age of 12 years old are more likely to have memory problems and problems making decisions as adults. This study also shows that boys who play football before age 12 are three times more likely to develop clinical depression as an adult. The study suggests the reason this occurs is because around the age of 12, a child’s brain is undergoing a great deal of development at this age. Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, explained that “the brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life.”

Another MRI study, by the Wakes Forest School of Medicine, showed that boys between the ages of 8 years old to 13 years old who played even just one season of football showed signs of diminished brain function.

High school athletes are not the only teenagers at risk for concussions or other serious injuries. Teens in general are at risk because teens are willing to engage in risky behavior such as jumping off something or racing cars. Many teens feel they are safe. They hear about these issues but think it would never happen to them. However we never know who it will happen to. Therefore, parents you need to educate and monitor your teenager’s behavior. If you have a teen athlete, you may need to make the decision to stop them from playing a sport if they have suffered a couple concussions. This is not easy but you must think of their lives after high school.

Also boys are not the only ones at risk for concussions. Girls are at risk for concussions and other serious injuries. In fact, some studies show that cheerleaders are at a higher risk of getting a concussion than football players. Cheerleaders do not use helmets and have no head protection. Also many people assume a child needs to be knocked out in order to sustain a concussion. This is not true. You can sustain a concussion without losing consciousness. So football players are not the only one at risks. Any high school athlete is at risk – boy or girl. Anything that causes a jarring of the head can cause a concussion. Our brain sits in fluid in our skull. Therefore any jarring force can cause the brain to hit the side of the skull and cause a concussion. This is why all high school athletes are at risk for concussions.

I have included a link to a YouTube video where a physician describes the basic information about what happens to a brain during a concussion and the process of recovery from a concussion. This is a must see for any parent https://youtu.be/zCCD52Pty4A.

In addition to this video I have included a fact sheet from the CDC regarding information about concussions for you to review http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/schools/tbi_factsheets_parents-508-a.pdf.

I have also included this link from the CDC which helps parents, coaches and schools https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/.

Parents need to talk to their teenagers’ school and coaches regarding making sure that they use the latest safety equipment for their sport. Parents may even want to research what the latest safety equipment so if your teen’s school is not using the latest safety equipment, you can inform the school. The ultimate goal is we want high school sports to be fun and safe for high school students.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice, where he treats Post Concussion Syndrome, please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Cutting Occurs in Boys and Girl Teenagers

Cutting Occurs in Boys and Girl Teenagers

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. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. 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

Depression

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 www.rcs-ca.com , www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Risks Teenagers Take Going to Underground Paries

Risks Teenagers Take Going to Underground Paries

Many of us still remember and are grieving over the terrible fire in the Oakland Warehouse which resulted in a tragic loss of many lives. Many young lives were lost needlessly and many families and friends are still grieving because they lost a loved one. Unfortunately, this was a tragedy waiting to happen and could happen again. Summer is coming very soon and many teenagers will be going to similar “underground parties.”

These “underground parties” are very common with teenagers and college students. The place of the parties are usually posted on Facebook or other social media sites that teenagers use the day before the party. Typically these parties occur in warehouses in Oakland and San Francisco. The party organizers do not get permits nor do they consider safety. Typically at these parties there is a lot of alcohol and drugs such as ecstasy, pink, spice, wax, heroin etc. Therefore, the party organizers are looking for out of the way locations were they are unlikely to be detected by the police.

Many teenagers view these parties as fun because of the dancing and because typically these parties start late at night and go until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Also since it is undergone if they want to drink or use any of the drugs they can. All they need is the money to buy it and no one will stop them.

Typically a teen will be looking on social media to find the underground parties for the weekend. Often while online they meet other people who are going and they often make plans to go with someone they just met online. Since the parties start usually after 10pm many parents don’t know if their teenager is going to an underground party. The teen usually says they are spending the night at a friends house and they sneak out of the friends house to go to the party.

I have had many teenagers tell me about these parties. When I point out the risk such as they don’t know anything about who set it up, the safety of the area or the warehouse, the safety of the people since they just met these people and the safety of the drugs since they have no idea about what they are really taking or drinking. Teenagers tend to say that I am overly concerned and there is nothing to worry about because they have gone to these parties before.

However, the fire that occurred in the Oakland warehouse shows there is something to worry about. The organizer had no concerns about safety nor is he taking responsibility for the fire and what happened. Furthermore, since it was done secretly no one knows for sure who was there and if they are safe or not. I saw a page on Facebook for people to check in as safe. However, this doesn’t help the families who are waiting to hear about a loved one or who lost a loved one.

Parents this is an excellent time to sit down with your teenager and talk about these “underground parties.” Teenagers have a lot of free time during the summer and they feel entitled to be able to party because they were in school all year. Discuss the dangers associated with these parties. Teenagers may argue about the fact that these parties are safe, but point to the Oakland party as an example that the parties are not safe. Discuss with your teen other places they can go to and hear the tech and dance music and where they can go and dance.

Parents we also need to put pressure on the authorities to hold the owner of these warehouses and party organizers responsible for what happens at these parties. The Oakland fire was a horrific event. Also many kids overdose at these parties. Many of these teens die because no one wants to call the police or everyone is so busy dancing and using that they don’t notice if someone has overdosed. Again, the organizer is never held responsible.

One last point, parents when you discuss the “underground parties” with your teenagers use the Oakland fire as proof that bad things can and do happen. Many teenagers feel safe taking chances with their lives because they don’t believe anything will happen to them. The tragedy in Oakland proves something can happen.

This was a terrible tragedy and hopefully we can prevent others from occurring in the future.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and learning about their online activities. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers and Depression

Teenagers and Depression

Since this week is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Week, I decided to run this article. It is the end of the school year and many teenagers are feeling stressed about finals, prom (who they are taking or if they did not go), college (did they get into a college, did they get into the college they wanted, leaving home) and believe it or not leaving their high school. They have spent four years there and it feels like home so many teens often feel sad about high school ending. This is a lot of stressors and many parents worry about if their teenager is experiencing depression. Since I am asked the question often, I was reading an article by Dr. Jerome Yelder, Sr., which outlines many symptoms of depression. He explained them so they are easy to understand and covered all symptoms parents need to be aware of regarding depression. I have outlined his list below for you to review and decide if you feel your teenager needs to see a mental health clinician for depression.

Sleep Problems

Depression can affect your body as well as your mind. Trouble falling or staying asleep is common in people who are depressed. But some may find that they get too much shut-eye.

Chest Pain

It can be a sign of heart, lung, or stomach problems, so see your doctor to rule out those causes. Sometimes, though, it’s a symptom of depression.

Depression can also raise your risk of heart disease. Plus, people who’ve had heart attacks are more likely to be depressed.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

If you feel so tired that you don’t have energy for everyday tasks — even when you sleep or rest a lot — it may be a sign that you’re depressed. Depression and fatigue together tend to make both conditions seem worse.

Aching Muscles and Joints

When you live with ongoing pain it can raise your risk of depression.

Depression may also lead to pain because the two conditions share chemical messengers in the brain. People who are depressed are three times as likely to get regular pain.

Digestive Problems

Our brains and digestive systems are strongly connected, which is why many of us get stomachaches or nausea when we’re stressed or worried. Depression can get you in your gut too — causing nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.

Headaches

One study shows that people with major depression are three times more likely to have migraines, and people with migraines are five times more likely to get depressed.

Changes in Appetite or Weight

Some people feel less hungry when they get depressed. Others can’t stop eating. The result can be weight gain or loss, along with lack of energy. Depression has been linked to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating.

Back Pain

When it hurts you there on a regular basis, it may contribute to depression. And people who are depressed may be four times more likely to get intense, disabling neck or back pain.

Agitated and Restless

Sleep problems or other depression symptoms can make you feel this way. Men are more likely than women to be irritable when they’re depressed.

Sexual Problems

Hopefully your teenager is not sexually active. While they may not have the sexual problems adults do, when they are depressed, they may show a lack of interest in dating or relationships and tend to isolate. They also may feel they are sexually unattractive.

If you’re depressed, you might lose your interest in sex. Some prescription drugs that treat depression can also take away your drive and affect performance. Talk to your doctor about your medicine options.

Exercise

Research suggests that if you do it regularly, it releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, improve your mood, and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Although physical activity alone won’t cure depression, it can help ease it over the long term. If you’re depressed, it can sometimes be hard to get the energy to exercise. But try to remember that it can ease fatigue and help you sleep better.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

Suggestions To Help Discuss Finals, Prom, Graduation with your Teen

Suggestions To Help Discuss Finals, Prom, Graduation with your Teen

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I often hear from parents how they feel they are always arguing with their teenagers. The month of May is a stressful time for families and teens. There are finals, proms and graduations so this article may help with that stress.

We must remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and other executive functions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to have a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough therefore they are more likely to argue. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy argument and ways to have destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.

Teenaregers Want and Need Adult Support

Teenaregers Want and Need Adult Support

May is dedicated to Mental Health Care. This article discusses a number of reasons why teenagers have mental health issues and how we can help. Some of the issues I treat teenagers for are suicide, cutting, bullying, drug abuse, early sexual activity and poor performance at school.

I have been working with teenagers for over 20 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 20 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. Look at the President and how he bullies and insults minorities, women and people who disagree with him on Twitter on a daily basis.

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 20 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 www.rcs-ca.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.