“Prayers are not Enough”

“Prayers are not Enough”

Yesterday we had another mass shooting at a newspaper in Maryland. Five more people killed senselessly and more family and friends lives were torn a part. This time an assault weapon was not used, a shotgun was used. The gunmen had a history of problems with the paper and planned this out. I made a point of mentioning that a shotgun was used not an assault weapon. I did this to make the point that all guns can kill not just assault weapons.

Mass shootings have become an epidemic in the United States and every year more people are being killed in mass shooting. How many people have to die before we pay attention to this epidemic. Some reporters were commenting yesterday that victims of these shootings are now saying that mass shootings are so common that we will talk about the event today and then forget until then next incident. Unfortunately, I think they may be right.

The news reported that the President and First Lady has been briefed about the shooting. The news also reported that the President and First Lady were praying for the victims. However, I think we need to listen to one of the survivors from yesterday shooting. She stated she was hiding under her desk and she was praying. She had no idea if she was going to live or die. This victim stated she did not care about the President’s prayers. She stated it was nice to hear, but his prayers were not going to help her and she did not care about his prayers. She wanted action to prevent these mass shootings.

We keep hearing this same sentiment from other victims and families. They do not want the President and Congress to pray. They want the President and Congress to take action to prevent these shootings. We need sane gun laws and more access to mental health services. However, the government fails to act. In fact the budget proposals by Congress and the President eliminate support for mental health services.

The First Lady stated she was going to focus on cyber bullying and emotional health for children. However, mental health services continue to be cut for children. In my area there use to be a decent number of community mental health clinics to serve children and teenagers. However, over the past two years most of the community resources have been eliminated. I have had severe problems getting a suicidal teenager hospitalized because the County and private hospital in our area, do not have enough beds to help suicidal teenagers. As a result, the teenager goes home and the parents have to stay awake watching their teenager.

Talk sounds nice, but it does not solve the problem. Prayers do help, but God is not going to solve the problem if we don’t make it a priority. We must take the situation seriously and act.

Therefore, parents consider who you vote for this November very seriously. Vote for someone who is willing to take action and enact sane gun laws and put more resources into mental health. Imagine if you were that woman hiding under her desk wondering if she was going to be killed in the next ten minutes, would you care if the President was praying? If your child was killed in a mass school shooting, would you care if the President was praying? The answer is no! You would want the President and Congress to take actions to prevent this epidemic.

Some people may say I have no right to speak out as a psychotherapist. However, I have an ethical and legal obligation to speak up and inform people if someone is suicidal or if a child’s safety is in danger. Since I am seeing resources cut daily which interferes with my ability to help someone who is suicidal or a child who may be a victim of child abuse, I am exercising my ethical duty and speaking up. Hopefully more people will speak up in November with their votes.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience in private practice and community clinics treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com

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Issues Parents Face with Young Adult Children

Issues Parents Face with Young Adult Children

As a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I often hear from parents asking how to cope with teenagers who are 18, who have moved out to go to college and young adults, aged 19 to 23, who are still living at home. I also hear from young adults, aged 19 to 23, who are living at home asking how to cope with their parents.

Given our economy and the cost of living, this is a very common problem. Parents have valid points and the young adults have points too. I strongly recommend to parents to start talking with their teenagers when they are 17 or 18 about how life around the house will change as they are getting older. Teenagers need to understand if they want the freedom of young adults, their relationships with their parents and how they are treated at home will change. Starting this conversation early helps to avoid arguments in the house. Empowering Parents takes a similar approach to this issue as I do. I have included their recommendations below.

Parents feel they have to take care of their kids, whether they are 9 or 19 years old. But as kids get older, they engage in more risky behavior, and “taking care of them” becomes more challenging.  When they’re five, they’re climbing the monkey bars and you’re worried they’re going to break their arm.  At eleven they’re starting to play football or baseball and you’re afraid they might get hurt with a piece of equipment.  At 16, they’re starting to drive, they’re often getting money on their own, and they’re around people with drugs. On the surface, they may seem much more independent, but actually they are simply much more able to put their parents off and hide what’s really going on with them.

Kids between the ages of 17 and 25 still have a lot of thinking errors. Just like you can have a spelling error, and misspell a word, you can have a thinking error in which you misread life’s problems and come out with the wrong solutions. When kids start hitting their late teens, you’ll hear them saying things that indicate they see themselves as victims. “It’s not my fault.” “I couldn’t help it.” “I only stayed out an hour late and you want to punish me?” They become much more adept at manipulating their parents by blaming them for being too rigid and strict. You’ll hear kids say, “I’m getting older now. You should trust me more.”  But the fact is, they’re not getting that much older. Teenage mentality lasts from early adolescence until 22 or 23 years of age.  Most of the research shows kids are still using the same parts of their brain at 22 that they were using at 15. Their brain is still developing in their early 20’s. So they are not that much more prepared for adult situations.  But parents can get sucked into the thinking error that “You owe me. You owe me a place to live. You shouldn’t be too rigid.”  When parents hear this enough, they start to feel guilty for the rules by which they have chosen to live. They begin to think they’re too strict just for trying to implement the rules they’ve always had since their kids were young.

How to Enforce the Rules of the House with Older Kids

I think parents should have two levels of rules with their older children who are still living at home. The first are the rules of your household that reflect your values, structure and moral authority. For example: People don’t abuse people around here. That doesn’t change at 18 or 19. That rule never changes. No drugs and alcohol, especially if you’re under age. That doesn’t change at 18 or 19. That’s the rule.  No stealing. No lying. I would keep those rules very clear, because you don’t want to start having double standards with older kids, especially if you have other younger kids in the home.

The second level of rules is the one that enables parents to live with young adults. Certainly, young adults should get more responsibility and independence, but they have to earn it. If you’ve got a job, you get more independence. Should kids be able to stay out all night because they’re over 18? Absolutely not. If they’re living in your house, they have to let you know that they’re okay. That may mean calling in if they decide to sleep over at someone’s house. You have a right as a parent to expect this.

The most important part of having rules with older children is the discussion that establishes those rules. When a child is about to turn 18, parents need to have a serious discussion about what the rules are going to be in order for everyone to live together. It should be a sit down, and you should write everything down that you agree to so that everything is clear. What can you do?  What can’t you do? How will we support you in what you can do? What’s going to happen if you do what you’re not supposed to do? What is forbidden? These things should be clearly spelled out.

There’s a thin line between carrying your kids and being supportive of them. I think when someone is 18, if they finish high school, they should be supporting themselves financially. There should be no job too menial that they can’t take it until they find something better. Many kids don’t give a darn in high school, aren’t ready for a better job, and they resent the fact that they have to work at McDonald’s, 7-11 or some other starting out position. So they avoid doing it and think they’re better than that. This is a thinking error—a complete cognitive distortion that you shouldn’t accept as a parent. Parents need to say to older kids, “You made your choices in high school, and now if you want to better yourself, you’re going to have to go to school at night. If you want to better yourself, you’re going to have to start out in a junior college. If we can’t pay for  college full time, you’re going to have to work and go to school part time.”

Everyone in the home should know what the rules are, and it’s important to lay it all out before the child turns 18. For example, the rule on drinking: “If you come home drunk, you will not be allowed to live in our house.”  It can be you’re out of the house for a few days, a few weeks or forever. Just establish the rule, write it down and explain to the child that he is over 18, and this is how we have to live with this issue. If kids get belligerent and violent after 18 (or at any time, in my opinion) the police should be called.

Think of Your Adult Children as a Guests—Not as Children

If you feel compromised and taken advantage of by an older child, you need to realize this: the child is an adult now. He may not act it, but he is an adult. He’s living under your roof.  He has to follow your laws. I want you to think of your adult children as guests. Not as children. That’s the most important thing to do. They’re done with high school; they are now guests in your home. How would you let a guest act? When would you draw the line with a guest? When would you feel you have to call the police with a guest?

When my son went to college, one of the biggest shocks he had was when we started to refer to his room as the guest room. I remember him saying, “But that’s my room.” We said, “No, that’s the guest room. You can stay there anytime you want, for as long as you want, as long as you live our way.” We said it with love and kindness, but we wanted him to see his role in a different way—as an adult.

For parents who are very anxious and have a lot of fears about their kids, this sounds like a difficult thing to say. I know that. But it’s really the best thing to say because you need to let these kids know that they have to start to make it on your own. In effect, you are saying, “You’ve had 18 years to learn how to make it on your own. Now’s the time to put it into practice. Whatever you’ve chosen not to learn or chosen not to do over those 18 years, you’re going to have to pay a price for that now.”

The bottom line is, sometimes kids have to start out small. There’s no shame in that, and you have to make that very clear.  Even if it doesn’t match up with what you had hoped for your child. Many young adult children often have a false sense of entitlement. I met many kids in my practice who refused to go to school, and could only read and write at a seventh or eighth grade level at best. They told me they were going to be video game programmers, basketball players or rap singers. That’s how they were putting off their anxiety. If you’re talking to a kid who says, “I’m not making it in school, but I’m gonna be a rap singer. I wrote a few songs tonight,” that’s the way that that kid is postponing his anxiety. What he’s really saying is, “I’m so scared about the future, I have to make up this fantasy, and then I’m gonna cling to it.” Then, if you challenge that fantasy and say, “Wait a minute. There’s 20 million kids out there. What makes you think you can do it?” the kid says, “You don’t believe in me. You don’t have any faith in me.” He turns it right around on you until you’re the problem.  His not studying is not the problem. You’re not believing in his fantasy becomes the problem.

When you have these different currents coming together in a home where parents are living with an older child, it can get very uncomfortable for everyone, if not hostile. The way to keep that hostility at bay is to have clarity beforehand. Get the expectations and the consequences down on paper—literally. Write them down and expect the child to live by them.

I have known many parents who couldn’t get their adult children out of bed. They think that they’re helping their adult children by giving them a roof over their head and not making them be responsible because they’re afraid for their kids. But what they’re afraid of can only be cured by that kid getting out of bed and doing something for himself. The parent is afraid the child is not going to amount to anything, that he’s not going to find a good job, that he’s not going to make it in school, that he’s going to get into trouble socially. But the thing that addresses those fears is to get him up at eight o’clock in the morning and get him out there looking for a job. Tell him to leave with his lunch, a cell phone and the internet want ads and don’t come back.

This may sound harsh. You’re pushing someone out into a world that they have to deal with. But you’re not pushing them out of a plane without a parachute. You’re pushing them out into the street without any money. The solution to that problem is getting a job. Many times parents use their own fears, anxieties and sense of guilt and remorse to justify not doing what they would do to a guest. Out of fear, they choose not to expect out of their child what they expect out of themselves and each other every day.

This can be an awkward and difficult time for parents and young adult children, but talking about issues early and openly can help. It can make this transition easier for everyone.

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

The Danger of Flavored Tobacco Products

The Danger of Flavored Tobacco Products

Parents read this report about how many teens & kids as young as 10 are using flavored tobacco products. They think there is no danger because it is flavored.

Many teens have stated they started smoking because they see no threat to flavored tobacco. Also recent research studies show adolescents are likely to turn down a cigarette from a friend, but if it is flavored they are likely to accept.

We are not talking about cigarettes. Federal law prohibits manufactures from flavoring cigarets. Instead, teenagers are using flavored E-cigarettes, vaping pens, cigars and hookah. They have flavors such as cotton candy, chocolate and gum balls. These names are common names adolescents associate with candy. Also research shows adolescents are drawn to sweet tasting objects. Therefore, these flavored tobacco products are very appealing to adolescents.

These items are not difficult for teens to buy online and they are being advertised online too. Therefore, adolescents are once again trying tobacco products in middle school and continuing because they have become addicted. However, most would not have tried the tobacco in the beginning if the name did not sound like they were using candy.

I have included a link to a detailed report about flavored tobacco products so you can understand how wide spread this issue is in the adolescent population . https://truthinitiative.org/news/flavored-tobacco-use-among-youth-and-young-adults via @truthinitiative.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Gaming Addiction is Real

Gaming Addiction is Real

The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this week and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. Many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. During the Winter Olympics this year, NBC showed centers in Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea, where people were going for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers I told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

World Health Organization declares Video Game Addiction a Mental Health Diagnosis

World Health Organization declares Video Game Addiction a Mental Health Diagnosis

Parents the World Health Organization has officially stated that addiction to video games is a mental health issue. Many parents have felt it was a mental health issue for years. Today the WHO finally took the step to formally declare it a mental health issue.

I have heard many parents report how violent their teenager becomes without their video games. I have also had teenagers tell me they would become violent if their parents removed their games. I believe the WHO made the right decision.

Watch this segment of GMA on ABC news to learn more. ‘Gaming disorder’ now designated as mental health condition https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY via @YouTube

Father’s Day is not always a happy day

Father’s Day is not always a happy day

Today and Mother’s Day tend to be a happy day for people where they can honor their father and mother. However, it is not a happy day for everyone. Some people their father or mother may have died when they were children. For some people their father or mother may have left them when they were children. Therefore, today may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today also may not be a happy day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Many children have fathers and mothers who have passed away or left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing the television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them.

I work with many of these children in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and today as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Father’s Day or Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Father’s Day or Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Father’s Day or Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to parents is to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an uncle or aunt or another male or female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Father’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

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

Coping with An Angry Teenager

Coping with An Angry Teenager

The teenager years can be very difficult for teenagers and parents. Many teens suffer with mood swings, depression and difficulties with anger. Unfortunately, the teenager’s neurological system is not fully developed. This means the prefrontal cortex of the teenage brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for our executive functioning. In other words, this part of the brain analyzes issues, make decisions about what is right and wrong and makes decisions about what actions someone will take. Since this part of the brain is not fully developed in teenagers, when they are angry sometimes they do not know what to do. I often have parents ask me what they should or should not do when their teenager is very angry. I read an article by Kim Abraham, LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, which lists things not to do when a teenager is angry. I know many parents worry about what to do, but you also do not want to do the wrong thing. Making a wrong move may only exacerbate the teenager and increase their anger. Therefore, knowing what not to do is very important too. The article I read uses the same recommendations that I use with teenagers. I have included the list below so parents can use it.

Stop and think for a moment: when your child or teen is in the throes of a tantrum or an all-out rage, what is your initial reaction? Do you get angry yourself and start yelling, do you freeze and say nothing, or do you become frightened and give in? Maybe your answer is even, “All of the above, depending on the day!” You are not alone. Dealing with childhood anger and explosive rage is one of the toughest things we are faced with as parents. Not only is it hard to do effectively, it’s exhausting and can easily make you feel defeated, even if you don’t lose your cool.

We all know the above reactions (yelling, freezing and giving in) aren’t helpful, but why exactly is that so? Simply put, if you freeze and do nothing, lose control and yell or give in to your child’s demands, he will know that he can push your buttons—and that it works. Even if your kid can’t put it into words, on some level he understands that if he can scare you or wear you down by throwing a tantrum, he’ll get his way.  As soon as your child realizes you have certain weak spots, he will continue to use them, because now he has a handy tool he can use to solve his problems. Instead of facing consequences or being held accountable, he’s figured out a way to get off scot-free. Here’s the good news: Learning to overcome your knee-jerk reactions of either freezing or becoming angry and “losing it” will be the start of turning around your relationship with your child—and the first step in teaching him appropriate ways to manage his temper.

Don’t get us wrong, as therapists and parents, we know firsthand how difficult this task can be—but fortunately we also know what really works to manage angry kids. Before we tell you some techniques you can use in the moment (and afterward) to turn this pattern around in your family, understand this: anger is always a “secondary emotion.” What this means is that another unpleasant feeling is always underneath an angry or enraged response; anger just leaves us feeling less vulnerable than hurt or fear do. If you can stop and remember that something else affected your child first, whether it was disappointment, sadness or frustration, you will be one step ahead. Another key point to understand is that anger serves a purpose. It lets us know something’s wrong in the same way burning your finger lets you know the stove is hot. It hits quickly and the reaction is immediate:  Your child is disappointed he can’t go to his friend’s house and kaboom, you have a fight on your hands. (We’ll explain how to get to the bottom of these emotions later.)

Keeping all of this in mind, here are 7 things for you to avoid doing when your child is angry.

1. Don’t get in your kid’s face

When your child is having an explosive anger attack or enraged response to something, do not get in his face. This is the worst thing you can do with a kid who’s in the middle of a meltdown. As long as your child is old enough, we would recommend that you not get anywhere close to him. You have to remember that kids with explosive anger are out of control. The adrenaline is pumping and all rationale has left the body. They are in fight or flight mode, about to blow up. How close do you really want to get to that? By getting in there with your child, you will likely only further ignite their anger. And if you try to say something to them in the middle of it, you’re just going to fan the flames. We often feel like we have to stand right there and handle the meltdown with our kids. But if nobody’s getting hurt and it’s not a life-threatening situation or safety issue, it’s better to back off and give them some distance. After all, if you saw an angry stranger in a store, you wouldn’t go up to him and start yelling or rationalizing, would you? You’d probably leave the area as soon as possible!

2. Don’t react out of emotion

When your child is angry, rather than reacting out of emotion, which will escalate things, do whatever you need to do to step out of the situation. Walk away, take some deep breaths, and try your best to stay objective and in control. Take a time-out if you need one (and if your child is old enough for you to leave the area). Use some phrases to remind yourself, “I’m going to respond to this logically instead of emotionally. I’m going to stay on topic. I’m not going to get off track.” You might also remind yourself, “One step at a time. None of this is going to happen overnight.” Part of our job as parents is to model how to handle emotions appropriately. (Easier said than done, we know!) When you’re upset, your job is to show him good ways to deal with the emotions at hand.

3. Don’t jump to conclusions about your child’s anger

Your child may not be wrong for feeling upset. There may be some justification for his anger, even if the behavior is not justified. When parents tell us they’re upset with their child for being angry, we say, “Is it not okay for him to ever just be disappointed and unhappy and mad? Because everyone feels that way sometimes.” Remember that people can be justifiably disappointed and may present that in an angry way. If your child can’t be respectful in explaining his viewpoint, then you’ll need to leave him alone until he calms down. You can say, “I understand you feel angry; I’m sorry you feel that way.” Then leave it alone until he’s cooled off. If it turns into a temper tantrum where he’s saying foul things, breaking objects or hurting others, then that’s when you want to address the behavior. You can’t in any way control the way your child feels about things—all you can do is give him consequences and hold him accountable for his behavior. Getting mad at your child for being mad will only escalate the situation.

Understand that it’s normal for kids to get angry. We all get angry. In actuality, it’s not anger that’s the problem, it’s the resulting behavior. Kids have notoriously low frustration tolerances. Just because your child is angry doesn’t mean it has to turn into an unrecoverable situation. Don’t expect your child to always be happy with you or like you or your decisions. Accept that it goes along with the territory that sometimes they’re going to be angry with you—and that’s okay.

4. Don’t try to reason with an angry child

Avoid trying to hold a rational conversation with your angry child; it’s not going to work. If she’s disappointed about something and you try to reason her out of it, it’s probably only going to make things more heated. Don’t try in the moment to get your child to see it your way because you don’t want her to be mad at you. When you jump in and try to make her see it your way, it really isn’t helpful. And you’re going to come away from that more frustrated yourself, especially with ODD kids. They’re not going to have any of it and will turn the tables and try to rationalize with you in order to get their way. Instead, just give everyone a cooling off period. You can say, “I can see that you’re really upset; we can each take a timeout and get back to this later.”

5. Don’t give consequences or making threats in the heat of the moment

Along these same lines, wait until everything has calmed down before you give consequences to your child. If you try to punish her when emotions are running high, chances are you will cause further eruptions. You might come back later and say, “You were really angry. I’m wondering if there was one part of how that went that you wish was different. What could you do differently next time?”

You might also think about whether or not consequences are really necessary after a tantrum. Sometimes, parents will give consequences to kids just for blowing up. We’ve had kids come in to a therapy session and tell us that they’ve lost all of their privileges because they’ve had a tantrum. Let’s say a teen girl slams the door and mutters something under her breath on the way out before going for a walk. When you look at it objectively, a child who’s working on her anger has actually handled it fairly well—going for a walk to cool down. In this situation, you might decide to forego consequences. While every family has different rules about what is allowed and what isn’t, there should be some latitude to allow your child to express anger appropriately. Again, don’t give consequences for feelings, give them for inappropriate behavior.

6. (For older kids) Don’t miss a chance to talk with your child later

If it’s appropriate and if your child is old enough—and seems willing to talk about what made them so angry—try sitting down and discussing it. You can say, “You were really mad earlier, but I’m just wondering if that came from you feeling so hurt about what happened at school.” Wait to hear what your child says, and really listen. Don’t interrupt or preach. If they do open up, try asking open-ended questions like, “What do you think you could do to handle it better next time?” Or, “Is there anything I could do that would be helpful to you?”

Most of the time when older kids or teens throw tantrums or lose control, it’s because they have very poor problem-solving skills. They haven’t yet learned to solve their underlying problems in healthy ways, so they scream, break things, and call people names. Problem-solving skills don’t come naturally—they come with practice. Sometimes by talking to your child and finding out what’s going on, you can guide them to those problem-solving tools.

7. Don’t lose sight of your goal

Always ask yourself what you’re aiming for as a parent. What is your end goal? One of our most important jobs is to show them appropriate, healthy ways to behave as we give them some problem-solving tools. It’s not only important to discipline our kids, but also to teach and to guide them. Sometimes lessons don’t require a consequence, but are rather an opportunity to talk and help your child come up with a better way to handle the situation next time.

Hopefully this list will help. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect parent. It is even more difficult to parent when you are dealing with an angry teenager. So if things do not go perfectly do not blame yourself. You did the best you could do.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.