Boys Have Eating Disorders Too

Boys Have Eating Disorders Too

This week is National Eating Disorder week. Here are important facts about eating disorders everyone needs to know. Eating disorders and body image issues are a major problems for teenagers. Despite what most people may think, these issues impact girls and boys. Most people assume eating disorders only impact girls, but they impact boys too. Boys worry about their abdominal muscles having the “six pack” look and how strong they are compared to other boys. Also for some sports such as wrestling they must make a certain weight to compete. Therefore, they worry about their weight. So eating disorders impact boys too.

Looking at the prevalence of eating disorders in teens can be very difficult. Some break the statistics down to diagnoses such as anorexia. While some focus on under eating, teenagers who over eat can also have an eating disorder. Another classification is unhealthy eating that many teens engage in. Some may skip meals or some may consume to many calories to make weight for their sport and then go days without eating. Therefore, eating disorders can take many shapes and forms. Overall, it is estimated that eating disorders impact 5% of female teenagers and 1% of male teens (NIMH). However, the number for males is considered to be under reported. This assumption exists due to the belief many have that eating disorders only impacts girls. Therefore, there is an assumption that the 1% for boys is an underestimate due to under reporting. Working with adolescents I am sure the 1% is incorrect. I hear many teenage boys complain about their bodies or needing to make weight for their sport. I also hear things they do such as only drinking water a week before a weigh in or loading up on protein drinking before working out. What they report may not fit the picture of anorexia we have, but it definitely is not healthy and is involved with body image. This is a major factor in all eating disorders whether it be anorexia or over eating.

One reason I’m addressing this subject is as I stated above most people assume that eating disorders do not impact boys. Eating disorders impact boys and teens from every economic level, ethnicity and religion. They are an equal opportunity disorder. Another reason I’m addressing this issue is suicide is the number one mental health issue killing teenagers in our country. Eating disorders are the second leading mental health issue killing teenagers. It is estimated that every 62 minutes someone dies from an eating disorders (NIMH). The death may occur after someone has received treatment and is considered in recovery. Eating disorders take such a toll on teenage bodies they may die even though they are considered to be recovered. The singer Karen Carpenter is a prime example. She struggled with an eating disorder for years and struggled with treatment too. However, she finally reached a point where she was considered recovered from her eating disorder and started to resume her life. Unfortunately, she died suddenly one day from a heart attack. The toll the eating disorder put on her body weakened her heart severely. So severely that it caused her to have a heart attack even though she was in recovery.

This is a very sad story and fact. We can avoid these issues by early diagnosis and treatment. We also must realize that eating disorders impact boys too. If we do not we are not addressing the entire problem. We need to address how our society look at men’s bodies and women’s bodies and the expectations we place on both genders. No one can live up to the female and male stereotypes we have created. In order to change these stereotypes we need to start with teenagers and provide them with enough self-esteem to reject the stereotypes.

As I stated early treatment is necessary. To have early treatment we must have early diagnosis. I have included a link to a video by Dr. Pooky Knightsmith which discusses the ten common warning signs of an eating disorder in teens and children, please watch this video https://youtu.be/nKwbE8mP_PA.

If your teen or child displays any of these warning or signs or if you feel your teen maybe struggling with an eating issue, make an appointment with an adolescent psychotherapist who specializes in adolescents and eating disorders. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed. A mental health issue is no different than a physical health issue. We only believe their is a difference due to the stigma we have created. However, keeping this stigma is endangering the lives of many teens so help your teen and ignore the stigma. Help them deal with their health issue.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He also treats teens including boys with eating disorders. For my information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

What College Accepted Me?

What College Accepted Me?

It’s getting to be spring time and many Seniors in High School are getting very nervous and anxious. When they see the mail their hearts start to beat faster and they are excited and afraid at the same time. They are having that reaction because in the mail could be an acceptance letter or a denial letter from one of the colleges they applied to. Yes it is that time of year when colleges send out their acceptance and denial letters. Many Seniors have been working their entire time in High School so they could attend a certain college. Where they are accepted or not accepted will have a major impact on their lives. Therefore, you can understand why they are so nervous.

Parents think back to when you were a Senior in High School and waiting for your acceptance letter and how anxious you felt. If you did not apply to a college, think about how you felt when you heard the other students talk about where they have been accepted and you had nothing to say. It is a very difficult time for the Seniors who have applied for colleges and for those students who have decided to go to community college or not to go college at all. So parents your teenagers who are Seniors in High School can use your support right now.

It may help to understand the environment your teens are facing in High School. Most high schools are very competitive. Where you apply and where you are accepted has a great deal to do with your status at school and the respect you receive from other student. Students applying to UC Berkely or USC get more respect than someone applying for a California State College such as Sacramento State and definitely more respect than someone going to community college. Since our area has a number of affluent families this competition is very strong in our area and has a severe impact on students. I have worked with students capable of going to Harvard, but due to family finances they can only afford to attend community college. Many of these students feel like they are less than the other students. I explain to them that where they go to college does not define them as a person. What defines them is what they do with their lives. Regardless of what college they start at they can always follow their dreams. Maybe their dream may change a long the way, but that is how little works.

Parents if you are wondering how to help your Senior help them understand where they attend college does not define them. Also since they will be spending a majority of their life their for the next four years, it’s important they go somewhere they enjoy not because of the name. As parents you can do a great deal to reinforce this idea. You can let them know the only thing you care about is that they are going to a school where they will be happy. The name of the school is not the priority. Their happiness is the priority.

As for how they handle the name dropping at school, remind them those kids do not determine their happiness. Also after graduation they will probably not even see most of the kids in their senior class. Therefore, don’t judge themselves or choices based on people who will have little to know long term impact on their life. Base their value on their choices about the future and how they handle themselves. Also if someone is going to negatively judge them about their choice then maybe they are not a friend and if that is the situation, do not worry about their opinions.

Finally, you know this is a big moment in your teenager’s life. For some teens things will go as planed and for others it will be a devastating road. You cannot control which road your teen will be faced with when they receive those letters. However, you can be there and support your child as they go through this emotional roller coaster. Even if things go as planned there are bound to be ups and downs. Regardless of if they are accepted or not, let them know how proud you are of them and how much you love them. If they are denied, discuss how they can handle the disappointment and allow them time to process what has occurred. If they are accepted, discuss how they will celebrate and allow them time to process what has just occurred. The main point is no matter what be there for your teenager and love them.

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

Do Not Leave Your IEP at Home when You Leave for College

Do Not Leave Your IEP at Home when You Leave for College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Over 20 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Right now many students are preparing to leave home and start their new lives in college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptop etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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Could My Child have ADHD?

Could My Child have ADHD?

School is now in its second semester and many parents are tired about fighting over homework or telephone calls from school that their child is being disruptive in class again. The school or family members may be suggesting to parents that the child has ADHD and needs medication. Many parents are not sure about the diagnosis and they are concerned about their child taking ADHD medication. I hear this very often from parents and do many assessments on children to determine if a child has ADHD. Yes ADHD is a really disorder, but too many teachers and schools rush to the conclusion that a child has ADHD and needs medication.

According to statistics by the American Psychological Association, five percent of children in the United States have ADHD. It is also more common in males and it does tend to run in families. According to the CDC 15.9% of boys and 5.6% of girls have ADHD. However, not every child who has ADHD requires medication. Many children can be treated with psychotherapy and behavior modification. Therefore, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD do not rush to medicate your child. There are different subtypes of ADHD and different severities of the diagnosis.

If you child does have ADHD, they are entitled to accommodations such as extra time taking a test. It’s important to get them the accommodations they need. Children who have ADHD, but do not receive accommodations tend to show signs of low self-esteem around the fifth grade. These would be covered by a 504 plan. However, if your child has severe ADHD and needs resource assistance too, they are entitled to an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Many schools may tell parents ADHD does not qualify for an IEP. This is not true. The severity of the ADHD determines if a child needs an IEP. They would qualify under the categories of Emotional Disturbance or Other Health Impairments.

If you feel your child may have ADHD or their school suggests the idea, make sure you have your child appropriately assessed by a professional who specializes in ADHD. In the past schools would often diagnosis children with ADHD. Schools are no longer supposed to make this diagnosis. If they feel a child might have ADHD, they are supposed to have your child evaluated. Many parents take their child to their pediatrician, however, many pediatricians are not trained in diagnosing ADHD. I would suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health clinician trained in working with children and in assessing for ADHD.

As I stated above, if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, make sure you take your child to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and in doing assessments. The assessment for ADHD is not very difficult and an appropriate evaluation by an appropriate mental health clinician should cost around $250 depending on where you live. I have seen some parents who have spent thousands of dollars getting CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. You do not need an expensive scan of your child’s brian to diagnosis ADHD.

The DSM V, the diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use, list the criteria needed for the diagnosis. I am including a link to the Center for Disease Control which list the criteria for the diagnosis and other information about ADHD, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Typically the diagnosis can be made by a clinician interviewing the parents, having a play session or two with the child and observing the child at school or consulting with the teachers. However, remember if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, you want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and assessing children for ADHD. Your child’s pedestrian should be able to refer you to someone or if you call your insurance they will probably have referrals.

Before you rush to have your child assessed, remember some basic facts. Most children between the ages of two to five are very active. They also have very short attention spans. Sometimes you need to give a child some time to mature especially if you have a boy. Remember boys mature slower than girls and tend to be more active than girls. It is important to keep these facts in mind when you are wondering if your child has ADHD.

Now if you child is more hyperactive than other kids his age or his attention span is shorter than most kids his age, there might be an issue. Also if there is a strong family history of ADHD in the family such as his father had ADHD as a child and paternal and maternal uncles all had ADHD as children, there might be an issue. Also if your child was born premature or there were complications during the pregnancy or child birth, there might be an issue. Premature babies or babies with a difficult pregnancy or birth are more likely to have ADHD and learning disabilities.

Bottom line, if someone suggests that your child has ADHD don’t rush to the pedestrian seeking medication. Compare your child’s behavior to other children and consider the risk factors. If your child doesn’t have many risk factors for ADHD maybe wait six months and reassess the situation. The most important thing to remember is if you decide to have your child assessed for ADHD, make sure you go to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and ADHD. You want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children with ADHD and assessing children for ADHD. Also remember you do not need any expensive scans like a CT scan. There are other treatment options besides medication, so do not rush to medicate your child either. Consider all the treatment options.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and assessing children. He has over 20 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

There is Nothing Wrong If You Don’t have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend in High School

There is Nothing Wrong If You Don’t have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend in High School

It’s Valentine’s Weekend and a major issue for many teenagers is if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Having a girlfriend or boyfriend is very important to many teenagers. Often teenagers feel defective if they do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Truth about IEPs and 504 plans

The Truth about IEPs and 504 plans

It’s getting close to the end of the school year and children with 504 plans and Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) must be re-evaluated. Many parents do not know what an IEP is or what a 504 Plan is in regards to a child’s education. Also many parents are not aware of their rights or their child’s educational rights. I receive numerous emails from parents anytime I write about IEPs. Therefore, here is an article describing IEPs and 504 plans for parents. Hopefully this will explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan and help parents understand what their child is legally entitled to regardless of what the teacher is trying to make you believe.

Parents here is important information about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 agreements. Besides ensuring that your child receives a good education, you do not need to pay for items such as special computer programs that the school district should be paying for not you. If your child has an IEP the school district is responsible for most educational expenses even a private school if necessary. Please read this article so you understand your rights and your child’s rights.

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. Besides the mad dash to get ready for school and schools are going to start assessing students to determine if they qualify for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). I am already hearing from parents how school districts are misleading them and pressuring them to sign an agreement for a 504 before the parents clearly understand the difference between an IEP and 504 plan. The definition for both is further down in this article. An IEP and 504 are not the same. An IEP is legally enforceable and has legal guidelines and time frames. An IEP follows a student from school to school or state to state. A 504 is not legally enforceable and doesn’t follow a child nor are there legal guidelines.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting a job or from getting into college. In fact and college because they still would be entitled to assistance and the State of California may pay for their books. Also educational records are confidential therefore, no one would know your child had an IEP in school.

Many schools say your child must be two grades below in order to qualify for an IEP. If you said your child had a math or reading disability this is true. However, if they have ADHD, Bipolar, school anxiety etc. they can qualify under OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS. All your child needs is a diagnosis such as ADHD which would interfere with their ability to fully benefit from their learning experience in the classroom. The 2 grade below level qualification doesn’t apply to this category.

Also if you have a child in private school and they would benefit from additional assistance, contact your child’s public school district. Even though they attend private school the public school district is legally obligated to provide your child with services.

One more issue, never pay for outside testing before the school district tests your child. They have the right not to accept any outside testing until they test the child. If you disagree with the district’s testing then you can request an objective testing from an outside professional and you can request that the school district pays for the testing and you can select the evaluator.

An IEP or an Individualized Education Plan is a document that outlines the specialized education services that a student will receive due to their disability. It ensures the student will receive the assistance necessary so they will receive an education.

When most parents hear disability, they usually think of a person in a wheelchair or a student wIth a learning disability. There are various condItions that can qualify as a disability. Depression, Bipolar Disorder or even diabetes. The disability is any condition that will interfere in the student receiving the same education as other students. The students who qualify for an IEP need accommodations which meet the criteria of needing specialized education. As I stated above their are numerous conditions which may qualify a student for an IEP.

if a student does qualify for an IEP, they also qualify for Special Education. Many parents hear this and are afraid or embassies. There is nothing to be afraid of or embossed about. If a student qualifies for Special Education, if the student needs speech therapy or special computer programs, the school district is obligated to provide the services to the student at no expense to the student’s family.

There is also an option called a 504 Plan. This was established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 plan ensures that a student with a disability will receive accommodations so they will receive the same education as other students. However, the 504 plan does not qualify a student for Special Education services and It is not overseen as closely as an IEP plan.

Currently, many districts are telling parents that their child does not need or qualify for an IEP and a 504 plan is just a good. This is not true. Many school districts are telling parents that their child does not qualify for an IEP because the IEP is more expensive for the district and most districts are trying to save money.The districts take advantage of the fact that as parents, you do not know all the differences between an IEP and a 504 so they can talk a family into a 504 plan easily.

If you find that your child is having difficulties at school due to a learning disability, health issue or emotional issue, consult an outside professional before you automatically assume that the school is giving you the appropriate recommendation.

I see many parents who have been told that their child is better with a 504 plan and that is not the truth. You can consult an educational consultant or a therapist who works with children. You can contact me at via my website http://www.rcs-ca.com. I help many families at their child’s IEP meeting. The main thing is, do not be afraid to ask if your child should have a 504 or an IEP. Also don’t let the district make you feel guilty because you want time to think and investigate the options. This is your child and you should never sign anything until you are sure it is in your child’s best interest.

I have added a link to a chart that will help you compare the two and understand the differences.

504 Plan vs. IEP – Education Centerwww.ed-center.com/504This pages lists the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan.

I have also added a link to a video which helps to explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 19 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or his new website that deals specifically with IEPs, lucascenter.org.

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Teenagers and Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming and if you have a teenager so is teenage drama. There are two main issues which parents and faced with around Valentine’s Day. The first issue is if your teenager is not dating someone. Your teenager is embarrassed and feels like no one will ever love them. The second issue is if your teenager is dating someone. Then there are issues such as gifts, the cost of the gifts and how late they can stay out on Valentine’s night. To many adults some of these issues seem very clear cut, but to some teenagers it’s a matter of life or death.

Let’s start with the first issue, your teen is not dating anyone. This can make them feel worthless, ugly and they may even feel no one will ever love them. The teenage years are very confusing especially when it comes to a teenager’s self-esteem. Most teens are trying to live up to their image of a “normal teenager.” If your teenager is not dating, explain to them that many teenagers do not date in high school. In fact, many people do not start dating until college. Try explaining some of your high school experiences if you feel that would help. Also point out their positive traits and things they do that you are proud of. Help their self-esteem by pointing out things they may over look. Try to change the focus slightly for them. Discuss that St. Valentine’s Day is about being with people who you love and care about. Maybe you can go out as a family for dinner or they have some friends who also are not dating and maybe they can do something together. The main point is let them know whether someone is dating or not it has nothing to do with their self-esteem and when they are ready they will start dating too. Do as much as you can to destruct the “average teenage image” that is incorrect.

If your teen does have a girlfriend or boyfriend, there are a number of different issues you get to confront. The first issue is gifts. Many teenagers have no concept of money and plan these elaborate gifts for their valentine. As they start to assembly the gifts, the quickly determine that they cannot afford everything they planed on buying. At this point, many teens expect mom and dad to help out because it’s Valentine’s Day. This is when mom and dad need to discuss with their teenager about budgeting money. Also it’s important to discuss what is appropriate and not appropriate at their age for gifts. For example, diamond earrings from Tiffany’s are not appropriate. Instead, may be they can buy flowers, a card or go to an outlet and look at costume jewelry. Also explain it’s really the thought that counts not how much or where they purchased the gift. For example, if their Valentine has a teddy bear collection that would be appropriate and showed you had been paying attention to the things that are important to them.

When your teen is dating another major issue is curfew and what they will be doing. Since St. Valentine’s Day is a romantic day, many teenagers may be planning on having sex. Unfortunately, in today’s world teens are becoming sexually active often around the sixth grade. However, typically sixth graders do not consider oral sex as being sexually active. Therefore, St. Valentine’s Day is another opportunity to discuss sexuality with your teenager. You can explain your expectations, the consequences of being sexually active (pregnancy and STDs) and precautions they need to take if they decide to become sexually active. Just because you discuss precautions doesn’t mean you are giving your approval and you can tell your teenager that fact.

Besides discussing sexual activity take this opportunity to discuss drinking alcohol or using drugs. Many teens believe vaping is now safe, but we still do not have all the answers and teens need to beware of these facts. They also need to be aware that using some drugs just once can cause someone to die or become addicted. Again they need the real facts so they can make responsible choices. For example, antidepressants and drugs for ADHD do not interact well with street dugs such as molly or pink and can result in death.

These are a few examples of what parents of teenagers face today. My best advice is not to avoid the subjects. Look at this as an opportunity to improve your communication with your teenager and to ensure they are getting the appropriate information. You cannot stop what they will encounter or do once they walk out your front door, but you can do your best to prepare them and to let them know you are always there no matter what. If they make a mistake, you prefer to help them deal with it appropriately rather than hide it from you.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.