Helping Kids Cope with Today’s World

Helping Kids Cope with Today’s World

We are expecting children and teenagers to cope with and adjust to a a number of teenagers. One main issue is the pandemic and Coronavirus. They have had to deal with remote learning and then all of a sudden they are expected to go back to school. In addition to the changes in school many teenagers are dealing with the deaths of parents, grandparents and other people close to them. In addition they were locked in their houses for a year without being able to see friends. This is a lot for children and teenagers to adjust to.

Now we are starting to reopen the Country and children and teenagers again have to cope with mass shootings again. Therefore, they are dealing with more people dying and afraid that they may be killed too. As of today, June 13th, there have been 270 Nass shootings. This is a significant increase from 2019. We have experienced a 65% increase in Nass shootings since 2019 and the year is only half over (Gun Violence Archive).

Teenagers and children are also seeing a tremendous increase in violence in our Country. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased significantly and so have hate crimes against people who are Jewish (CDC). In addition there is violence occurring around people having to wear face masks in certain situation. A flight attendant on Southwest Airlines had her front teeth punched out of her mouth by a passenger because she asked him to wear a masks. Besides people arguing about face masks, they are arguing about the Coronavirus vaccinations which ever Public Health Professional states we need to overcome this pandemic. However, we are hearing people purpose crazy ideas such as the vaccinations will make you magnetic and Bill Gates has placed mico chips in the vaccines. The pandemic is scary enough without people making up insane conspiracies that may scare children.

Add to these issues such things as the violent attack on the US Capital Building and we have children and teenagers living in a chaotic environment. To add to the pressure we are expecting children and teenagers to simply adjust to all the chaos. We expect them to ignore it and go on like nothing has changed. Children and teenagers are expected to be able to achieve at school and not act out due to the chaos in their lives.

It’s not realistic and it’s not happening. There is a significant increase in the number of teenagers and children reporting anxiety disorders and depression. Additionally, we have seen an increase in the number of teenagers committing suicide and dying from drug overdoses. Teenagers and children are desperately looking for a peaceful environment. In my office we have seen an increase by a factor of 20 of teenagers and children seeking therapy due to the chaos. We must provide teenagers and children with mental health care and sane gun laws to help them cope with this chaos they are experiencing.

I have included a link to an article which provides suggestions parents can try to help their children and teenagers cope with the chaos we are living in currently. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/57946/striving-or-thriving-steps-to-help-kids-find-balance-and-purpose.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims. For more information regarding his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenagers Learn About Life by Making Mistakes

Teenagers Learn About Life by Making Mistakes

Dealing with teenagers, at times, can be very difficult for parents, especially when teenagers think they have all the answers. In my experience as a psychotherapist who has been working with teenagers as for over 20 years, I am a strong believer in allowing teenagers to learn from their mistakes. When they make mistakes there are consequences that follow these mistakes. From my experience, teenagers need to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from the consequences. I know some parents try to warn their teenagers about potential mistakes. However, many teenagers feel they know more than you. Therefore, allowing them to make mistakes is the only way some teenagers learn that their actions have considered .

As I just stated, teenagers being allowed to make mistakes helps to teach teenagers that their actions have consequences. They also put responsibility for the mistake on to the teenager. Therefore, they cannot blame parents or teachers for their mistakes. They have to deal with the consequences of the choices they made. They cannot blame you because they made the choice not you.

As a way to help teenagers learn from their mistakes is to set up a behavior contract. A written contract which specifies the consequences for your teenager when they make a mistake saves a lot of arguments. A written construct signed by you and your teenagers which spells out their consequences, if they make a mistake or poor decision can save you and your teenager a lot of arguments. Also it helps your teenager to take responsibility for their actions because the contact focuses on their choices only.

While I believe contracts and consequences work well with teenagers, some parents have difficulties. I often hear from parents that their teenager doesn’t care about the consequences or the contract. The parents find this very frustrating. Therefore, I have listed below suggestions that can help you improve the odds of a contract and consequences working with your teenager.

1. Use Consequences That Have Meaning

It’s almost never effective to give your child a consequence in the heat of an argument. Often, parents will be either too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind immediately. I advise parents to sit down and write a Consequences List and then discuss it with your teenager. If they are included in the process, the likelihood of success is higher. When compiling a list of consequences, remember that you want the consequence to be things that will get your teenagers attention, because you want your child to learn from the consequences. If, like most teens, your teenager acts like they cannot live without their cellphone, don’t hesitate to use losing use of their cellphone as a consequence. It’s also important to think about what you want him to learn—and this lesson should be attached to the consequence. So let’s say your teenager swears at his younger siblings all the time. Obviously you want him to stop swearing and use more appropriate language. Therefore, an effective consequence would be that he would lose his cellphone for 2 days. This gives him time to think about other ways he can handle his behavior. You may even try talking with him about other ways to handle himself instead of swearing.

2. Don’t Try to Appeal to Charge A Teenager’s Behavior with Speeches

Yes as a parent you are trying to teach and educate your teenager about how to act and treat others as adults so they can function in the world. However, remember your teenager thinks they know everything about today’s world and you are out of touch with today’s world. Therefore, if you try lecturing or speeches, they automatically tune you out and don’t listen to what you are saying. When everything is calm, you might try mentioning to them that you would like to talk with them. An informal conversation, especially with boys, tends to be more effective than a lecture.

3. Make Consequences Black and White

When you give a consequence, the simpler you keep things, the better. Again, you don’t want to get into legalese or long speeches. What you want to do is lay out your consequences for your teenager’s inappropriate behavior very clearly. It’s often helpful if he knows ahead of time what will happen when he acts out. Just like there are speeding signs on the highway, the consequences for your teenager’s behavior should be clear to him. Therefore, using a contract allows you to make it clear to your teenager if they make this choice then here is the consequence. Also by having them sign the contract, they cannot say they were not aware of the rules. Also it removes you as the bad guy. You are not imposing a punishment, you are simply complying with the contact that you made with your teenager. I often point out to teenagers that the contract is an insurance policy for them. If they make a mistake, their parents have to stick with the contract. Therefore, if their parents were really upset at the moment and wanted to remove their cellphone for ever, but the contract only states a week, their parents have to go with the week. This often helps with getting teenagers to accept the contract.

4. Have Problem-Solving Conversations

I think it’s vitally important to have problem-solving conversations with your teenager after an incident has occurred. Obviously, you want to wait until everyone is calm. When everyone has settled down then try a conversation about what they can do differently or help they can ask for if a similar situation occurs and this may help them avoid making a mistake and getting into trouble again in the future.

Conversations like these are how you get your teenager to think about alternative solutions to problems which can help them make better choices. Also reminding them that they can ask for help can be a tremendous help. Often teenagers think that they must solve all their problems on their own. Teenagers, especially boys, look at asking for help as a sign of weakness. It is helpful to remind them that no one has all the answers and at times the mature thing to do is to ask for help. Therefore, asking for help is not always a sign of weakness.

5. Don’t Get Sucked into an Argument over Consequences

Don’t take the bait every time your teenager is trying to argue with you. Most teenagers verbal skills are not fully developed. However, most teenagers know if they can get you into an argument that the original topic will get lost and you end up arguing about something else. It’s not that teenagers have this planned out in their heads, but as I said their verbal skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they feel more comfortable in an argument because those skills are developed and they have some idea how to handle the situation. Therefore, if you are getting pulled into an argument call a time out and say you prefer to discuss the issue when you are both calm. This will surprise them and hopefully cause them to think about the situation.

6. Don’t Teach Your Child How to “Do Time”

Many parents get frustrated and ground their kids for long periods of time in order to make the punishment stick. Personally, I think that’s a mistake. If you simply ground your child, you’re teaching him nothing. But if you ground him until he accomplishes certain things, you can increase the effectiveness of the consequence. So if your teenager loses his video game privileges for 24 hours, he should be doing something within that time frame that helps him improve his behavior. Simply grounding him from his video games for a week will just teach him how to wait until he can get them back. He is not learning anything about the mistake he made and he is also learning nothing about how he could have handled the situation differently. Again, we want consequences to be learning experiences. A consequence that doesn’t fit the crime will just seem meaningless to your child, and won’t get you the desired result. Remember, you don’t want to be so punitive that your child simply gives up. That will never translate to better behavior.

7. Engage Your Child’s Self-interest

Learn to ask questions in ways that appeal to your child’s self-interest. So for example, you might say, “What are you going to do the next time you think Dad is being unfair so you won’t get into trouble?” In other words, you’re trying to engage his self-interest. If your child is a teenager, he won’t care about how Dad feels. Adolescents are frequently very detached from that set of feelings. They might feel guilty and say they’re sorry later, but you’ll see the behavior happen again. So learn to appeal to their self- interest, and ask the question, “What can you do so you don’t get in trouble next time?”

8. How Will I Know If a Consequence Is Working?

Parents often say to me, “My child acts like he doesn’t care. So how do I know if the consequence I’m giving him is actually working?” I always tell them, “It’s simple—you’ll know it’s working because he’s being held accountable.” Accountability gives you the best chance for change.

9. Some Things Should Never Be Used as Consequences

In my opinion, there are certain things that should never be taken away from kids. For instance, you should never prohibit your child from going to the prom. Not ever. That’s a milestone in your child’s life; personally, I think that milestones should not be taken away. Your child is not going to learn anything from that experience. Unless the mistake was so big such as robbing someone then you may need to go that far. I recommend using your own judgment regarding how your teenager acts before making this a consequence.

The same approach should be taken for sport. Teenagers can learn a great deal from sports. However, if they make a severe mistake missing a practice or a game maybe an appropriate consequence. However, removing them from the team all together maybe a mistake. However, remember the coach has the ultimate power over his players. Many teams have a code of conduct that players must follow. Therefore, if they violate the coaches rules, they maybe removed from the team. This will impact them more than if you did it.

10. Don’t Show Disgust or Disdain

When giving consequences to your teenager, you need to be consistent and firm, but don’t show disgust or disdain. If you are attacking them as a person, their sense of self is not fully developed yet. As a result, you may inflict a wound to their self-esteem that may cause more problems than you intended. You are trying to raise someone who can function as a healthy adult, not somebody who feels they’re a constant disappointment to you. It’s very important to shape your behavior so that your child knows you’re not taking his mistakes personally. Remember, the look on your face and the tone of your voice communicates a lot more to your child than your words do. Positive regard is critical for getting your message across.

It’s important to remember that life is very tough for many teenagers, especially with Nass shootings and the Coronavirus. Going to school is difficult, both academically and socially, and there is tremendous pressure on children and teens to perform today. Personally, We need to remember that and teenagers should be recognized and respected for what they have to deal with in today’s world. Think of it this way: what you’re really trying to do is work on your child’s behavior to get him to try to do different things. So if your child misbehaves and you ground him from everything indefinitely, you’re losing sight of all the other things he did right—and he will, too.

Consequences have shown to be an effective way to help teenagers learn what is appropriate and not appropriate. It is an approach I strongly believe in. Hopefully these tips will help you use consequences effectively with your teenager.

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

Dad’s are Important to a Child’s Development

Dad’s are Important to a Child’s Development

We have all heard very often how important a mother is to a child especially a young child. While this is true Dads are just as important to children and young children. I say Dad because any man can father a child, but it takes work to be a Dad to a child.

Because of the stereotype we have about men in our culture, Dads are often not considered to be important in children’s lives. We tend to focus on mothers and what they provide children. Also because men tend to work a lot and have a tendency not to express emotions, many people assume Dads are usually not emotionally available to children.

However, if we look at the stereotype it also demonstrates why Dads are important. Dads are the male role models to their sons. Dads teach their sons how to treat women, their wives and their children. They teach their sons how a man is supposed to act in relationships and react to people in general.

Dads are also role models for their daughters. Their daughters see how their Dads treat their Moms. This is the first example girls have of how they should be treated in an intimate relationship. If their Dad is verbally and physically abusive, they will most likely expect their boyfriend or husband to treat them that way. Additionally, if girls are exposed to a Dad who is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive, they are more likely to have low self-esteem as adults and be bullied as a child. Boys also are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and be bullies, if their Dad is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.

Additionally, boys tend to look for validation from their Dads that they are doing a good job developing into an adult man. If their Dad is not emotionally available, many boys interpret this as they are a failure to their Dad and they become hurt and angry. Since men and boys tend to have difficulties expressing their emotions, because men don’t express sadness or similar emotions, they tend to express these emotions as anger. In other words, boys and men tend to project their pain onto others.

If we change our mind set and see how valuable a Dad is to kids then may be Dads can start meeting the emotional needs of their children and families. However, this requires men to stop living up to the stereotype society has about how men are supposed to act. Since men tend to focus on the stereotype about male behavior, they tend to pass this stereotype on to their sons.

I have a friend who was able to ignore the male stereotype and write a wonderful poem to his son. He wanted his son never to doubt how he felt about him and he wanted to make sure he shared it with his son. What a tremendous gift he gave to his son! Also what a fantastic role model he is being to his son about how to be a Dad.

I asked for his permission to print it here and he graciously said yes. I hope other Dads will read this and share a gift like this with their son or daughter. Also I hope it helps to eliminate the false stereotypes we have about Dads.

I never want this to go unsaid, about my son,

So here in this poem, for all to hear

There are no words to express how much you mean to me,

with a smile upon my face, and warm feelings in my heart, I must declare!

A son like you, always polite and full of joy,I thought could never be.

Since the day you were born, I just knew you were like a mini me,

from your first breath I knew,

God sent me a blessing- and that was you.

For this I thank him every day,

You are the true definition of a son, in every way.

Your kindness and caring with love for all,

you give my life meaning, for us to share.

Becoming your father has shown me a new sense of being.

I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,

Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.

Always remember that I know how much you care,

I can tell by the bond that we share.

For a son like you there could be no other,

And whether we are together or apart,

Please do not ever forget-

You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience working with children & teens. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

High School Graduation is an Emotional Time Especially this Year

High School Graduation is an Emotional Time Especially this Year

This year many schools are having graduation ceremonies. Due to the success of the vaccines, the CDC has acknowledged that it would be safe to hold graduation ceremonies. This is very different from last year when graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the Coronavirus. While schools are having graduation ceremonies, they will most likely be different for the graduates. It will be different because for many of the graduates the last year and half they were attending school remotely. For many students they returned to school for the last two months of the school year. While the class of 2021 did not have the typical path through school, they still completed school and deserve to celebrate with family and friends at their graduations. The Coronavirus will most likely make this year’s graduations different than past years, it is still a time to honor the graduates of 2021. For many graduates their graduation may not be what they expected due to the death of a parent, grandparent or someone else in their lives due to the Coronavirus.

As I stated for many high school graduates, this year graduation ceremonies will be somewhat differently emotionally. However, High School graduation still marks a big accomplishment for teenagers. They have finished their basic education and they are ready to move on to their life plans as a young adult. For many students this means going to a four year college and earning a Bachelors degree. In addition, many graduates will be celebrating scholarships they received and awards they received for their academic or other accomplishments in high school. They also have friends and family there to join them in celebrating their accomplishments. Of course this is a happy day and it deserves to be celebrated.

While this is the stereotype we think about regarding graduation, it’s not the reality for every student. Some students have worked very hard and maintained very good grades, but they did not get accepted into a college they can afford and they did not receive any awards or scholarships. Instead of going to a four year university, they will need to attend the local two year junior college and try to transfer into a four year university. Other students who have learning disabilities are just barely graduating and had to wait to the last minute to see if the past all of their classes. Some did not pass and they have to go to summer school so they may be allowed to participate in the ceremony but they are not finished yet. These students do not get to live the stereotype and often feel embarrassed and ashamed when they compare themselves to the other students in their graduating class.

I had also mentioned celebrating with family and friends. For some students this can be very difficult. If their parents had a hostile divorce, the divorce may be being dragged into the graduation. Instead of a celebration, the parents may be making the graduation a civil war. The graduate may be forced to take sides in regards to who they can invite to the ceremony. Do they invite mom’s side or dad’s side. This can change a happy event into a very stressful event the graduate does not want to be involved in. For some graduates a mother or father has passed away and graduation day is another reminder that this very special person is no longer physically present. Therefore, graduation may be a stressful or sad day.

Another aspect that is overlooked is graduation is an ending. It marks the end of a teenager’s high school experience. Many teens have been very involved with their school and have developed close relationships with teachers and school staff and they have developed very close friendships with their classmates. Graduation marks an end to their high school life. They need to say goodbye to these people and move on to a school they do not know and may not know anyone else who is attending their college. I remember one high school secretary’s comment when she looked at the senior class, “I have never seen so many kids look so happy and sad at the same time”.

In addition to saying goodbye to their high school family, graduates need to say goodbye to their families. If they are going away to school, they will no longer living with their parents or siblings. While they may complain about their families, they will miss them too. Mom and Dad will miss their graduated too. So while traditional we tend to only focus on the positive, which is not uncommon for our society, we also need to acknowledge that graduation marks an ending too. An ending to their high school family, friends they have created and to their high school activities along with a change in the graduates life. They no longer are a high school kid. They are a college student and a young adult and need to start their lives all over. This will have happy moments and sad one too. It’s important to acknowledge both.

While high school students will be starting their lives over, I have included a small segment of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. It empathizes that you need to define yourself, don’t let others try to decide who are going to be in life https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1294330473977473?s=1391497228&v=e&sfns=mo.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and adolescents. He has appeared on television and radio shows and is considered an expert in adolescent psychology. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.