The High School Prom in 2023

The High School Prom in 2023

Yes it is that time of year again — Prom Season. Since there has been a significant decrease in Coronavirus cases, many schools are having Junior Proms and Senior Balls again. However, there is a difference in the junior or seniors currently in High School. Many are tired of being locked up and missing out on their high school experience. Therefore, many teens cannot wait for the chance to go to the prom. Since it has been a while that teenagers have attended a high school dance, girls are wanting the perfect dress, regardless of price, and teens are wanting to go to a very nice expensive restaurant and use a limo. However for many students the common issues are coming up such as, who will I go with, what dress to wear and how much can I spend, where to go to dinner, can we afford a limo and can I go to the after parties? So some teenagers are just focusing on their freedom and others are focused on their freedom too, but they are worried about financial issues too. This is no surprise since inflation is high and many families are struggling to afford food and shelter. Hopefully, you and your teen have already discussed issues around dating and have agreements regarding dating. If not, Prom may be a harder issue because now you have to deal with issues regarding dating and Prom.

As a parent, the first thing to do is to contact your teen’s High School and see what rules and guidelines the school has already established. Many High Schools have rules regarding who can attend, such as only students who attend that high school can attend, a dress code (such as how low cut a dress can be or colors for tuxedos) and some high schools require you to inform them if you are going and your date’s name and the telephone numbers for both set of parents. They do this so if your teen fails to arrive by the designated time or if there are any problems at the Prom, they know who to call. If you have a teenager who wants to go without a date and just go with friends you need to ask if this is acceptable. If you have a teenager who belongs to the LGBT+ community, you will want to enquirer about what protocols the school has established so your teenager can attend the dance safety and enjoy it. Luckily, most high schools now allow students to attend the Prom with a date, friends or just by themselves. Additionally, most schools (despite the governor of Florida) do not place restrictions on LBGT+ students and many high schools are actively trying to make it a safe place for LGBTQ+ teens. Therefore, most high schools are attempting to accommodate all of the students attending their school. This is a nice change to see.

Another reason to contact the school is to find out where the Prom is being held. Due to the number deaths associated with alcohol or drug use, and now with the concern about the virus, and mass shootings, a number of high schools have decided to have the entire Prom on the school campus. They serve dinner and have the dance at the school. Once you have the details then it is time to discuss with your teen what your expectations are regarding the Prom. This is also the time where you will set the rules for the Prom and make your agreements with your teen.

Assuming the Prom is not being held at the campus and instead being held at a Hotel, there are a few items to discuss. The first issue is price. Most teens want to go to an expensive dinner, hire a limo for the night and for the girls there is the Prom dress. I have seen teens spend over $2,000 on their Prom dresses. A limo for the night can cost $2000 and dinner can cost $350. If you have this money and are willing to indulge your teen then there is no problem. However, most parents don’t have this extra money so you need to agree on a budget. For example, a limo is not a necessity for the Prom. As a parent you may feel safer with a limo because your teen is not driving. Also there is a law and limos cannot carry liquor when they are driving for Proms and they must card anyone consuming alcohol in the limo and passengers must use seat belts. You can bring the price down by having your teen split the cost of the car with 2 to 3 other couples. However, you will want to talk to the parents of your teen’s date and any friends they are going with to ensure all the parents agree.

Another option is letting your teenager pay for part of their prom. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to contribute to the cost of their prom. In fact, it is a good way to educate them about money. If they are having to spend their own money, they may choose some cheaper options. This is a good way to start teaching your teen about managing money. You can have your teen purchase the prom tickets, pay for the dinner, girls can pay for part of their dress and boys can pay to rent a tuxedo and for a corsage for their date. As a parent you may want to help with the limo, if they are using one, and the Prom pictures. Some teenagers may need some help budgeting money and parents can help teens with figuring out ways to budget and less expensive options for some items. For example, parents can suggest a very nice restaurant that is not very expensive.

If you have a daughter you need to negotiate the cost of the dress or consider renting a dress. In my opinion she does not need to spend $500 on a dress or more to look good. The same rule goes for her hair. She does not need to spend $300 on styling her hair for one night. She can rent a dress and there are beauticians who do not charge as much but still do an excellent job.

You also need to talk with your teen regarding your expectations about consuming alcohol, using drugs and sexual activity on Prom night. Many teens plan After Parties for their Proms. Quite often at the After Parties is where the drinking, drug use or sexual activity occurs. This is another reason why it is important to know who your teen will be going with to the Prom and their parents. You should never allow your teen to go to an After Party where there is no adult supervision. If the party is at a friend’s house with adult supervision and you have spoken with the adult, there should be no problem. If your teen wants to rent a hotel room so their date and their friends can have a party, this is a huge problem and should not be allowed. There are too many incidents where teens overdose, drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, get pregnant or trash the hotel room. Most hotels will not rent a room to someone under 18, but many teens find away around this rule using friends or cousins who are 18 years or older. Also some parents will rent the room for their teen because they want to be viewed as the nice parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest and some times you need to make an unpopular decision because that is what is best for your teenager. This is also a reason why you would want to talk to the parents of the friends your teenager is going to the Prom with. You may want to ask if any of the parents agreed to rent a hotel room.

Another issue to discuss is curfew. Yes it is their Prom and you want them to have a good time, but there is no reason why they need to stay out the entire night or for the entire weekend. If there is adult supervision the entire time it may work. If there is not adult supervision it is a recipe for disaster. Yes some parents plan a breakfast for the morning after the prom. They may serve breakfast at 4 am. If there are plans such as these, your teen could simply text you at some point that everything is going fine. No one needs to know that they checked in with you.

One other issue you need to be prepared for is if your teen does not have a date for the Prom. This can be devastating to a teenager. If this occurs reassure them that it means nothing about them as a person and allow them to express their feelings. Many schools are realizing how much pressure having a date is placing on teenagers and some teens are not ready to date in High School. Therefore, as I stated above, a number of High Schools have changed policies regarding the Prom. Many schools allow teens to make a choice. If they want to take a date they can or if they do not want to take a date and just go with friends that is fine. So if your teen does not have a date and the school does not require one explain not everyone is ready to date in High School and there is nothing wrong with them. Reinforcing their self-esteem can be very important because as a teen many teenager’s self-esteem are fragile and they need your support.

As I stated above for teenagers who are questioning their sexuality or who have decided they are not heterosexual, the prom can present additional challenges. Some High Schools have LGBT+ clubs so there probably won’t be an issue. However, many high schools do not have LGBT+ clubs. If your teenager has decided they are not heterosexual, then I suggest you call the High School and see what arrangements have been made for LGBT+ students. They have the same right to attend the Prom as the other students.

Finally, you need to have a discussion with your teen regarding acting responsibly and to have self-respect. The Prom is a major event and it is another step that your teen is taking into the adult world. They need to remember if they want to act like adults, they have to be willing to accept being treated like an adult. So if they violate the rules that their school has established for the Prom, they may be giving up their right to graduate with their class. The Prom should be a happy event that you and your teen both remember for a long time. If you discuss the issues before the Prom and come to agreements that you both accept then it should be a safe, happy event for all. Good luck!

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teenagers, their parents and high schools. He has been treating teenagers for over 25 years. For more information on his work visit his website, his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

We cannot Afford Spring Break

We cannot Afford Spring Break

Spring break is around the corner and high school students are wondering where their family will be going. Many college freshmen are hoping their parents will give them enough money so they can go to Mexico or Florida. Many high school and college students feel they are entitled to spring break because they have to work hard in school.

However, schools including public schools now cost money for such things as sports. The economy has changed since the pandemic and prices have increased for many things especially food.

Every family cannot afford a vacation over spring break or to pay for their college students to go on a trip. Many parents are not sure how to approach this subject and many feel guilty because they cannot afford a vacation right now. Parents are doing their best and do not need to feel guilty. The cost of living has increased dramatically and paying for your child’s education is more important than a vacation.

Here are some ways to explain it and also things to be grateful for even if you are not going on a trip

While it may be difficult to explain it’s important for teenagers and college students to learn they cannot spend more than they have to spend. Also learning to be grateful for the benefits you have such as a house, car, food and family, is very important for teenagers. If you are always looking at what you don’t have and never appreciate what you have you will likely end up living an unhappy life.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website or his Facebook page at

Saving the Lockdown Generation

Saving the Lockdown Generation

Last week students from Michigan State University were testifying in front of the Michigan State Senate for safe and sane gun control. What these college students had to say was scary, heart breaking and making me wonder does our Country care about teenagers at all? These brave college students testified that in 2023, guns were the number one cause of death for teenagers in the United States (CDC). According to CDC data the number of people under 19 years old who were killed by a gun increased by 30% from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, the cause of death for 45,000 children under 19 years old was a gun. Imagine 45,000 children lost their lives in 2020 due to guns and yet our Country fails to act to protect children from gun violence. The Gun Violence Archive documented that the United States has already had over 100 mass gun shootings by the first week of March 2023 and we have just started the year. The Gun Violence Archive reported they have never had so many mass shootings so fast in one year and every year the number of mass shootings is increasing.

The students in Michigan referred to themselves as “the lockdown generation.” They reported how all through school they have had to practice to lockdown and shelter in place in case of a school shooting. In fact, for many students at the Michigan State University shooting this was not their first experience with a school shooting. Many had experienced previous school shootings in high school and had to lockdown and shelter in place until the police came to rescue them. The idea of having to experience your school being a victim of a mass shooter once is a nightmare, but having to experience it twice! I cannot think of words to describe it. The extraordinary and amazing thing about these students is despite living through this terror twice in their lives, they were returning to classes. They did testify to the Michigan State Senate that they were entitled to be able to attend school without fearing for their lives and they had a right to live a full life without injuries from being shot or having to live with the life long trauma of seeing friends and teachers killed in front of them.

Besides the students, what about the parents and families? Living through this trauma once is amazing, but having to do it twice? How do we expect parents to be able to allow their children to go to school not knowing if they will see them again?

Besides the deaths and physical injuries that mass shootings and guns are causing, what about the psychological trauma, anxiety and depression being caused by guns? As gun violence has increased so has the need for therapy for teenagers experiencing PTSD, anxiety, depression and the suicide rate has also increased significantly. We cannot expect children under the age of 19 years old to be able to handle this amount of stress and trauma when their frontal lobes of their brains do not fully develop until the age of 25. The frontal lobes help a person with reasoning and trying to understand abstract concepts. A person needs the ability of their frontal lobes to try to grasp what is happening or has happened during a shooting, but teenagers don’t have that skill yet.

Additionally, we are not providing teenagers with the mental health recovery they need after experiencing gun violence at their school, in their neighborhood or just hearing too much about it during the news. The number of teenagers being diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression are at epidemic rates (CDC). Additionally, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers and using a gun is the number one method. Furthermore, we have seen a significant increase in drug overdose deaths in teenagers (CDC)

However, while this is occurring many insurance companies are denying claims and increasing copayments so many families cannot afford psychotherapy. Most therapists I know are overwhelmed with the number of people seeking therapy for teenagers. The situation is so bad that companies have been formed that are calling therapists on behalf of parents and school districts seeking therapy for teenagers.

How can we justify letting gun violence get so out of hand that children are having to be hospitalized, but we do not have enough psychiatric hospital beds or outpatient psychotherapists to treat the teenagers who desperately need help. Even as we see the situation getting worse by the day, our government does not act. We have Governors arguing to ban classic books and trying to stop teachers from using certain words which teachers need to use if they are going to include all of their students and doing nothing to stop gun violence.

I think we have our priorities in the wrong order. Also politicians are not psychotherapists. I think the politicians need to listen to the mental health professionals and the families begging for help and make the changes we really need to make. We politicized the Coronavirus and over 1,000,000 Americans lost their lives. Please don’t politicize gun violence because the trauma teenagers are experiencing they have to live with for their entire lives. We can help them learn how to cope but we cannot change history. Also do we want to lose 1,000,000 children because they have become tired of having to cope so they overdose on drugs or Jill themselves to escape the psychological trauma and pain.

The ability to stop the overwhelming gun violence is in our hands. Only vote for politicians who have the courage to stand up to the NRA and for those who do not, vote them out of office. We need to save our children and teenagers.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work and organization he works with please visit his website at or his Facebook page at or his podcasts on Apple or Spotify.

The Importance of Family

The Importance of Family

Since technology has advanced so rapidly, many of our lives have become more complicated. One result I have observed is that we are having difficulties maintaining family connections and traditions. As a result of our fast pace world and chaotic lives we sometimes forget the importance of passing on these family traditions from generation to generation. Another problem that impacts this is our society has become very mobile. We no longer live close to our relatives. It’s not uncommon for grandchildren to live in California and grandparents to live back east. Also with jobs becoming more difficult to find and the cost of living increasing families are moving where ever they can find a job or to a place to live that is affordable.

The month of February is dedicated to Black History, however, it also addresses the importance of contact between generations. Black History month has many goals. It is a way to acknowledge what Black Americans have contributed to the United States and also a way to remember the struggles they faced due to discrimination. Therefore, it is also away to establish pride in younger Black Americans by helping them to become aware of their history and to remember their history and the struggles. By helping the younger generations remember their past, a bridge is being connected to their past generations which shows how the prior generations helped Black Americans achieve what they have achieved and are achieving today.

Now since many families are not living close to each other, family members cannot provide the support they could in the past, such as watching grandchildren after school. Additionally, children cannot as easily establish close relationships with grandparents and aunts and uncles, the same way as when they lived close by. These adults could serve as additional role models and inform parents if something seemed off with the child. They were also able to spend additional time with the children and reinforce what parents were teaching their children and reinforce the family traditions and values.

The other thing that the close connection to generations provided was a sense of security. If there was a problem a child knew they could turn to their parents, aunts or uncles or cousins. It also helped a child’s self-esteem. You had the adults who could reinforce that you were worthy and you had cousins who would defend you at school or in the neighborhood because you were worth it. Also your older cousins could help you learn what to expect as you went from grade to grade. There was a sense of support and security that most children don’t have today. Furthermore, children with support from extended family members are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

The advancement in computers and communication may provide a way to try to recreate this sense of family. With such things as Skype and Zoom, where you can talk and see the other person, it’s almost like being with the person, but it is not the same. Children can Skype with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins too. We just have to make time for it. For those families that live close to each other, you need to remember the value of family and make time for family. At times it may be difficult, but you will find that the time and effort are worth it. I have found that children with close family ties and connections to their cultures do better in school and life. They have a sense of pride and a sense of where the came from that other children don’t. Additionally, research has shown that families who eat dinner together have less mental health problems. Furthermore, research shows that children who are connected to their family generations have better self-esteem as adults.

I have attached a link to an article which is about sharing traditions with family. Check out this article from First 5 LA:

I think you will find it interesting.

Finally, I think we can learn a lesson from Black History Month. Knowing where you came from and the issues your grandparents and great grandparents struggled with is important information for everyone and parents should take time to educate their children about family history. In addition to maintaining bonds between the generations. Another issue which points out that this is important for someone’s mental health is children who were adopted. Most adopted children around the age of 20 years old do seek out information regarding their biological families. They typically say they have a need to know about themselves. They love the families who adopted them, but it doesn’t answer the question who am I?

Dr Michael Rubino has been working with children/teens, their families, trauma victims including first responders for over 25 years. For more information at Dr Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites at, or his Facebook page

Facts about IEPs and 504 plans that Parents Need to Know

Facts about IEPs and 504 plans that Parents Need to Know

It is getting close to the time of the school year when IEPs are re-evaluated and when schools are deciding if students need an IEP. I am also already getting emails regarding IEPs that school districts failed to complete so far and some parents are being told they will not get an answer until after the summer. Additionally some parents are already being told that they will need to wait until after the summer to have their child assessed for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). Parents are having difficulties arranging meetings and getting specific answers what will be included in their child’s IEP or is the school going to offer them a 504 plan instead. The IEP process is difficult under normal conditions. Unfortunately, many school districts are using the pandemic as a way to stall the process. For many parents this can become very overwhelming and confusing. Additionally, 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.