How Dads Help Children & Teenagers

How Dads Help Children & Teenagers

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 25 years experience working with children & teens and trauma victims including first responders. 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 his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

When Will We Value the Lives of Children?

When Will We Value the Lives of Children?

Do we have our priorities straight? On May 24, 2022, 19 children were brutally murdered at their elementary school by a mass shooter. The children’s bodies were so torn up by the assault weapon that parents had to provide DNA samples so the corner could identify the bodies. All the funerals had to have closed caskets because the children’s bodies were too mutilated to have an open casket. Today is only June 5th and there have already been over 300 mass shootings since the shooting in Texas on May 24th (Gun Violence Archive). Even with these numbers of shootings and people being injured and killed, the Republicans in the Senate cannot vote for safer, sane gun laws.

These shootings are not new to our Country. In 1999, there was the Columbine High School shooting, then the Sandy Hook Elementary School, then the Parkland High School shooting and now the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas. This is not a complete list of school shootings. Besides schools there have been mass shootings in churches and shopping malls. Every time we see this is enough and we need to reform gun laws. However, the Republicans in the Senate have continued to debate gun reform laws or to vote on any gun reform laws to protect children. All they do are to offer thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers are not going to solve the problem. It reminds me of the man who drowns and he asked God, why didn’t you answer my prayers and safe me. God said I sent a two boats and a plane but you refused them. We cannot expect God to take care of everything. We have to take action to solve the mass shooting issue too.

While we are not discussing how to protect children, there is a bill in the Senate to provide more protection for judges from mass shooters. Last year a judge’s, 20 year old son was shot at their house. Last week another judge was shot and killed at his home. The judges do not deserve to be shot, but they are public servants. People getting angry at them is part of their job. Yes they need added protection so they are not being killed, but the school children should be protected first.

The bill is being delayed in the Senate because Republican Senator Lyndsey Graham, who states the school shootings do not require gun reform, wants members of the Senate including in the bill in addition to the judges. They won’t discuss gun reform when childrens lives are at stake, but when it involves their lives we need gun reform and can discuss it.

In my opinion this is disgusting. The parents in Texas had to give DNA samples because their child’s body was so torn up that the corner could not identify them. This is happening at all the mass shootings. These AR15 guns are weapons of war and the bullet explodes inside the body tearing the body to pieces. No child deserves to die this way and no parent should have to hear we need DNA to identify their child. The Senators and judges are public servants and people do make threats against them. It is part of their jobs. Given this fact, we should be protecting our children first.

However, we are not protecting our children. The Republicans in the Senate are using their positions to protect themselves first and the children may be one day. Remember Columbine occurred in 1999. We have been waiting since 1999 for gun reform to protect children. A judge’s son was killed 23 months ago and there is already a bill on the Senate floor. Children and families have been waiting for 23 years for the Senate to protect children. The judges and Senators only had to wait less than 2 years. What is wrong with our priorities when we will allow children to die for 23 years and not doing anything seriously to protect children, but when the Senators and judges are at risk, they move with lightning speed. No one is just offering judge’s thoughts and prayers. The Republican Senators are acting to protect the judges, but do nothing for the children.

Parents need to act. Parents need to call Senators and demand that they put the children first. The must demand that the Senate pass safe, sane gun reform that will protect children. They need to focus on the children before they focus saving their own lives. Look at how many mass shootings have been occurring. Do you want a corner to ask you for a DNA sample so they can identify your child’s body. It can happen easier than you think. Look at how many mass shootings have been occurring and they are happening every where. We need safe, sane gun reform today! Please do not let the Republican Senators drag their feet. The next shooting may involve someone you love and then it will be too late.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Dealing with Father’s Day when Dad is gone

Dealing with Father’s Day when Dad is gone

Many people assume Father’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their father. However, due to the pandemic and deaths due to the pandemic, Father’s Day this year maybe a very difficult day. We have many adults and children who are grieving the death of their father or grandfather due to the coronavirus. Therefore, making it a sad day for them. Remember over 1,000,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus. Many people who died were fathers and grandfathers so there will be a lot of grieving families this Father’s Day. Additionally with the number of mass shootings, people may be grieving the death of a father or grandfather. Also if it was a school shooting, fathers may be grieving the lost of a child or a spouse. Again making Father’s Day a difficult day, not a happy day.

In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Father’s Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people their father may have died when they were children. For some people their father may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their mother raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their father. Finally, many people have lost their fathers, grandfathers and uncles over the year due to cancer, heart attacks and other diseases. Therefore, Father’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day. They were raised without biological family and feel left out of Father’s Day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the recent death of their father. As I stated above, some children may have a father who died from the Coronavirus, cancer or in a mass shooting. Other fathers may have left the family due to a drug problem and are not involved with the family any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school or summer day camp are making Father’s Day gifts it can be difficult for children whose fathers have died or left the family.

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

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

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

This approach can help children whose father has left the family too. Many children may believe their father will return one day. Confronting this belief around Father’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their father, allow them to do it.

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

Also as I stated above, with the mass shootings many fathers may be grieving the loss of their child or spouse. They may have had their child’s funeral the day before. Again, remember this is a very difficult time for a parent or spouse so allow them the freedom to deal with the day the way they want. Being there and being supportive is the best thing you can do for Fathers who are grieving and for children who are grieving.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

How to Help Kids and Parents Cope with the Mass shootings

How to Help Kids and Parents Cope with the Mass shootings

Unfortunately, with a mass shooting occurring every day in the United States (CDC), adults, teens and children are having to deal with grief on a regular basis. In addition to family members and friends, first responders such as EMTs and Emergency Room staff are dealing with grief due to these mass shootings. Adults may have an idea how to deal with grief, but teenagers and children do not. Our society does not deal with death in a healthy manner. Therefore, many people do not know what to do for or what to say to someone who is grieving. Many patients have asked me about what to do in these situations. While doing research regarding grief for patients, I found this information from the grief center.

This last week and this weekend have really shined a light on the problem of mass shootings. There was the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, another one at a church in California and the most shocking one the shooting at the elementary school in Texas killing 21 mostly 10 year old children. Additionally, we have already had another 3 mass shootings during the Memorial Day weekend. To add to the trauma, the NRA held their convention in Texas near the elementary school and had the nerve to tell people that we don’t have a gun problem and we are imagining it. This type of insane rhetoric only make the grief and trauma that people are experiencing worse.

Since all of these shootings have been being covered by the news, children are well aware of these shootings and are asking questions and having emotional reactions. These mass shootings are a very hard subject to explain to kids who are asking about these shootings and are they safe. As I researched this topic, I found information from the Grief Center and I think it is very good information and very easy to understand. Unfortunately, it is needed at this time as we grieve for victims of the current mass shootings especially the elementary school shooting. As a result, many children and adults are feeling overwhelmed and do not know what to do right now. Therefore, I will present the Grief Center information in three sections.

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

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

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

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

1. I am so sorry for your loss.

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

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

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

5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…

6. I am always just a phone call away

7. Give a hug instead of saying something

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

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

10. Saying nothing, just be with the person

The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

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

2. He is in a better place

3. She brought this on herself

4. There is a reason for everything

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

6. You can have another child still

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

8. I know how you feel

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

10. Be strong

Best & Worst Traits of people just trying to help

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

The Best Traits

Supportive, but not trying to fix it

About feelings

Non active, not telling anyone what to do

Admitting can’t make it better

Not asking for something or someone to change feelings

Recognize loss

Not time limited

The Worst Traits

They want to fix the loss

They are about our discomfort

They are directive in nature

They rationalize or try to explain loss/li>

They may be judgmental

May minimize the loss

Put a timeline on loss

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

These mass shootings have destroyed the illusion that we are safe at home. Also since there were children killed, other children may experience a traumatic response. Children may start to have nightmares, be afraid to be left alone, be afraid of their parents going to work or they may become very quiet and just want to stay at home. The point is there are a number of reactions they can have to these events. If you are noticing a reaction, talk to them. Do not ignore their reactions. Ignoring the reactions only increases the anxiety. Remember, children have very vivid imaginations. Reassure them that you will do everything you can to keep them safe. If you are concerned about the reactions you are seeing, schedule an appointment with a child psychotherapist. Schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and trauma victims. Talking about their fears is very important. When you do not talk about their fears openly and calmly, children take this as a sign that you are too afraid to tell them how bad the situation is and their imaginations go wild. Therefore, as hard as it may be because you are worried too, talk to your children about the events.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience as a psychotherapist treating adolescents, children, their families and trauma victims including first responders. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

New Trolls Targeting Teenage Boys

New Trolls Targeting Teenage Boys

During the pandemic many teenagers spent a great deal of time on their laptops and the internet. It was really the only option they had since we were under quarantine and they could not go to many places when quarantine ended. Since teens were spending a lot of time online, many parents worried about sexual predators online and what their teenagers were being exposed to. Many teenagers feel their parents worry too much about the risks they face online. However, parents have a right to worry.

Before parents were worried about trolls who were trying to engage their teenagers into sexual encounters. However, there is a knew worry for parents. There are trolls who are targeting teenage boys. They are not trying to use the boys for sex. They are using the boys for money. The new danger is referred to as sextortion.

What the trolls are doing is emailing teenagers saying they have broken into their computer and they have copies of pornography they have looked at and videos of the boys masturbating. The boys are told if they do not send $500 or at times even more than $500, the pornography and videos will be posted online and sent to their contacts. Many boys panic because most teenage boys have looked at pornography and masturbated. This terrifies some teenage boys because they don’t want to tell their parents because it is very embarrassing to them. Unfortunately, many boys have paid these trolls and then found out they were the victim of a scam. After paying the money, the boys receive nothing and as I said they find out they are the victims of a scam.

I have had several teen boys who have received these emails or texts and they were terrified. I had them relax and we discussed the situation calmly and they were able to determine no one had hacked their computer plus they had not been watching porn while masturbating so there was no way people could have videos. However, the boys are so shocked and embarrassed by the email or text that they don’t think. Masturbation is not a subject discussed in our society. It’s also a behavior teenagers put each other down for. Therefore, the people who have developed this scheme have thought it through very well and figured out what would really scare teenagers. They definitely have found it.

Another twist to this scheme is teen boys think they are chatting with a teenage girl online. She asks for nude pictures of the boy and promises to send one of herself. Some boys send sexual poses and some send full nude pictures. Therefore, when they ask the boys for money the boys really panic. What the boys don’t realize is since they are under 18 years old the picture they sent is consider child pornography. The troll cannot do anything with the picture because if they do they can be arrested. Therefore, they are not going to do anything with it.

I do encourage boys to discuss these situations with their parents. Masturbation is normal and most parents know when their sons are masturbating. By discussing it with their parents, it can remove some of the stigma associated with sex and parents have an opportunity to discuss sex and issues associated with sex with their sons. Also it helps the teenagers understand that they can talk to them parents and that their parents can be understanding. It is very important for parents to have open, honest communication with their teenagers especially with everything going on in our Country today.

So what should parents do? Parents need to arrange a time to sit down with their teenage sons and discuss this issue of sextortion with them. Also ask if they have experienced anything like it and encourage them to tell you if they get a message on their laptops or cellphones. In addition to discussing sextortion also discuss internet and cellphone safety issues. Another issue to address is now that they are older that the consequences are more severe than when they were in fifth grade. Bottom line, it gives you an opportunity to work on keeping open, honest communication with your son and an opportunity to discuss responsibility and your family values with your son.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. To find out more about Dr. Rubino’s work please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Hate is The Real Cause of Mass Shootings

Hate is The Real Cause of Mass Shootings

The United States has an epidemic of mass shootings. No other country has the same issues with children being killed by guns as the United States. The Gun Violence Archive has estimated there have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013, roughly one per day. Since 2019 the number of shootings have increased every year (CDC). Today is only the 145th day of 2022 and already 17,169 people have been killed by guns and 111 people have been killed daily by a gun this year (Gun Violence Archive). There is no doubt that the United States has a public health problem with guns and it is getting worse.

Today in Texas, the Governor tried to blame the shooting on people mental health issues and said the answer is we need to build more mental health facilities. According to him, we need to address a crisis in the mental health system if we want to address the issue of children being killed by guns. His idea and approach to these mass shootings has only served to increase the negative stigma about mental health issues and those people who are dealing with mental health issues are less likely to seek treatment based on his ideas. Besides the solution he proposed, the language he uses reinforces the negative stigma. He was referring to people who are dealing with mental health issues in a negative manner. These shooters who have committed these terrible crimes have done horrific things to families and communities, but they are still human beings.

His idea that all mass shooters have a mental illness is ignorant and wrong. Most mass shooters have been single, white males. Additionally, the Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement documenting that most people with mental illness are dangers to themselves more than others. I have been treating people for various mental health issues for over 25 years. During that time I have dealt with many patients who were suicidal, cutting or burning themselves and trying to starve themselves to death. They were all hurting themselves and did not want anyone else to get hurt. I have never had a patient threaten to hurt others physically. Therefore, my work and the work of my other colleagues support the statement by the American Psychiatric Association. Patients with mental illnesses are rarely violent to others they tend to be dangerous to themselves. In fact, the Texas Governor has to admit that this shooter did not have a history of mental illness and was never treated for mental health issues. Therefore, his argument that mass shooters are mentally I’ll was proven wrong by shooter who attacked the school. They do need a better mental health system in Texas especially now. They need to improve their mental health system to accommodate all the mental health needs of all the children, parents are first responders who will be dealing with the trauma of yesterday’s events for life.

Many people are afraid to seek help for themselves or their teenagers for fear of what will happen if they are diagnosed with a mental health issue such as depression. They are afraid of losing health insurance, not being able to get a job or their teen may not be able to get into a college. Overall they are afraid of becoming society outcasts and losing their rights. The way the former President has referred to shooters as “sick puppies” has only served to reinforce the negative stigma about mental health issues. If he is saying people with mental health issues need to be locked up in asylums, people are going to be less likely to seek help. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers. If we take the former President’s and Governor’s approach, it will become the number one cause of teenage deaths. Demonizing mental health only stops people from seeking help.

The Governor of Texas missed a very important issue associated with mass shootings. He ignored the subject of hate. Hate is involved in many mass shootings. The shooter in Buffalo hated black people and went to where he could kill the most black people. When these shooters are investigated they all have hate towards certain groups. These mass shootings are hate crimes. Hate crimes were created for people who are victims of a crime due to their ethnic background, religion or sexuality. To be charged with a hate crime you need to hate someone not be mentally ill. The Klu Klux Klan has been terrorizing and killing people for years due to someone’s ethnicity or religion. No one has ever called a member of the KKK mentally ill. People refer to the KKK and other groups like them as hate groups not mentally ill groups. So instead of blaming mass shootings on people who have mental illnesses, why don’t we address the source of the problem? Everyone of these shooters have left writings and social media posts showing their hate for a particular group and their plans to kill as many people as they can that belong to this group. Hate is the problem.

We do not need asylums to help people with mental health issues. We need more community based programs and we need insurance companies to cover the necessary treatment a person needs if they have a mental health issues. Most people are born with mental health issues such as depression or develop an issue such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury from a car accident or being exposed to a traumatic event. Therefore, mental health issues are really not that different than physical health issues except there is funding to treat physical health issues and not enough to treat mental health issues.

If you are dealing with a mental health issue, please ignore the Republicans and seek treatment. You will not be put into an asylum. If you are having issues, the sooner you seek treatment the better. The only time a person is hospitalized is if you are actively suicidal. This means you have decided to kill yourself and have everything ready to do it. Otherwise, you do not need to worry about being hospitalized.

Please write your Senator and demand that they pass sane gun laws so children are safe to go to school. Also ask for stricter laws for perpetuators of hate crimes. Finally ask for funds for community mental health centers and mental health education. We need to educate the public about mental health issues so we can remove the stigma the President is promoting.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is also a founding member of the National Street Soldier Advisory Board, a community based program for teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

How Many Kids are Guns going to Kill?

How Many Kids are Guns going to Kill?

During the past several months there has been a significant increase in mass shootings and people being killed by guns. Already in 2022 we have an increase in the number of mass shootings compared to 2020. Currently 2020 has the most mass shootings on record for a year and currently for 2022 we are showing a 50% increase over 2020 (CDC, Brady Gunn Violence Campaign). We just had another mass shooting today in Uvlade, Texas and 18 elementary school children and 2 teachers were killed. Additionally, this past weekend 10 people were killed in Buffalo, New York and in Laguna, California one person was killed and over 8 people were injured. Moreover, over 250 people were killed by guns this past weekend in various cities such as Chicago (CDC). The weekend before there were more people killed in mass shootings by a gun. In fact, every weekend in 2022 there have been mass shootings and deaths (CDC).

As a psychotherapist who treats children and teenagers, I hear many children and teens talking about their safety at school and around town while they are playing or hanging out. Many teenagers seem to believe if they have a gun that will keep them safe. While researching this issue of gun violence, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since there has been a significant increase in mass shootings Therefore, it seems appropriate to address the issue of guns because they are a popular method of suicide. Many children who are bullied are choosing guns for suicide.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette or Orinda that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year by guns. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries. For teenagers who commit suicide, guns are the second-leading cause of death. The CDC has recently moved suicide as the third-leading cause of death for teenagers to the second-leading cause of death. This is a scary fact that the rate of teenage suicides are increasing not decreasing.

The study in the Journal of Pediatrics examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence regardless of where they live. Therefore, teenagers in our area are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before that suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. It is now the second leading cause of death for boys 10 to 18 years old. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living? At the age of 10, he has given up hope for a decent life. This is a sad fact. Can you imagine being the parent or sibling of a 10 year old suicide victim and finding your child’s brains all over the room? How did a 10 year old get a gun for suicide? How does a teenager get a gun to shot and kill people at their high school?

The study also indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of deaths by guns were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun. How did they get access to the guns?

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped or there will be a mass shooting and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal which went bad. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking carrying a gun, they tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old anyway. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? How are adolescent boys getting access to guns? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda and Danville.

Finally, we are only in the month of May and the number of Americans killed to date is more than in 2019 (CDC). We are seeing mass shootings increase, violence against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans, Transgender teenagers and police killings. What is happening in the United States? We are the only Country in the world dealing with mass shootings? However, we claim to be the most advanced nation in the world. Maybe Congress needs to look at these numbers and think about their actions. Denying the attack on the US Capital was not violent is crazy. We have videos of people assaulting the Capital Police and demanding to hang the Vice President. The Republicans in the House of Representatives remove Represetative Cheney from her leadership post because she won’t lie and say that Biden did not win the Presidential Election. Finally, you have a Republican representative comparing the requirement to wear masks in the House Chambers because everyone in the House of Representatives are not vaccinated. Someone who speaks the truth is removed and someone who makes racist, homophobic and anti Semitic statements is praised. This may be one part of the issue. We need to support people who are treating other people appropriately and we need to speak out and refuse to allow people who are treating people like garbage to continue to be allowed to treat people like garbage. Bottom line, we can no longer the public health emergency created by guns and we must act an enact sane gun laws. People have to wear seatbelts in cars but you can still drive. You need to be 21 years old to drink or buy alcohol, but this law has not prevented adults from using alcohol. Therefore, sane gun laws will not take away guns from everyone! We are a nation of intelligent people please start using your common sense regarding guns.

Dr. Rubino has 25 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Don’t Forget Your IEP When You Leave for College

Don’t Forget Your IEP 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. Working over 25 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. Now that schools and colleges are reopening many college students are planning on returning to campus and high school seniors who are graduating are preparing to leave for college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptops etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college. Besides their IEP entitling them to additional assistance so does the American Disability Act of 1991. The reason they qualified for the IEP is also covered by the ADA.

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 25 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.

Cellphones as Graduation Gifts for 8th and 5th grade Students

Cellphones as Graduation Gifts for 8th and 5th grade Students

School is ending and many students will be graduating. We typically focus on high school and college graduations because they are major achievements. This article will focus on children graduating from 8th grade going on to high school and 5th graders moving on to middle school. Many middle school students and 5th grade students will be asking for their first Smartphone or they will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 13. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their cellphone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, in my opinion, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 13. However, since we are dealing with what I call the IPhone generation, most teenagers will not be satisfied and will feel cheated unless they have the latest version of the Smartphone on the market.

Students moving on to middle school or high school will be asking to upgrade their phones too. As I stated above, they feel they need the latest version otherwise they cannot function successfully in their lives. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone 13 for example. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone. They also do not need a powerful smartphone, they are not running a business. Additionally, Smartphones provide numerous ways for teenagers to get into trouble. Look at how many adults get into trouble with Smartphones and how they use them.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges not necessities especially for teens and children in fifth grade or in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege any more. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get the phones they want. They tell their parents if they cared, they would buy them the smartphone they need and want. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. Additionally, if their parents are divorced, they often will play their parents against each other as away to get the cellphone they want. Furthermore, many teenagers do not consider how much these phones cost. Additionally, the amount of money you spend on gifts for your child or teenager has no correlation with your love for your children or teenagers. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhone 13? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they need to remember their own doctor appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Also if you do get them one, they do not need it with them all the time. It is important to set limits where and when they use their phones. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of children in fifth grade and teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child or teen understands the responsibility they are assuming, if you allow them to use a smartphone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need:

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with children, middle school and high school students for over 25 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Graduation Parties & Summer Fun can be Risky

Graduation Parties & Summer Fun can be Risky

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is around the corner and many teenagers will be involved in various activities. First, it’s a big weekend for High School and College graduation. Of course after working that hard to earn a diploma, there will be a lot of graduation parties. Many high schools do have Grad Nights as a safe way for seniors to celebrate, but many seniors want to have their own parties in addition to the Grad Night. In addition to graduation parties, many teenagers will have end of the school year parties. It’s also popular weekend for teenagers to be out drinking and also swimming with friends celebrating the end of the school year. At the graduation parties there is also usually drinking, dancing and swimming. Teenagers have been working hard all school year and dealing with the uncertainties of the pandemic so they are looking forward to celebrating life.

As I stated, with teenagers dealing with quarantines due to the pandemic and many places they would usually go to, such as the movies, many teenagers cannot wait to be with friends and feel free after being locked in due to the Coronavirus. As a result there will be a lot of teenagers going out and celebrating life, especially since there is a warning that we may experience another wave of Covid during the summer or fall. Since teenagers don’t know how this may impact their freedom, most are going to take advantage of the freedom while it exists.

However, this weekend is not just a weekend of celebration. It can also be a weekend of sadness and grief for many families. Every year at least 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed. In other words, some of these injuries are for life and may dramatically change a teenager’s life. They may have left the house walking and return home having to live life in a wheelchair. There are also the numerous teenagers who will never be returning to their homes because they died.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you. Therefore, talk to your teens about their plans and about safety.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. The recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York is an excellent example. A father went to the story to pick up the birthday cake for his son’s third birthday. He was shot and killed. These mass shootings are out of control and every weekend we hear about more mass shootings. The week of the Buffalo shooting was the 19th week of the year and there had already been 198 mass shooting in the United States (CDC). If you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen to someone in your family.

A mother experienced this fact when her teenage son committed suicide. Suicide is currently at epidemic among teenagers and the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). After her son’s suicide, she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance. You never know when they leave the house will they return safely. You also don’t know when you leave the house, will you return safely and see your children again. Therefore, given the current situation in our Country, I think her advice is very good advice. Remember to tell your teenagers that you love them and if you have an argument ask yourself is the argument worth it and is this the last memory you want to have about your teen. Also is it the last memory you want your teen to have about you?

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

Again the point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 25 years experience working with trauma victims. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.