Study Confirms Social Media Impacts Teenagers Brains

Study Confirms Social Media Impacts Teenagers Brains

A new study on teenage brains shows that social media has a negative impact on teenage brains. Many parents have been concerned about this fact and wondering if social media impacts a teen’s brain. Now we have an MRI study which shows the effects on teen brains

While we can see the changes, we don’t know how they affect teens yet. So teens are recommended to take breaks from social media sites until we know the changes. Below is a link to the research study:

https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/03/health/social-media-checking-teen-development-wellness/index.html

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

What Parents can do About the Teenage Fentanyl Epidemic

What Parents can do About the Teenage Fentanyl Epidemic

Teenagers have been experimenting and using drugs for decades. Prior to the pandemic opioids were a major issue and so was heroine. In 2017, Opioids were becoming more expensive and teenagers started turning to heroine. Teens were turning to heroine because it was available and cheap. However, it was responsible for a large number of teenage overdosing and dying from heroine. The CDC documented a significant increase in teenage deaths due to heroine between 2010 and 2017. However, during this time fentanyl was being introduced to teenagers and it became very popular. In fact, more teenagers were dying from fentanyl overdoses than heroine. In 2022, the number of deaths due to fentanyl overdose increased by 23% (CDC) and the rate continues to increase.

As it became more popular, people became aware of how strong fentanyl can be and how deadly it is in reality. It was cheaper than heroine but also more deadly. It is also very easy to overdose on. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help people such as cancer patients manage severe pain. It’s 50 times more powerful than heroine and 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used illicitly because of its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be deadly. In fact 2mg of fentanyl can be deadly. Additionally, the drug is more deadly to people who have not used fentanyl before. Therefore, your first time could be your last.

During the pandemic, teenagers were bored having to stay inside and not being able to see their friends as much as they would like to. Furthermore, remote schooling was a failure and many teenagers developed anxiety and depression issues. In fact since the pandemic, depression and anxiety disorders in adolescents are at epidemic rates (CDC). However, many teenagers are not receiving the mental health care they need because many psychotherapists, who treat adolescents, are fully booked and cannot accept new patients. Also because our society doesn’t feel mental health is necessary and for teenagers and many times we just assume that is how teenagers and therefore they never receive psychotherapy they desperately need. As a result teenagers started to self-medicate and experimenting with Fentanyl because it was new, cheap and promised a great high. Many teenagers are able to get fentanyl via social media. So Snapchat, Instragram and Facebook are popular places for teenagers to find drugs. A major problem is they may think they are just buying marijuana, heroine or another opioid which is laced with fentanyl and they don’t know it. Remember the less experience you have with this drug, the more likely someone is going to overdose. It also became obvious that the drug was very deadly when deaths such as the singer Prince, who overdosed accidentally on Fentanyl, made it very clear that it was a very deadly drug. As a result of public health campaigns, parents and teenagers started to become aware of how deadly the drug was and people became cautious about it.

Obviously this did not sit to well with drug dealers. Fentanyl was still popular but it could be even more popular. The solution is that colored fentanyl pills and powders have been developed. These colored fentanyl pills and powders are becoming popular with teenagers. The colored pills and powders look safer and teenagers are therefore more willing to try and use it. This is putting a significant number of teenagers at risk of dying due to overdosing (CDC). As a result, 9 out of 10 teenage drug overdoses involve fentanyl is some form and the death typically occurs at home (Boston University).

According to the government the “brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.” Furthermore, Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” according to the DEA. Additionally, these brightly colored fentanyl forms appear safer to teenagers and as a result there is an increase in the number of teenagers using them. In addition to more teenagers using the colored fentanyl, more teenagers are dying due to the colored fentanyl (CDC, DEA).

More than 109,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending March 2022, according to provisional data published this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in that time — up from just over half at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, annual drug overdose deaths have jumped 44%. There were 75,702 deaths in the 12-month period ending March 2020, compared with 109,247 deaths in the latest 12-month period ending March 2022.

Drug deaths among children are relatively rare. But unintentional overdoses led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2015 and 2019, and experts suspect that the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.

Parents, please take this time to discuss and educate your teenagers about the colored fentanyl. Everyone does not know about it and many teenagers are believing the lies that the colored fentanyl is not really dangerous. Remember teenagers think they know more than they do and their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed so their reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore do not approach this topic as a lecture, approach it as a casual conversation. Allow your teen to open up and talk freely. You may hear information that may help you save their lives. Remember, many teenagers can be misled about fentanyl because it does not look as dangerous as other drugs do. Therefore, take the opportunity to educate yourself and your teenagers and if you feel your teenager is already involved with it, seek professional help. If they are using fentanyl typically you will notice personality changes that are more extreme than just teenage personality issues. You may save the life of your teenager by talking to them. Anyone can get mixed up with fentanyl.

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 visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Coping with Family Arguments during the Holidays

Coping with Family Arguments during the Holidays

Many parents, who have teenagers, often encounter power struggles with their teenager. Typically the power struggle occurs because the teenager disagrees with the limits their parents are setting. Many parents get frustrated by the power struggles, but teenagers at times enjoy the power struggle. If they get their parents into an argument most parents forget the main point of the discussion and the teenager wins.

This is the situation which occurs in normal life. However, we are not living during normal times. We are dealing with a pandemic and the possibility that another pandemic maybe beginning. We still are struggling with the Coronavirus and now we have another virus, monkeypox, beginning. By this time many families are tired of dealing with the pandemic and want to return to their lives prior to the Coronavirus. Therefore, we are in a situation with families tired of dealing with a virus and inflation and people can get annoyed easily.

Additionally, it is the Holiday Season with family dinners and get togethers. These can create uncomfortable situations too. Family issues they may not have been settled may come up or arguments over politics may come up. The point is besides being a little when families have good times together, it is also a time when family arguments occur. The guidelines below can help with the Holidays too.

At this point, it is important for parents to remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This is the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and other executive functions such as making decisions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to be able to participate in a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough. To put it another way, you are not debating the house rules regarding curfew or issues related to the Coronavirus with a 16 year old, you are debating the rules with a fifth grader in terms of their physical and emotional development. Therefore, they are more likely to argue and to be disrespectful. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy arguments and avoid destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement. Many people may think this idea is crazy, but it’s not.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always is a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. Especially now, with most people feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future there are bound to be things that irritate everyone. Instead of ignoring these issues until everyone is screaming and yelling. It is better to address these issues in a healthy manner and lower everyone’s stress level. Besides lowering the stress level in the house, you are modeling for your teenager how to have a reasonable discussion about differences of opinions without having to say hurtful things to each other.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers and children need to remember that their children’s Frontal Lobes are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. This is one of the reasons fair fighting was developed. I have included a list by TherapyAid.com which explains fair fighting rules.

Yes this might sound odd, but you can have a disagreement that is fair. You do not always need to use insults or not listen to each other. By using these rules, you and your teenager may be able to resolve an issue or at least come to an understanding without saying things that will hurt one another. You can also teach your children how to use these rules with each other. This should help reduce fighting between siblings.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your family and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Explain that times are difficult on everyone and these rules can help make this time a little easier. Take the time and go over each rule so all family members understand the rules. Also make a copy for yourself to keep, your teen to keep and a copy to put on the refrigerator to remind everyone. Remember, these rules will be a change for both of you so don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to get use to these rules and use them on a regular basis. Change usually never occurs over night and some people have difficulty with change.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples too. Very few people in our society were brought up learning how to clearly communicate. Just look at how many arguments occur due to miscommunication if you need proof. For couples I would recommend the same steps as parents and teens. First sit down and go over the rules so you both have the same understanding of the rules and keep a copy for yourselves. The next time you have a disagreement practice using these rules. Keep practicing until you become comfortable using these rules. This way the entire family can start using these rules and hopefully improve communication within the family.

Fair Fighting Rules

1. Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.

Are you truly angry because your partner left the mustard on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework, and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

2. Discuss one issue at a time.

“You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family”. Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

3. No degrading language.

Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is an attempt to express negative feelings while making sure your partner feels just as bad. This will just lead to more character attacks while the original issue is forgotten.

4. Express your feelings with words and take responsibility for them.

“I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls.” “I feel scared when you yell.” These are good ways to express how you feel. Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”).

5. Take turns talking.

This can be tough, but be careful not to interrupt. If this rule is difficult to follow, try setting a timer allowing 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. Don’t spend your partner’s minute thinking about what you want to say. Listen!

6. No stonewalling.

Sometimes, the easiest way to respond to an argument is to retreat into your shell and refuse to speak. This refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. You might feel better temporarily, but the original issue will remain unresolved and your partner will feel more upset. If you absolutely cannot go on, tell your partner you need to take a time-out. Agree to resume the discussion later.

7. No yelling.

Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest, but the problem only gets worse.

8. Take a time-out if things get too heated.

In a perfect world we would all follow these rules 100% of the time, but it just doesn’t work like that. If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. Agree on a time to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Attempt to come to a compromise or an understanding.

There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument. Life is just too messy for that. Do your best to come to a compromise (this will mean some give and take from both sides). If you can’t come to a compromise, merely understanding can help soothe negative feelings.

Again, this might seem simple to some people, but communication problems are one of the biggest problems I encounter as a psychotherapist. We simply don’t educate children about clear communication, which creates problems when these children become adults and try to talk with each other. So don’t be embarrassed or assume you do not need help in this area. Simply read the rules and try them in your life and see what happens.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children, trauma victims and their families including first responders. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.

Allowing Everyone to Celebrate Their Holiday

Allowing Everyone to Celebrate Their Holiday

In past years there have been debates between people saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. The United States has people from various ethnic backgrounds and religions living in our Country. Additionally, there are also many people who have no religious beliefs. Our Country is suppose to be the “great melting pot.” Therefore, we are suppose to all live together peacefully and respectfully together.

Unfortunately, it does not appear we are living up to the goal of being the “great melting pot.” We have people who are singling out certain nationalities and trying to prevent them from immigrating to the United States. We have also seen a 57% increase in crimes against people of Jewish decent. For example, the largest amount of Jewish people in the United States killed at one time were killed while worshiping in their Temple. This type of violence has not occurred for decades, but it is back. Freedom of religion is one of the core beliefs of the United States. However, it does appear that core belief is eroding and possibly disappearing.

In addition to increase discrimination towards ethnicities and religions, there is an increase in the discrimination towards people who are homosexual or identify as anything other than heterosexual. The United States Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the beliefs that our Country is based on and what our Country represents. It states “all men” not just Caucasian people, not just Christian people and not just people who are heterosexual. However, crimes against the LGBT+ community have increased significantly over the past couple of years (CDC).

The Declaration of Independence and Constitution assume that we may have differences in our cultures or religious beliefs, but that we can all live together peacefully and respect one another. Unfortunately, when we see a 57% rise in hate crimes towards people who are Jewish, and an increase in crimes against Asian Americans, and the LGBTQ+ community, we are not living together peacefully or respectfully.

This brings me to the debate between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I am a proud Italian, Catholic, American, however, my family taught me to respect people regardless of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Therefore, I always wish people Happy Holidays. In the United States during this time of year we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa (I am sure there are some religious celebrations I missed) and New Years. If I am going to be respectful, Happy Holidays is the most appropriate saying not Merry Christmas. Some one may not be Christian and they may have no religious beliefs at all. However, most likely they celebrate Thanksgiving and New Years. Happy Holidays covers this without imposing my beliefs on someone else. Everyone who is Christian think about this point, what if you were not allowed to say Merry Christmas or if the entire Country acted like Christmas did not exist? How would that make you feel? You probably would not like it.

Therefore, I think we need to return to our roots: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a very powerful statement and in order to honor it we must respect all cultures, religions and sexual orientations. This statement is what makes the United States so different from every other country in the world. If we are going to honor our Country then Happy Holidays is the appropriate greeting during this time of year not Merry Christmas. If you are Christian it is appropriate to say in your home and at your Church not at work or out in public.

We also need to look at the amount of violence that is occurring in our Country. Besides fire drills at schools, now children are having to do mass shooting drills. Schools are actually practicing and teaching first and second graders what they need to do if there is a mass shooting at their school. Many children are frightened by these drills. They do not know if they are practice or real and they are afraid that they will be killed at school. There are a number of reasons why we have these mass killings, but the lack of respect we show to each other cannot be helping the situation. Therefore, out of respect for everyone when you are in public try using Happy Holidays. When you are at home or among family and friends use the greeting that works for your family.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

“I want food for Christmas “

The Holiday Season is here again, however, this year it still will not be our typical Holiday Season because we are still dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus and inflation. Over 1,000,000 Americans have died due to the Coronavirus and people are still dying daily due to the virus (CDC). So we have numerous people who are grieving for spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents, friends and children. Furthermore, due to inflation and a significant increase in the cost of food, many parents are having difficulties affording food, rent and their other monthly bills.

Millions of families cannot afford to pay the rent or buy food. Food Banks are reporting a significant increase in the number of people seeking food. Parents are getting in line at 5 am when the Food Bank opens at 9am. There are doing this because they are desperate for food so they can feed their children. Many of these people have well paying jobs prior to the pandemic and they never dreamed that they would be going to food banks or churches looking for food. However due to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and inflation, they are finding it difficult to pay all their monthly bills.

A teacher asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter asking for food and shoes. However, she was not the only one. Many children were asking for food, clothes and a place to live.

This video details the need that many families are facing and how many children are focusing on food and clothes for Christmas not toys. https://youtu.be/j_05ZuhqCZM

This video is the tip of the iceberg. Currently in the United States one out of five children are going to bed without food and are homeless (CDC). This is the United States, how are we allowing this to occur? While families are having to beg for food and a place to live, the former President Trump continues to lie about how he did not lose the election and spreading lies about the pandemic and inflation which only serve to make these children’s lives worse. Many have asked him to stop the lying and misinformation, but he ignores the pleas.

Many people assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However the current statistics of one in five children living below the poverty level and not having enough to eat and many living on the streets tells us that we have a severe problem in the United States. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, but they still cannot afford the prices for food and gas due to inflation. I have children who tell me they are happy to be going back to school because public schools now provide free breakfast and lunch. Therefore, by going to school they get to eat and not have to starve.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. In therapy I am trying to help them to not give up. The suicide rate has increased due to the Coronavirus pandemic and if a child sees no hope for their future they do think about suicide. Many children I see I need to see pro bono or for a very low fee because their families don’t have insurance or their parents cannot afford the copayments the insurance companies require.

The other sad fact is that the United States government continues not to act. Additionally, the few programs that are helping these families will expire soon. However, the Senate refuses to cooperate with President Biden who is proposing programs to help these families and to give them their dignity back. Many of these programs are their only source of food and shelter for children. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will decrease the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Where are our priorities?

Dr. Michael Rubino has 25 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders . For more information about his work with children visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

College Does Not Make A Teen Successful

College Does Not Make A Teen Successful

Every child is not going to get straight As and that is okay. We live in a very competitive society and parents and students often brag about their grades or where they are going to college. Some teenagers are academically inclined and others are physically inclined. Therefore, instead of being a surgeon may be they will be a plumber. The question is what’s the difference? The amount of money they are making. Is how much money you make the most important thing about your teenager and their life? What about being happy and what type of person they are? Does that matter?

I often do Career Days and the first question I usually receive is how much money do I make? Followed by what type of car do I drive? My answer is, what does it matter? Most people today are working 60 hours a week. If you are working that hard, it’s more important that you enjoy your career instead of being there just for the money. If you are there for the money, you most likely will find yourself unhappy after a while. At Career Days I tell high school students that I would be a psychotherapist if I was making $300,000 or $30,000 a year because I really enjoy what I do and I am happy to go to the office every day. Money makes paying the bills easier, but it doesn’t make you happy.

In addition to money not guaranteeing happiness, I hear many teenagers feel like their parents are disappointed in them because they are not getting As. Some of the teenagers are getting poor grades because they choose not to study and not to do their homework. They are letting themselves and their parents down. However, some teenagers have learning disabilities or other interest such as music or art and they have difficulty learning in a standard classroom. Therefore, they may be trying their best but they can only get a C. It is nothing to be ashamed about. If a student is trying their best and can only get a C, they are successful as the student who tries their best an gets an A. They are both trying their best and they both should be acknowledged for doing their best.

As I said I see many teenagers who feel like failures because they are not getting As. Typically they hide their issues from their parents and this can cause arguments about grades. While researching this article, I found a blog from a parent who listed how she approaches her teenager who gets Cs. Using her approach helps a teen who is getting Cs to feel good about themselves and to know that their parents are proud of them too. It is very important that teenagers know and feel that their parents are proud of them. Otherwise, they look for attention in other ways such as getting into trouble. Here is the way the parent approached her teenager so he felt celebrated and that his parents were proud of him:

1. Your child’s achievements are not a reflection of you or your parenting.

Even though we often judge other parents based on how their child behaves or performs we need to remind ourselves that our teens are their own person. My son is not an extension of me. As an overachiever who works with children and families this was difficult for me to come to terms with.

2. Do not make comparisons.

It seems like this should go without saying, but we can’t compare our C student to their siblings, neighbors, or friends. I struggled to not compare my high school years to my son’s. I made good grades and got involved in school activities. School was my favourite place to be, and I spent much of my time with my nose in a book. Seeing the years go by with my son never touching the books on his bookshelf were hard.

3. Your child likely does care about their grades.

They might pretend they don’t care about school in order to protect themselves from feelings of failure and embarrassment but, chances are, they care very much. Our son cared about doing well in school and he wanted to achieve and make us happy, but regular classes moved too quickly for him and even accommodations could only take him so far.

4. Find out what your child is good at and get them involved in it.

Our son was extremely interested in skateboarding, so we encouraged him to do it outside of school. He excelled at it and we saw his self-esteem skyrocket. We then worked with the school to find classes that were more hands-on. Help steer your child to a future career that fits with their abilities and aptitudes. Throughout the pandemic, my son has been able to finish his high school diploma through co-operative education. He has also been working with a union to earn his apprenticeship hours in the construction trade. Best of all, he already has a good paying job lined up for when school finishes this year.

5. Celebrate your C student the same way you’d celebrate an A student.

My son has always struggled to achieve in school, but he has so many other amazing qualities that have nothing to do with a letter grade. He is proud of his achievements and so are we. After years of trying to figure out how to help him do better academically, we have learned to celebrate every C that he gets because we know how hard he has worked for it. No matter what grades he earns, my son—and every C student like him—deserves to feel accepted, understood and loved for who he is.

The above last line is very important. We live in a society that tends to see success in terms of money and job titles. Some teenagers are not academically inclined and others are more interested in fixing cars instead of being a lawyer. Every teenager deserves to be celebrated and to feel respected. They may choose construction, but it’s an honest living and they are being mature enough to take care of themselves and their families. You raised them to be an independent adult and that is exactly what they are doing. How much money someone makes should not be how we value people. Instead we should look at how they treat others and are they happy with their lives. Being a caring, compassionate person is more important than making a lot of money in my opinion. Parents hopefully you will find this helpful.

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 visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Ways for Families to Cope with Holiday Stress

Ways for Families to Cope with Holiday Stress

The Holiday Season is here and so is stress about gifts, family dinners and Holiday parties. For example, many people will be worrying about how they will survive the Holidays with certain relatives and since prices have increased this year many people are worrying about how they will be able to afford the Holiday Season. Additionally, there is the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been vaccinated, but others for some reason have decided not to get vaccinated. Therefore, some families are faced with decisions about do they celebrate with relatives who have not been vaccinated. This can be very difficult and a very stressful situation. In addition, the Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or you have some family members trying so hard to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family? Finally this year prices on everything have increased significantly and many families are struggling with being able to afford the rent, in addition to Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season.

We had Thanksgiving and next there is Christmas and Chanukah depending on your family’s tradition. Since we have had Thanksgiving, you can evaluate how Thanksgiving went for everyone and decide if you want to make changes for the remaining holidays.

After you have assessed how you would like the remaining Holidays to go, the next step is to sit down with your children and ask for their opinions. Also ask about what their expectations are for the Holidays. It is especially important to discuss this point with teenagers because they have been isolated from friends due to the pandemic. Are they expecting to spend Christmas Eve and Day with the family or are they expecting to spend time with friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. It is important to settle this issue before the Holidays. By discussing expectations and trying to accommodate everyone’s wishes, you can avoid arguments. However, many times you cannot accommodate everyone’s wishes and as the parents you may need to make the judgement call. If this occurs explain to your teenager you know they may be mad, but you hope they can understand and you would appreciate their cooperation. May be you make arrangements for them to spend time with their friends the day before or after certain Holidays.

The next discussion is gifts. Explain to your children the point of the Holidays is to appreciate and to be grateful for the people in your life and what you do have in your life. Therefore, if your grandparents give you something you do not like, be grateful that they thought about you and say thank you. Try not to make faces or act disappointed and hurt your grandparents feelings. Again remind them the Holidays are a time to be grateful for what you have in your life.

Reminding your children about being grateful leads us into the next tip for decreasing Holiday Stress. Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Holiday stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Holiday Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of the Holidays. Ask them what they would like to contribute to the evening or day. Let them what they feel they can contribute.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Be present with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family during this Holiday time.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for the children and for adults too. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

If you notice you are getting angry or your teenager is getting angry use the acronym HALT:

H – hunger, do not try to discuss a difficult situation if you or your teen are hungry.

A – anger, if it is obvious someone is angry give them time to calm down before discussing an issue. Pushing a discussion when someone is angry will only result in making a bad situation worse.

Lonely – lonely, if someone is feeling down or alone again pushing them to talk can make it worse. Let them know when they are ready you are there to listen.

Tired – tired, trying to have a conversation with a tired teenager can turn into an argument fast. Wait until they are ready to talk. There is no need to make a bad situation worse.

Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of an unpleasant Holiday for everyone try to

use the words GRATEFUL and HALT as guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 25 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast on Spotify or Apple.

What to do When Children Do Not Like Their Grandparents Gifts

What to do When Children Do Not Like Their Grandparents Gifts

At this time of year most people are worried about finishing Christmas shopping before Christmas and making sure they get gifts for everyone they need to. This year due to the Coronavirus and inflation, the Holidays continue to be different including shopping. Many families are spending money freely because they are happy to be out and able to be around people. Other families are being very careful with spending because they are having a difficult time just affording food and gas due to inflation.

Furthermore, as I stated above, many people are short on money. Besides gifts they are worried about having enough money for the Holidays. Besides buying gifts, people still need to pay the rent and buy food for the family. Therefore, some people will need to cut back on how much they spend on gifts and some people may not be able to afford to give gifts at all this year.

A common situation many parents worry about during the Holidays is what to do when your child receives a gift they don’t like or want. They are worried about their child saying something in front of their grandparents or their great aunt that they don’t like the gift and tossing it to the side. The parents feel embarrassed and are concerned that their child hurt their grandparents or great aunt’s feelings especially since many people are having difficulties affording gifts. This definitely applies to grandparents who are living on limited incomes.

All of these worries regarding gifts can ruin Christmas for people. We should be more concerned about the spirit of the Holidays. The Holidays are about spending time with the people who are important to us not gifts. Granted due to the Coronavirus, we may not be able to celebrate with everyone in person, but it’s acknowledging those people in our lives that are important to us which is the most important part of the Holidays.

If you child says something inappropriate about a gift, remember you cannot control what children will say all the time. Also the adults should understand that children do not think the same way as adults and will try not to take it personally.

All you can do is talk to you children about what to do if they receive a gift they don’t like so they will not hurt someone’s feelings. Additionally, you hope that Great Aunt Sally is mature enough to understand how children act. However, once again the focus should be on celebrating life and love not gifts.

As a helpful resource and gift I have included a link to a guide to your questions about giving & receiving Christmas gifts & how to handle gift situations http://www.designsponge.com/20… via designsponge

Dr Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 years experience working with children and adolescents. In addition to working with trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work and services offered at his private practice visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

A Nation of Children Traumatized for Life

A Nation of Children Traumatized for Life

I recently wrote an article about mass shootings and the impact they are having on children. In light of this week’s events it appears another article is needed. This week there were two mass shootings. One in Colorado and one in North Carolina. Additionally, the one in Colorado appears to be a hate crime too. The shooting occurred in the city’s only LGBTQ+ bar and hate crimes against transgender individuals have seen a significant increase this year. This increases the fear and trauma in the LGBTQ+ community in that city and all across the country too. As of today there have been 612 mass shooting in the United States just this year. There are only 356 days in a year so we are have more than one mass shooting a day in our Country (CDC). Additionally, there are 112 shootings every day in the United States (CDC). These include domestic violence incidents, crimes, suicides and accidents. We are experiencing a tremendous amount of gun violence in our Country. It is no surprise that there is an epidemic of anxiety, depression and cutting in children and teenagers in our Country (CDC). It also no surprise that many people such as teachers, store clerks and first responders are dealing with PTSD in significant numbers (CDC).

However, stop and think for a moment. Every time there is a mass shooting the people who were killed and injured, they and their families are traumatized, but so is every person who was at that school or store that day and so are the first responders who must treat the wounded, deal with the families and the paramedics and police officers who must see the bodies torn apart and the blood all over the crime scene.

However, the trauma doesn’t stop at the site of the shooting. Everyone living in the town is traumatized because the illusion that they are safe has been destroyed. Additionally, anyone any where in our Country who has experienced gun violence relives the trauma all over again. This experience of reliving the trauma doesn’t stop in six months or a year. Most people will carry this trauma with them for life. Some people find it so overwhelming that they eventually commit suicide to stop the trauma. Many people refer to it as survivor guilt. We are seeing parents and teenagers who have experienced past mass shootings committing suicide recently. Many first responders also are at risk for suicide because they blame themselves for not being able to save the victims.

Also, if you take a step back and look at what these children have seen over their lives it makes sense. Most of these teenagers were very young on 9/11, or were not even born yet, when the United States was attacked. However, since 9/11 they have seen two wars and heard on the nightly news about numerous terrorist alerts or attacks around the world and here in the United States. They also have heard how the TSA at times are putting tighter security on travelers and places such as Disneyland are increasing security due to concerns about terrorism.

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. This is a great deal of stress and trauma for a child to endure daily. For the group we are discussing, suicide was the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old. It is now the second leading cause of death for teens and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide. Also because of school shootings, students have seen increased security on their school campuses. Many campuses have metal detectors that students have to pass through as the enter the campus and there are police officers assigned to school sites due to the fear of violence.

Now, in addition to these facts stated above, think about what these children see on the news nightly and the video games they play daily. Anytime there is a shootings incident in the United States, or any where in the world, there is pretty much 24 hour news coverage of the event for days. Also when there are bombing or shootings in Europe there is 24 hour news coverage for days too. And now we have moved on to covering funerals. When the officers were killed in Dallas the memorial was televised nationally. If we look at the video games these kids are playing most have to do with killing and death. Since computer graphics have significantly improved, many of these games look real.

Additionally, children in the fourth and fifth grades are telling me they are worried about their safety due to the former President Trump. They have heard what the former President has said and they are afraid other countries may attack us. Also Hispanic children who are legal citizens are still afraid that they will be deported. This is a great deal for a nine or ten year old child to worry about.

Looking at all of this it begins to make sense why I am seeing more depressed and anxious teenagers who fear for their lives. These teenagers are being traumatized. They may not be experiencing the trauma personally but they are experiencing vicarious trauma. With all of the pictures on television and news reports and realistic video games these teenagers are playing, they are being traumatized vicariously. We have never had a generation of children grow up with the amount of trauma that these children are growing up with in the world. Even children growing up during World War II didn’t experience this amount of trauma. We didn’t have instant access to news nor did we have the graphic videos being shown by the news media.

The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can demand that the Senate act. Telephone Senator’s McConnell office at 202-224-2541and demand that he stop refusing to not to pass laws which would protect children. Parents can monitor how much exposure children are receiving to mass shootings when they occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. Again, we must demand that the Congress and the Senate pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon or silencer to hunt a deer. All the weapons in this last shooting were purchased legally, no background check or waiting period. In Canada before someone buys a gun their family is interviewed and there is an in-depth investigation of the person. If other countries can do this without terminating someone’s right to own a gun, so can our Country. The government must act.

Another thing parents can do is listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them.

Finally, if you start to notice a change of attitude in your child that you are concerned about have a talk with your child or have them assessed by a psychotherapist. I have included a link to an article by the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which describes what parents can do http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Talking-To-Children-About-Terrorism-And-War-087.aspx. There is nothing to be ashamed of if a child needs therapy. We are exposing children to situations that most adults have problems dealing with themselves. You may find it very upsetting to talk to your child about these incidents. For these reasons and many more, if you feel your teenager has been traumatized vicariously make an appointment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and victims of trauma. Our kids have had to deal with a lot. We can help make it easier for them growing up in this time by providing the help they need.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers and is an expert treating victims of trauma and also performs Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How to Respond to Someone Grieving during the Holidays

It’s the Holiday Season a time to spend time with family and friends. However, many people have lost a loved one this year or they are still grieving the lost of a loved from from last year or the year before. Grief has no time limits on how long it will last. I have had many patients ask me how to respond to a family member or friend who is grieving especially during this time of year. People ask me questions about grief because our society has a very difficult time with death and grief. We try not to discuss it and avoid the topic. However given the fact we have had 612 mass shootings this year and 110 shootings every day which involve one or two people, in addition to over one million people who have died due to Covid (CDC), there are millions of people grieving during this Holiday Season. Therefore avoiding the topic of grief is becoming very difficult to do.

While doing research regarding grief for patients who have asked me what to say to grieving people, I found this information from the grief center. I think it is very good information and very easy to understand. Therefore, I will present the 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 a great deal of 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. It is very important to understand that point. 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 need people to talk to without people feeling awkward.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 25 years experience treating adolescents, children, their families, trauma victims and first responders. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page