Hate Kids Face Daily at School and in Public

Hate Kids Face Daily at School and in Public

Unfortunately we are living in a divided nation and people are getting hurt or killed due to their beliefs and/or the color of their skin. For example, the Federal Government has documented increased hate crimes against Asian Americans and Antisemitic crimes. In addition, there is a significant increase in hate crimes against transexual adults and teenagers. Asian Americans are getting attacked and killed just walking down the streets because they are Asian. Many people are blaming Asian Americans for the Coronavirus. We also continue to have African Americans being shot by police officers. All of these incidents are creating a divided nation. We are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes and laws that unfairly impact women, transsexuals and other minorities.

We are now living in a country where many people are afraid to go outside because they might be attacked. Additionally, in public people are being rude to each other and no one feels safe. This feeling is severally impacting children and teenagers.

Prior to all of this hate, children and teenagers were reporting increased depression and anxiety. Since the beginning of 2021, more children and teenagers are reporting depression and anxiety. The number of teenagers dying from drug overdoses and suicide continues to rise (CDC). Some teenagers are now taking things into their own hands and are carrying guns and knifes so they can protect themselves or others. Remember the teenager who went from Iowa to Minnesota with a gun and killed two people during the riots. He felt he had a right to stop the chaos. He felt he did nothing wrong shooting people because again he felt he was entitled to help stop the riots. Teenagers should not have to stop the chaos occurring in the United States. This is placing too much pressure on them resulting in teenagers feeling depressed and anxious and seeing no future for themselves.

The United States is supposed to be the “great melting pot.” The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” We are all supposed to be equal and live together in a Country where we can be ourselves and have a chance at making a decent life for our families. However, we are losing that dream quickly especially if we allow those who are spreading hate and lies to continue to spread hate and lies.

The Harlem Globetrotters developed an anti-bullying program for school children in order to stop bullying. The United States belongs to everyone who is a citizen, not just a select few. Yes there are people who are not citizens, but according to the saying on the Statue of Liberty and our history of accepting immigrants, we still need to treat them with respect and dignity because they are fellow human beings. Therefore, we are all in this together and we all have to fix the problems together. Or, would we prefer that the children continue to live in an environment which is creating depression and anxiety for them and causing thousands of children to commit suicide every year. We are talking about children as young as 8 years old who are committing suicide and the number of children committing suicide is increasing every year (CDC).

The anti-bullying program developed by the Harlem Globetrotters is no longer just for school recesses, it is something we all need to start applying anywhere we see someone being treated unfairly. The Harlem Globetrotters program is not that hard. All you have to do is remember is A, B, C. A is for action, B is for bravery and C is for compassion. To make it easier let’s use an example, if you see an Asian American being attacked on the street, (B) be brave and don’t ignore it, (A) act by calling the police with your cellphone and screaming for help, (C) stay around and show the person some compassion asking if they need anything or reporting what you witnessed to the police. We can do this, we have done it before. This is exactly what happened in the George Floyd case and by everyone working together a bad police officer is now off the streets. If we had not acted together, that officer would still be on the streets chocking people.

If adults are willing to take action, we can teach children and teenagers the same A,B,Cs and if they see their parents and grandparents getting involved they will follow your example. Additionally, if they see adults working together for the common good, maybe we may see a reduction in the number of teenagers feeling depressed and anxious. If that occurs we would most likely see a decrease in the number of teenagers cutting and overdosing on drugs. We would also see a reduction in the number of teenagers and children committing suicide because they would feel a sense of hope for their futures.

Finally, if we all work together we would be worthy of what is inscribed in the Statue of Liberty. We also would stop being a joke to the world. We are the United States, the most powerful nation in the world! However, how can we say that if we allow stereotypes and racism to decide how we treat each other?

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. If you would like to learn more about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teaching Teenagers How to Cope with the Daily Hate They See

Teaching Teenagers How to Cope with the Daily Hate They See

Unfortunately we are living in a divided nation and people are getting hurt or killed due to their beliefs and/or the color of their skin. For example, the Federal Government has documented increased hate crimes against Asian Americans and Antisemitic crimes. In addition, there is a significant increase in hate crimes against transexual adults and teenagers. Asian Americans are getting attacked and killed just walking down the streets because they are Asian. Many people are blaming Asian Americans for the Coronavirus. We also continue to have African Americans being shot by police officers. All of these incidents are creating a divided nation. We are seeing a significant increase in hate crimes and laws that unfairly impact women, transsexuals and other minorities.

We are now living in a country where many people are afraid to go outside because they might be attacked. Additionally, in public people are being rude to each other and no one feels safe. This feeling is severally impacting children and teenagers.

Prior to all of this hate, children and teenagers were reporting increased depression and anxiety. Since the beginning of 2021, more children and teenagers are reporting depression and anxiety. The number of teenagers dying from drug overdoses and suicide continues to rise (CDC). Some teenagers are now taking things into their own hands and are carrying guns and knifes so they can protect themselves or others. Remember the teenager who went from Iowa to Minnesota with a gun and killed two people during the riots. He felt he had a right to stop the chaos. He felt he did nothing wrong shooting people because again he felt he was entitled to help stop the riots. Teenagers should not have to stop the chaos occurring in the United States. This is placing too much pressure on them resulting in teenagers feeling depressed and anxious and seeing no future for themselves.

The United States is supposed to be the “great melting pot.” The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” We are all supposed to be equal and live together in a Country where we can be ourselves and have a chance at making a decent life for our families. However, we are losing that dream quickly especially if we allow those who are spreading hate and lies to continue to spread hate and lies.

The Harlem Globetrotters developed an anti-bullying program for school children in order to stop bullying. The United States belongs to everyone who is a citizen, not just a select few. Yes there are people who are not citizens, but according to the saying on the Statue of Liberty and our history of accepting immigrants, we still need to treat them with respect and dignity because they are fellow human beings. Therefore, we are all in this together and we all have to fix the problems together. Or, would we prefer that the children continue to live in an environment which is creating depression and anxiety for them and causing thousands of children to commit suicide every year. We are talking about children as young as 8 years old who are committing suicide and the number of children committing suicide is increasing every year (CDC).

The anti-bullying program developed by the Harlem Globetrotters is no longer just for school recesses, it is something we all need to start applying anywhere we see someone being treated unfairly. The Harlem Globetrotters program is not that hard. All you have to do is remember is A, B, C. A is for action, B is for bravery and C is for compassion. To make it easier let’s use an example, if you see an Asian American being attacked on the street, (B) be brave and don’t ignore it, (A) act by calling the police with your cellphone and screaming for help, (C) stay around and show the person some compassion asking if they need anything or reporting what you witnessed to the police. We can do this, we have done it before. This is exactly what happened in the George Floyd case and by everyone working together a bad police officer is now off the streets. If we had not acted together, that officer would still be on the streets chocking people.

If adults are willing to take action, we can teach children and teenagers the same A,B,Cs and if they see their parents and grandparents getting involved they will follow your example. Additionally, if they see adults working together for the common good, maybe we may see a reduction in the number of teenagers feeling depressed and anxious. If that occurs we would most likely see a decrease in the number of teenagers cutting and overdosing on drugs. We would also see a reduction in the number of teenagers and children committing suicide because they would feel a sense of hope for their futures.

Finally, if we all work together we would be worthy of what is inscribed in the Statue of Liberty. We also would stop being a joke to the world. We are the United States, the most powerful nation in the world! However, how can we say that if we allow stereotypes and racism to decide how we treat each other?

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. If you would like to learn more about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Facts about Attending High School in 2022

Facts about Attending High School in 2022

All over the Country teenagers will be starting their first year in high school or returning to high school. Typically I would recommend that parents think back to their first day of high school and how they felt and what they were expecting high school to be like and how they were expecting there other kids to act. I did this to help parents relate to some of the feelings their teenager maybe having as a way for parents to help their teenagers starting high school. This may help parents with some of the issues facing their teenagers, but teenagers starting high school or resuming high school in 2022 do so with mass school shootings occurring on a regular basis and we are still dealing with a deadly pandemic. Therefore, high school students are facing additional issues besides the typical first day of school issues. They are facing life and death issues, we never had to face in high school. Additionally, they see that the government is doing very little to protect from gun violence. Therefore, today’s teenagers are facing overwhelming issues we never had to face when we went to high school. This can make it difficult for parents to be able to completely understand the feelings teenagers and having starting high school.

High school students, in fact all students, are starting school when there is a significant increase in the Coronavirus due another new variant. As a result, many people including teenagers are contracting the virus (CDC). The number of people contracting the virus is similar to the numbers we were seeing a year ago (CDC).

Therefore, high school students are starting high school not knowing if they will or will not contact the virus. Yes there are vaccinations they can get and they can wear masks, all of which decreases their chances of getting the virus, but some governors, school boards and parents are refusing these options. People are objecting because they say the precautions are not necessary and do not work. However, teens are hearing that the virus is spreading rapidly in most counties in the country. In fact, some counties such as Los Angeles County and considering returning to indoor mask mandates (LA County Public Health). Having to keep up with homework and after school activities, such as sports, is a lot for most teenagers without having to worry about the pandemic. Teenagers are worried about it because I hear them tell me about their concerns and some students would prefer to go back to remote learning due to the threat posed by the virus.

In addition to worrying about contracting the virus, students return to school having to deal with mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archives, there has been more than one mass shooting a day so far this year. The Gun Violence Archives also report there has been a 50% increase in mass shootings since 2020. Unfortunately, the recent shooting at the school in Texas showed we have not improved how we handle these shootings. The police waited outside for 77 minutes while children and teachers bled to death. Since most teenagers have smartphones, they have access to all of this information. They know the number of shootings are increasing, police are not handling the situations and the government refuses to pass laws that can have a real impact on gun violence. They also see the news that the mass shootings are a problem for the United States and they seldom occur in other countries. Given this environment, it is no surprise that we are seeing a significant increase in depression and anxiety disorders in teenagers (CDC). Teenagers today are not crazy and do not live in a fantasy world. They have access to the news very easily and they are very aware about what is occurring in our Country. Based on what the see and the lack of help by the government feeling anxious and depressed is a normal response.

One other issue, besides worrying about contracting the virus and mass shootings, students have missed an entire year of high school. Therefore, students who are sophomores never had a freshman year and have no idea what to expect. Teenagers who were enjoying their high school experience have missed out on an entire year. Therefore, students starting high school and returning to high school in 2022 are doing so facing many issues that students usually never face. For example, the main issue is adjusting from remote learning to being back in the class. Their school days are longer, they have more homework and they are around more people. This is not a simple adjustment. As a result of all the issues we have seen a significant increase in depression and anxiety in high school students (CDC).

Parents hopefully you can remember everything teenagers and you are facing as your teenagers start high school. You may need to contact your teenager’s school and ask for assistance from the school. You may need to seek out a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and have your teenager participate in psychotherapy. There is no shame in doing this because teenagers are facing tremendous mental health issues and many need help. Since the pandemic and school resuming, there has been a significant increase in the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy (CDC). In fact we are running out of psychotherapist who are able to treat these teenagers. No one planned on how to adequately handle the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy due to the pandemic.

Parents all you can do is to be patient and listen to your teenagers and seek the help you feel is appropriate. Also do not forget yourselves. Parents are under a great deal of stress too and you may need psychotherapy too. If you try to work together and are patient with each other, you should be able to handle the stress teenagers are facing due to the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic, students starting high school still deal with common anxieties most teenagers have faced over the years. One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors picking on and teasing the freshman students. Another common fear for freshman is that they are going to get lost on the campus and not be able to find their classrooms. Your teenagers are at a point in their life where they want to make a good impression on the other students. At their age image is very important. Therefore the idea of being teased by the seniors or getting lost on the campus can be very stressful and also create a great deal of anxiety for a student starting high school.

As parents, you can talk to your teenagers about your first days days at high school and reassure them that the stories they hear about Freshmen being targets for the seniors are greatly exaggerated. Also you can try to go with them over to the school before it starts and walk around the campus so they can get use to where everything is at their new school. Another thing you can do is remind them that everyone makes mistakes so if they do get lost the first day it is not a big deal. Remind them there will be a lot of other kids starting their first day of school too and there will be other kids getting lost. This is also another opportunity to continue to establish an open relationship with your teenager. The more you talk with each other, you increase the likelihood that they will feel comfortable coming and talking to you about issues they will have while in high school.

Another issue facing some students is starting all over. In middle school may be everyone knew them and they were in the “popular group.” Now no one knows them and they need to start all over. This may be frightening to them, but remind them there will be many times in life when they will need to start as the new person. Also remind them, if they were able to do it in middle school, they can do it in high school too. Be sure to encourage them to have faith in themselves because it won’t happen over night. Now for many students middle school was a nightmare. They may be looking forward to starting over. Again remind them if they have the desire to try they can do it. All the Freshmen are starting all over just like them, but also to be patient because it may not happen as quickly as they like.

Also before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are regarding grades and after school activities and hanging out with friends. At this time is a good time to establish what your expectations are homework, after school jobs and weekend curfews. If you establish an understanding between yourself and your teenager before these situations arise you can save yourself a lot of time arguing with your teenager. However as you establish these guidelines you want to have a conversation with your teenager about these issues. Remember your teenager is starting to enter the adult world, if you simply just tell them these are the rules, they will feel that you are being unfair and they will try to find a way around your rules. If you have a discussion with them about the rules they will feel that their opinions were respected, they are more likely to feel that the rules are fair and are more likely to follow the rules. It is also a good idea to write a contract with all the things you agreed to. If you write the agreements down and there is a misunderstanding you simply need to refer back to the contract. Also this is another opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your teenager where they feel comfortable enough to come to you and discuss any problems they may be having. You are also role modeling to them how to have an adult discussion and how to negotiate fairly and respectfully with other their people.

Of course you also want to take this opportunity to discuss with your teenager the fact that they are going to be faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex. This is a good time to provide them with the education they will need in order to cope with these situations. It is even more important today because technology has changed a number of rules. For example, if a girl texts a nude photo to a boy, he is guilty of having child pornography. Yes it was mutually agreed to but they are still under 18 years old so it is a crime. Texting is another area where they can get into trouble. If someone takes a text as a threat they can get into trouble for bullying or assault. As I said, technology has changed the rules and many of us have not been able to keep it. Therefore, remind them that information they may receive from their friends may not always be accurate. Furthermore, encourage them that at any time if they have any questions or concerns regarding these matters or any other matters you are always there to listen and to talk with them.

One thing to remember is acronym HALT. I teach this often with anger management, but it helps with communication too.

H – hunger

A – anger

L – lonely

T – tired

If either one of you are having these feelings, it is generally not a good time to have a discussion. Also if either one of you is feeling like this and you may not be listening to each other. Therefore, if either one of you are having these feelings or don’t feel like talking, then it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are both ready to talk.

Lastly, remind them that they are starting a brand-new phase in their life and it is normal to feel anxious and stress. Also remind them that these feelings are normal in the beginning but they usually quickly disappear after they have started school.

Besides having to face the pandemic, high school students today also have to face the issue of school shootings, as I mentioned above. Sadly, this is another stressful subject you may want to discuss with your teenager. Develop a plan with your teenager about what they would do if there was a shooting at their school. Also discuss with them what to do if they hear rumors or have concerns about how another student is acting. Finally, discuss how you can help if they are feeling worried or not safe at school. It is sad, but this is the world we live in today. Talking to you teen can help decrease anxiety and help you to maintain open communication with your teenager.

A few things you can do on the first day of classes to help with any anxiety are you can get up in the morning with them and have breakfast with them before they go to school. You can also put a note of encouragement in their backpack that they will find when they are at school and this can help reassure them and remind them how much support they have at home. Finally, you can arrange to be at home when when they get home from their first day of high school so you can talk about it with them. Also plan to have a family dinner to discuss everyone’s first day of school and offer encouragement where needed. These are just a few ideas to help with the transition process.

One final issue to remember, since there has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression in high school students, many students are having difficulties in class and completing their homework. If they are having difficulties, they may be entitled to a 504 plan or an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Most school districts will offer you a 504 plan because it is easy for the school and costs the school no money. However, if your teen is having significant problems with school demand in writing that they be evaluated for an IEP. There is nothing to be ashamed about and an IEP will not prevent your child from going to college or getting a job. If you need further information regarding IEPs refer to my articles regarding IEPs or contact my office regarding an IEP consultation.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 25 years experience working with teenagers. To learn more about his private practice in Pleasant or the work he has done over 25 years visit his web site at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Rules for Healthy Family Disagreements

Rules for Healthy Family Disagreements

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.

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.

High School Sports and Head Injuries

High School Sports and Head Injuries

Schools are back in session and many high school students are back playing sports. The main sport at this time of year is football and cheerleading goes along with it. Both football and cheerleading are high risk activities for concussions. Parents are also learning that “basic” Concussion in teenagers are more common than people think and can create more problems than people think. A concussion can cause physical impairment such as not being able to walk or emotional issues such as a teenager suddenly having anger problems or depression.

After a concussion many teenagers develop Post Concussion Syndrome. Teenagers can have violent mood swings, difficulties concentrating and difficulties with memory. This can cause problems at school and with family and friends. I have seen teenagers who get so depressed by these changes that they become suicidal. Post Concussion Syndrome can last a year or more and typically physicians do not warn parents or teenagers about this syndrome. This makes matters worse because they feel like they are crazy because they don’t understand why they have the symptoms. Also these symptoms can create problems at school that the student may need accommodations for in order for the student to understand the classes.

We have been hearing more and more about concussions in professional sports in recent years. We have also seen professional athletes walk away from their careers because they are not willing to risk the after effects of multiple concussions. A fact that some in professional sports do not want to be publicized. Will Smith stared in a movie regarding a professional football player and how his life significantly changed after several concussions. The National Football League tried to stop this movie from being made and shown, but they lost.

However, we do have examples. Mohammad Ali is the most notable example of how multiple concussions can change a person and leave them disabled. Also a news anchor for ABC News documented how his life changed after receiving a traumatic brain injury while covering the war in Afghanistan.

Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries also occur in teenagers. Teen athletes such as football players routinely suffer concussions. Many of these athletes suffer permanent brain damage such as difficulty remembering things or emotional issues such as mood swings. Also a number of high school athletes do die from concussions every year.

A new research study from Boston University shows that boys who play football before the age of 12 years old are more likely to have memory problems and problems making decisions as adults. This study also shows that boys who play football before age 12 are three times more likely to develop clinical depression as an adult. The study suggests the reason this occurs is because around the age of 12, a child’s brain is undergoing a great deal of development at this age. Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, explained that “the brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life.”

Another MRI study, by the Wakes Forest School of Medicine showed that boys between the ages of 8 years old to 13 years old who played even just one season of football showed signs of diminished brain function.

High school athletes are not the only teenagers at risk for concussions. Teens in general are at risk because teens are willing to engage in risky behavior such as jumping off something or racing cars. Many teens feel they are safe. They hear about these issues but think it would never happen to them. However we never know who it will happen to. Therefore, parents you need to educate and monitor your teenager’s behavior. If you have a teen athlete, you may need to make the decision to stop them from playing a sport if they have suffered a couple concussions. This is not easy but you must think of their lives after high school.

Also boys are not the only ones at risk for concussions. Girls are at risk for concussions too. In fact, some studies show that cheerleaders are at a higher risk of getting a concussion than foot players. Cheerleaders do not use helmets and have no head protection. Also many people assume a child needs to be knocked out in order to sustain a concussion. This is not true. You can sustain a concussion without losing consciousness. So football players are not the only one at risk. Any high school athlete is at risk – boy or girl. Anything that causes a jarring of the head can cause a concussion. Our brain sits in fluid in our skull. Therefore any jarring force can cause the brain to hit the side of the skull and cause a concussion. Also as the brain moves in the skull it can twist causing shirring. When the brain twists microscopic nerves can be severed adding to the concussion. Furthermore, no two brains are the same. This is why it is almost impossible to determine how long it will take someone to recover from a concussion. Two people’s scans may look the same and one may recover quickly and the other may need a long recovery period. There is no way to predict how long the recovery period will be. This is why all high school athletes are at risk for concussions and some may recovery quickly and others do not.

Therefore a concussion or post concussion syndrome can be very serious and impact a teenager for life. For the reason, parents need to be aware of the risks involved and if their child’s school is using the appropriate safety equipment and has a protocol for how they respond to a student with a concussion.

I have included a link to a YouTube video where a physician describes the basic information about what happens to a brain during a concussion and the process of recovery from a concussion. This is a must see for any parent https://youtu.be/zCCD52Pty4A.

In addition to this video I have included a fact sheet from the CDC regarding information about concussions for you to review http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/schools/tbi_factsheets_parents-508-a.pdf.

I have also included this link from the CDC which helps parents, coaches and schools https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers, trauma victims and their families and first responders. For more information on Dr. Rubino or his work please visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

What Every Parent Needs to Know about an IEP vs. A 504 plan

What Every Parent Needs to Know about an IEP vs. A 504 plan

WHAT EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT AN IEP and A 504 PLAN

By

Dr Michael Rubino

It appears to be getting close to the beginning of the school year. I am also already getting emails regarding IEPs that school districts failed to complete over the summer and from parents who want to have their child assessed for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). Parents are having difficulties arranging meetings and getting specific answers what will be included in their child’s IEP or is the school going to offer them a 504 plan instead. The IEP process is difficult under normal conditions. When we are in the middle of a pandemic it can become very overwhelming and confusing. Additionally, many parents do not know what an IEP is or what a 504 Plan is in regards to a child’s education. Also many parents are not aware of their rights or their child’s educational rights. I receive numerous emails from parents anytime I write about IEPs. Therefore, here is an article describing IEPs and 504 plans for parents. Hopefully this will explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan and help parents understand what their child is legally entitled to regardless of what the teacher is trying to make you believe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 25 years experience working with children, teens, trauma victims including first responders. He also has over 25 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or his website that deals specifically with IEPs, lucascenter.org or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Truth about Middle School in 2022

The Truth about Middle School in 2022

The school year is beginning and many parents are focused on their children’s transition into High School, College or Kindergarten. However, there is another important transition for children, Middle School. This is a major transition for pre-adolescents. As a psychotherapist who works with adolescents, I am very familiar with what is happening on High School and Middle School campuses and how big the transition is into Middle School these days. When kids transition to middle school they have to adjust to changing classes, having more than one teacher, increased homework and they are starting puberty and unsure of themselves. They are also not sure about all the academic changes. In addition to academic changes, physical changes with their own bodies, there are all the new social issues. Friends become more important and some students are talking about girlfriends, boyfriends and sex. This is a lot to adjust to at age 11. In addition to all of these changes, there are all the stories they have heard about middle school.

Many parents assume middle school in 2022 is similar to when they attended middle school, however the middle school in 2022 is very different than the middle school most parents attended. One example, when I mention to parents who have a child going into middle school or a child in middle school, if they have spoken to their child about drugs and alcohol, I am told no. I hear parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs or alcohol with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is that Middle School Students in 2022 are drinking, using drugs and having sex. Many parents are unaware of what is happening in Middle Schools these days. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved numerous dangerous activities such as selling drugs.

To begin with, most middle school campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on their school campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to feel successful as a teenager and so they fit in with friends. They also feel overwhelmed by the school shootings and the pandemic and they are looking for an escape. They see other kids at school using and they want to be part of the popular group so they think about and often try drinking or vaping.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse and they are not sexual active. Most 6th graders tell me oral sex doesn’t count as being sexually active. The kids say they are just “messing around” with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves from contracting STDs or getting pregnant. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are disrupting condoms to middle school kids. Yes, Middle Schools are giving condoms to children in the sixth grade. These kids are only 11 years old.

Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school anymore. Today there is for a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting by cellphone to tease and harass other kids. As many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing occurring at school. I wrote an article about a middle school girl who committed suicide and in her obituary she left a note to the other students just asking them to be nice to each other.

Another issue with teasing and dating is that students are not aware of the laws. As a result, many middle school students find themselves in trouble with the school district and often the police too. Harassment in middle school and dating often involves students texting or emailing pictures. Students are not aware that if they text a nude photo of another student or themselves that they have violated child pornography laws. Something many parents and students are not aware of is that a child can be charged with violating child pornography laws. When a child texts a nude photo of a middle school student, who is under 18 years old, it violates child pornography laws and the child who texts it and received it can both be arrested. The law is violated because the child in the photo is under 18 years old.

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or afraid school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. Boys are bragging about their fights on YouTube and comparing how many people have watched their fight with their friend’s fight. Therefore, boys feel they must fight, otherwise if they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp.” Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad that kids have to live in fear for their lives and for safety reasons many middle schools have metal detectors. The number of mass shootings at schools and the mass shooting drills they do at school exacerbate this fear. It’s sad that a place they should feel safe in that students now are afraid for their lives. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus, they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to mass shootings, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older and as a result the issues in their lives are becoming more difficult. Therefore, when you talk to your pre-teen mention drinking, sex or being teased and ask if they need to talk about it and they can talk about it anytime they need to. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Life Talk | PSA: This could be your child (Teen drinking, alcohol,partying,peer pressure)

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 25 years experience treating children, adolescents, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Helping Teenagers Maintain a Healthy Sleep Routine

Helping Teenagers Maintain a Healthy Sleep Routine

When teenagers were attending school remotely, many teens developed habits of sleeping in longer and staying up later. Summer vacation has not helped this issue. To most teenagers summer means sleeping in and staying up later playing online games with their friends or watching movies on their phones. This definitely does not promote a good sleep pattern for middle school and high school students.

Now that summer is ending and school is beginning, teenagers are not going to be able to stay up or sleep in. Some parents are struggling with their teenagers sleep habits. They report their teenagers are having a tendency now to want to sleep in later and are sleeping more hours on average. Many parents are stating that their teenagers are taking naps on a regular basis. Parents are telling me that they are trying everything they can think of, but they are not being too successful at changing their teenagers sleeping schedules.

A very interesting fact is that teenagers are telling me the same thing. Many teenagers are reporting since remote schooling started and most people were confined to their homes, they are sleeping more than they did before the pandemic. Many teenagers are also saying they don’t want to be sleeping as much as they are but they can’t seem to change their pattern of sleeping more since the pandemic.

This is an unique situation when parents and teenagers are agreeing on a problem behavior. Additionally, both acknowledge that they are trying to reduce the number of hours they are sleeping but nothing seems to be working. For many teenagers, not being able to return to their pre-pandemic sleep habits is very annoying. They are reporting having difficulties doing everything they need to do in their lives because they can’t change their current sleep schedule and they are sleeping too much.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Anxiety symptoms are being reported at epidemic rates by teenagers since the pandemic. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

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Anxiety Regarding Beginning High School in 2022

Anxiety Regarding Beginning High School in 2022

All over the Country teenagers will be starting their first year in high school or returning to high school. Typically I would recommend that parents think back to their first day of high school and how they felt and what they were expecting high school to be like and how they were expecting there other kids to act. I did this to help parents relate to some of the feelings their teenager maybe having as a way for parents to help their teenagers starting high school. This may help parents with some of the issues facing their teenagers, but teenagers starting high school or resuming high school in 2022 do so with mass school shootings occurring on a regular basis and we are still dealing with a deadly pandemic. Therefore, high school students are facing additional issues besides the typical first day of school issues. They are facing life and death issues, we never had to face in high school. Additionally, they see that the government is doing very little to protect from gun violence. Therefore, today’s teenagers are facing overwhelming issues we never had to face when we went to high school. This can make it difficult for parents to be able to completely understand the feelings teenagers and having starting high school.

High school students, in fact all students, are starting school when there is a significant increase in the Coronavirus due another new variant. As a result, many people including teenagers are contracting the virus and having to be hospitalized (CDC). The number of people contracting the virus is similar to the numbers we were seeing a year ago (CDC).

Therefore, high school students are starting high school not knowing if they will or will not contact the virus. Yes there are vaccinations they can get and they can wear masks, all of which decreases their chances of getting the virus, but some governors, school boards and parents are refusing these options. People are objecting because they say the precautions are not necessary and do not work. However, teens are hearing that the virus is spreading rapidly in most counties in the country. In fact, some counties such as Los Angeles County and considering returning to indoor mask mandates (LA County Public Health). Having to keep up with homework and after school activities, such as sports, is a lot for most teenagers without having to worry about the pandemic. Teenagers are worried about it because I hear them tell me about their concerns and some students would prefer to go back to remote learning due to the threat posed by the virus.

In addition to worrying about contracting the virus, students return to school having to deal with mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archives, there has been more than one mass shooting a day so far this year. The Gun Violence Archives also report there has been a 50% increase in mass shootings since 2020. Unfortunately, the recent shooting at the school in Texas showed we have not improved how we handle these shootings. The police waited outside for 77 minutes while children and teachers bled to death. Since most teenagers have smartphones, they have access to all of this information. They know the number of shootings are increasing, police are not handling the situations and the government refuses to pass laws that can have a real impact on gun violence. They also see the news that the mass shootings are a problem for the United States and they seldom occur in other countries. Given this environment, it is no surprise that we are seeing a significant increase in depression and anxiety disorders in teenagers (CDC). Teenagers today are not crazy and do not live in a fantasy world. They have access to the news very easily and they are very aware about what is occurring in our Country. Based on what the see and the lack of help by the government feeling anxious and depressed is a normal response.

One other issue, besides worrying about contracting the virus and mass shootings, students have missed an entire year of high school. Therefore, students who are sophomores never had a freshman year and have no idea what to expect. Teenagers who were enjoying their high school experience have missed out on an entire year. Therefore, students starting high school and returning to high school in 2022 are doing so facing many issues that students usually never face. For example, the main issue is adjusting from remote learning to being back in the class. Their school days are longer, they have more homework and they are around more people. This is not a simple adjustment. As a result of all the issues we have seen a significant increase in depression and anxiety in high school students (CDC).

Parents hopefully you can remember everything teenagers and you are facing as your teenagers start high school. You may need to contact your teenager’s school and ask for assistance from the school. You may need to seek out a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and have your teenager participate in psychotherapy. There is no shame in doing this because teenagers are facing tremendous mental health issues and many need help. Since the pandemic and school resuming, there has been a significant increase in the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy (CDC). In fact we are running out of psychotherapist who are able to treat these teenagers. No one planned on how to adequately handle the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy due to the pandemic.

Parents all you can do is to be patient and listen to your teenagers and seek the help you feel is appropriate. Also do not forget yourselves. Parents are under a great deal of stress too and you may need psychotherapy too. If you try to work together and are patient with each other, you should be able to handle the stress teenagers are facing due to the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic, students starting high school still deal with common anxieties most teenagers have faced over the years. One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors picking on and teasing the freshman students. Another common fear for freshman is that they are going to get lost on the campus and not be able to find their classrooms. Your teenagers are at a point in their life where they want to make a good impression on the other students. At their age image is very important. Therefore the idea of being teased by the seniors or getting lost on the campus can be very stressful and also create a great deal of anxiety for a student starting high school.

As parents, you can talk to your teenagers about your first days days at high school and reassure them that the stories they hear about Freshmen being targets for the seniors are greatly exaggerated. Also you can try to go with them over to the school before it starts and walk around the campus so they can get use to where everything is at their new school. Another thing you can do is remind them that everyone makes mistakes so if they do get lost the first day it is not a big deal. Remind them there will be a lot of other kids starting their first day of school too and there will be other kids getting lost. This is also another opportunity to continue to establish an open relationship with your teenager. The more you talk with each other, you increase the likelihood that they will feel comfortable coming and talking to you about issues they will have while in high school.

Another issue facing some students is starting all over. In middle school may be everyone knew them and they were in the “popular group.” Now no one knows them and they need to start all over. This may be frightening to them, but remind them there will be many times in life when they will need to start as the new person. Also remind them, if they were able to do it in middle school, they can do it in high school too. Be sure to encourage them to have faith in themselves because it won’t happen over night. Now for many students middle school was a nightmare. They may be looking forward to starting over. Again remind them if they have the desire to try they can do it. All the Freshmen are starting all over just like them, but also to be patient because it may not happen as quickly as they like.

Also before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are regarding grades and after school activities and hanging out with friends. At this time is a good time to establish what your expectations are homework, after school jobs and weekend curfews. If you establish an understanding between yourself and your teenager before these situations arise you can save yourself a lot of time arguing with your teenager. However as you establish these guidelines you want to have a conversation with your teenager about these issues. Remember your teenager is starting to enter the adult world, if you simply just tell them these are the rules, they will feel that you are being unfair and they will try to find a way around your rules. If you have a discussion with them about the rules they will feel that their opinions were respected, they are more likely to feel that the rules are fair and are more likely to follow the rules. It is also a good idea to write a contract with all the things you agreed to. If you write the agreements down and there is a misunderstanding you simply need to refer back to the contract. Also this is another opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your teenager where they feel comfortable enough to come to you and discuss any problems they may be having. You are also role modeling to them how to have an adult discussion and how to negotiate fairly and respectfully with other their people.

Of course you also want to take this opportunity to discuss with your teenager the fact that they are going to be faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex. This is a good time to provide them with the education they will need in order to cope with these situations. It is even more important today because technology has changed a number of rules. For example, if a girl texts a nude photo to a boy, he is guilty of having child pornography. Yes it was mutually agreed to but they are still under 18 years old so it is a crime. Texting is another area where they can get into trouble. If someone takes a text as a threat they can get into trouble for bullying or assault. As I said, technology has changed the rules and many of us have not been able to keep it. Therefore, remind them that information they may receive from their friends may not always be accurate. Furthermore, encourage them that at any time if they have any questions or concerns regarding these matters or any other matters you are always there to listen and to talk with them.

One thing to remember is acronym HALT. I teach this often with anger management, but it helps with communication too.

H – hunger

A – anger

L – lonely

T – tired

If either one of you are having these feelings, it is generally not a good time to have a discussion. Also if either one of you is feeling like this and you may not be listening to each other. Therefore, if either one of you are having these feelings or don’t feel like talking, then it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are both ready to talk.

Lastly, remind them that they are starting a brand-new phase in their life and it is normal to feel anxious and stress. Also remind them that these feelings are normal in the beginning but they usually quickly disappear after they have started school.

Besides having to face the pandemic, high school students today also have to face the issue of school shootings, as I mentioned above. Sadly, this is another stressful subject you may want to discuss with your teenager. Develop a plan with your teenager about what they would do if there was a shooting at their school. Also discuss with them what to do if they hear rumors or have concerns about how another student is acting. Finally, discuss how you can help if they are feeling worried or not safe at school. It is sad, but this is the world we live in today. Talking to you teen can help decrease anxiety and help you to maintain open communication with your teenager.

A few things you can do on the first day of classes to help with any anxiety are you can get up in the morning with them and have breakfast with them before they go to school. You can also put a note of encouragement in their backpack that they will find when they are at school and this can help reassure them and remind them how much support they have at home. Finally, you can arrange to be at home when when they get home from their first day of high school so you can talk about it with them. Also plan to have a family dinner to discuss everyone’s first day of school and offer encouragement where needed. These are just a few ideas to help with the transition process.

One final issue to remember, since there has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression in high school students, many students are having difficulties in class and completing their homework. If they are having difficulties, they may be entitled to a 504 plan or an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Most school districts will offer you a 504 plan because it is easy for the school and costs the school no money. However, if your teen is having significant problems with school demand in writing that they be evaluated for an IEP. There is nothing to be ashamed about and an IEP will not prevent your child from going to college or getting a job. If you need further information regarding IEPs refer to my articles regarding IEPs or contact my office regarding an IEP consultation.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 25 years experience working with teenagers. To learn more about his private practice in Pleasant or the work he has done over 25 years visit his web site at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.