Why We are Seeing More Depressed & Anxious Teenagers

In today’s society there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety and suicide among teenagers and children. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children 10 to 18 years old. Yes 10 year old children are committing suicide. Also the average age for children first time to try smoking marijuana is now 10 years old. Children and teenagers tell me everyday how stressed or depressed they feel.

In my practice I am seeing more and more children and teens reporting they feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. One of the main reasons I hear for these feelings is that children feel a great deal of pressure to succeed in school. I have kids in 5th grade and 6th grade worrying about grades. Not because their parents will get mad because if they don’t get As they wont get into a good college and won’t get a good job and won’t be able to afford a house.

This is a great deal for a 5th grader or 6th grader to worry about at their age.

I also see middle school students and high school students involved in several sports and other activities such as Boy Scouts. The kids are feeling pressured to do extracurricular activities not for fun but for their resume. They are again concerned about getting into a good college and being a success. This pressure is not coming from parents either. It is pressure kids are now placing on themselves. Many teenagers are choosing not to play high school football or baseball so they have time to study.

Teenagers are also discussing being concerned with their safety. Many kids in Middle School are carrying knives in case they get attack. Many teenagers point to the mass shootings as a reason they should be worried. Since the beginning of 2016 more people have died in mass shootings than they have from 2000 to the year 2015. Everyday we hear about another shooting or terrorist threat. Of course children will be depressed and anxious.

Recent studies are showing a correlation between lack of fun and time to relax with the increase in depression in children and teenagers. A study in Psychology Today discusses this issue. I have included the link so parents can read this study and think about it. Also so you can look at your children and talk with them. See if they are enjoying life or feeling overwhelmed because they need to succeed. Money pays the bills but doesn’t guarantee happiness https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/conceptual-revolution/201604/what-s-the-opposite-play

Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert working with children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com

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Middle School in the 21st Century

School will be starting in about a month. For many families their child will be starting sixth grade. This means their child is entering Middle School. From the families I have worked with it is apparent that many parents are not aware how Middle School has changed. Many parents assume Middle School is just like it was when they went to Middle School in the 80s or 90s.

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 these parents are wrong. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved in very adult activities.

To begin with, most 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 the campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekend.

A lot of middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think so. They are not engaging in intercourse but they are engaging in oral sex. 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.
Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school. Often there is a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and texting by phone to tease and harass other kids. And as many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing at school. Also a number of middle school students have been arrested for photos they text and for harassment. Texting a photo of a child in middle school means the middle school child violated child pornography laws.

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. If they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp” so they have to fight. Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad kids have to live fear for their safety.

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 so are there issues regarding drinking, sex or being teased that they need to talk about. 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:

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 18 years experience treating adolescents. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s practice check his web site http://www.rcs-ca.com or his profile on LinkedIn.

What Parents Should Know about IEPs and School

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, Bipolare 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 drmike@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 18 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 19 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 http://www.rcs-ca.com

What to Expect as Your Teenager Starts High School

As your teen enters high school they are also starting to enter the adult world. This is now a time for them to start to take on new responsibilities and to consider the reputation they are creating for themselves. As parents your responsibility is to help guide them, not tell them exactly what to do. It is important that the teen develop life skills on their own. You will not always be there as the parent to help.

The first step is for you to allow them to earn your respect. Explain that they are no longer little kids, that they are now young adults, and part of being an adult is earning people’s respect. You also have to be prepared to respect them and allow them to be young adults and not treat them like little children. This does not mean you are giving up control. Your teen still needs you for money, permission to do things at school and to sign the consent for the all important driver’s permit. So relax, you still have all the control you need.

The first place to start with respect is their rooms. Allow them to have their rooms as their own private space. Do not worry if it is dirty or if their are clothes all over, it is their space and they have the right to live in it how they choose. Set the limits that as long as you can close the door and there are no odors coming from their room, you will respect their privacy. If these agreements are broken, then you have the right to go in and clean as you like. You also have the right to inspect the room if there are obvious signs of drug use. As a parent you have to balance your teen’s right to privacy, but at the same time you need to ensure their health and safety.

Homework is another big area of concern. Make your life easy. Set a minimum GPA such as 3.0 or 2.0 based on your teen’s ability and then allow your teen to manage their homework. If they ask for help, obviously help them. If they do not, let them handle their homework until progress reports and grades come out. You need to have an agreement as to what will happen if they fail to maintain the minimum GPA set and they never ask for help. If they fail to maintain the minimum GPA, then the consequences you agreed to are implemented. The consequences occur not because you are being mean, they occur because the teen failed to live up to their part of the agreement – they made the choice. This is important to reinforce so you are not labeled the bad guy and the teen learns a lesson in making choices.

Finally, you and your teen need to sit down a draw up a contract concerning the house rules, school performance and your expectations regarding their behavior in general. If you have it in black and white and there is a conflict then all you need to do is refer back to the contract and the problem is resolved. It is very important that you abide by the contract too. So you cannot increase a consequence, if you agreed to something else already with your teenager. It is essential that you honor your word. If you want your teen to be responsible, you must be responsible.

One last thing – no one is perfect. If you make a mistake, model appropriate behavior and apologize. If your teen makes a mistake and comes to you right away to apologize, thank them for their honesty and compliment them on their maturity. Remember, they want to know that they are important in the world. By treating them with respect and as maturing adults you are validating the fact that they are important and loved and you are encouraging them to keep trying.

Obviously, it is not always that easy and there are various parenting situations. The above suggestions are a guideline to get started with as your teen enters high school.
Dr Michael Rubino is an expert in providing psychotherapy to teenagers and their parents. He has over 19 years experience working with teenagers. For more information on Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teenagers & their parents and is considered an expert regarding teens. If you would like to contact Dr. Michael Rubino or would like more information about his private practice, visit his web site at http://www.rcs-ca.com

Tell Your Teenager I Love You

It’s the 4th of July weekend and many teenagers will be involved in various activities. It’s a popular weekend for teenagers to be out drinking and also swimming with friends. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed.

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

With it being the Fourth of July weekend and there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. Also there was a threat against San Francisco that authorities are saying is legitimate, however, some say it’s not.

A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance.

I Love You

How could you?
They asked you,
How could you?
But you could not answer
As you were not here.
Why would you?
They asked you,
Why would you?
But their questions fell onto
The world’s deafest ears.
I loved you!
They told you,
I loved you.
But they told you too late,
Through their tears.
I’ll miss you,
They told you,
I’ll miss you.
And in death now
They hold you more dear.
The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel unloved or that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a therapist is Pleasant Hill with over 18 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com.

Getting Respect from Teenagers

High school and the teenage years are a very difficult time for many teens and parents. This time of life has become even more difficult with the advancement of social networking, smart phones and computer technology not to mention the increase in drugs that are available to teens. These drugs are designer drugs such as ecstasy and spice as well as prescription drugs such as Vicodin or Concerta can easily be obtained on any middle school or high school campus today. And yes, this is the truth.

Things are advancing and changing so fast that life is becoming overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and for parents too. Not to mention society in general. One thing that has not changed, is that parents are a child’s main role model and parents provide their teens with cellphones, laptops, cars etc. However, with the rapid changes in our society, a lot of parents have forgotten that they are their teenagers primary model and primary source for obtaining all the things teenagers feel they cannot live without.

One major issue is that parents don’t feel respected by their teenagers. However, very often, parents don’t require teenagers to be respectful. Many parents may set rules and their teenager blatantly ignores their parents and nothing happens. Parents tell me this often and I suggest suspending their teenager’s phone service or now that it’s summer not taking them on the family vacation. Many parents looked at me and say they cannot do that to their teenager. Their teen relies on their cellphone or has been counting on the vacation. Parents also tell me if they take such actions their teen will become very difficult to live with and might break things in the house.

So who is in charge? Your teenager is in charge. Remember they know you very well. They know you will be anxious or feel guilty about imposing tough consequences. Therefore, they are not afraid to disrespect their parents and do what they want because they know there will be little to no consequences.

Therefore parents if you want respect don’t be afraid to impose consequences. Remember your teenager needs you to pay their bills and give them consent to get a drivers license. Parents have more power than you realize. Also if you don’t expect respect and allow disrespect that is what you are going to get.

Any time I have explained how much their parents do for them and what would happen if mom and dad stop, I have never had a teenager not stop and think. If the teen still chooses to test the limits as soon as they see mom and dad will stand by what they say, they soon learn to respect mom and dad. Parents you must remember to only set limits that you are willing to see it through. If you don’t, teenagers will not respect your word or authority.

Parents it is also remember that you cannot just start this when your teenager turns 15 years old. By this point is that you have established patterns of disrespect. You need to start taking to your children at age 5 years old about following the rules mom and dad set and respecting mom and dad. It is a process that takes time. It is important that you remember this fact.

Since your child was born, s/he have been watching you and studying you about how to act and what actions are appropriate. They have been listening to what you have been saying to them about how to act as a responsible, decent member of society. I know many parents feel that once their child started middle school that their child stopped listening to them, but that is not true. They may act like they are not listening or that they don’t care about your opinion but they do.

I have teens come into the office all the time and complain that they feel like their parents do not care about what they do. Often teens make this assumption because they say their parents set no boundaries for them or they feel that the parent cares more about their careers than their children. At times parents do focus more on careers or stop setting limits because they feel that their child doesn’t listen to them. Parents often feel this way because their teen will say, “I don’t care what you think or I don’t care what you do”. However, they do care and often they say these things or act this way because they feel hurt.

Every child, no matter what they say, wants to know that they are important to you, that you care about what they say and you care about what they do. One major problem that I encounter with parents is that many parents do not practice what they preach. Yes you are an adult and you have a right to drink alcohol or engage in other adult behaviors, but you need to do so responsibly. If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Yes you are an adult but using marijuana is illegal no matter how old you are. Also watch how you speak to your teen and others. Do you do so in a respectful manner or are you rude to people?

A lot of parents will come in and tell me that their behavior doesn’t matter and that their child has no idea what they do so they can do what they want. The truth is, your behavior does matter and your children know what you are doing even if you think they do not know.

I have had eight year old children complain that “my mommy drinks too much wine”, or “my daddy smokes pot in the garage” or “my daddy talks mean to people”, or “my parents fight too much.”. When I try to talk to a teen about their behavior after they have said something like this, the teen responds if my parents can do it, why can’t I? This is difficult to argue with if the parents are using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol. Also the fact that eight year old children also make these comments demonstrate that if you want your teen to act respectful, then as a parent you need to model respectful behavior starting when they are born. Also children want to know that they are important to you and setting rules and enforcing rules communicate to your kids that you care about them.

The bottom line is that as a parent you have the most significant role in your child’s life. If you want your child to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult, then you have to act like a mature, responsible adult and you need to do so from the day they are born.

In this world where things are changing over night, children need to know they can rely on their parents to protect them and guide them. Again given how fast society is changing, this is not an easy job for a parent. The easiest way to sum it up is to remember to practice what you preach.

Dr Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. Dr Rubino is considered an expert in this area. For more information on Dr Michael Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com.

An Epidemic in Teenagers who Cut

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in kids 10 to 18 years old. In this article we are going to explore a teen behavior that can result in suicide and that is cutting. This is a very common behavior among teenagers and many parents know little about it. Cutting is usually used as a method to deal with emotions, but it can lead to permanent damage or suicide, if the teen is not aware of what they are doing.

Cutting is any behavior which results in self-mutilating. Therefore it could be cutting oneself, scratching, burning, erasing ones own skin etc. Anything that results in damaging ones own body. It is also a behavior that is on the rise in the teenage population.

A recent study by Rhode Island hospital found that 46% of high school students admit to engaging in some form of cutting over the past year and 20% of college students admitted to it. ABC news found that 1 in 12 teens engage in cutting. Girls are more likely to cut than boys, but boys still do cut. I have both teenage boys and girls admitting to some form of cutting. The CDC has found between 20% and 30% of teenagers engage in some form of cutting or self-mutilating behavior. One of the major treatment centers for cutting has found 1 out of 5 girls engage in cutting and for boys the statistic is one out of 7 engage in cutting. Most studies, including the CDC, report the average age for a teenager to engage in cutting or self-mutilating behavior is 14 years old. Furthermore, research studies indicate without treatment, 40% of teenagers who cut or self-mutilate will continue the behavior as an adult. This is a very serious condition and research is showing it is increasing every year. One study showed 30% of teenagers cut. Think about how many teenagers that is in reality. Also then consider without treatment most of that 30% will continue the behavior as adults. We need to address this issue.

You may ask, why would someone cut themselves? Most teens engage in self-mutilating behavior because they find it easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are experiencing. Some teens prefer just to cut and that helps release the pain and others need to watch the blood or watch the act of cutting or erasing as a way to deal with the pain.

This behavior is very common now among teenagers. Most teens have engaged in one form of self-mutilating behavior as a way to deal with their feelings.

What they do not think about when they are engaging in this behavior is the risk. If they cut too deep or in the wrong area they can cut a major artery and bleed to death. They can cut a nerve or tendon and lose control over their arm or leg. The site they cut or erase can become severely infected and lead to a number of medical issues. Most teens who cut are not suicidal but they are looking for a way to cope with their emotional pain.

Signs that your teen may be engaging in cutting are personality changes, where long sleeves or not allowing anyone to see their body. They often cut on their stomachs, chests or thighs because it is easier to hide. Picking at scabs is another sign. Changes in their appetites and sleeping pattern. Also a tendency to withdraw from family and friends. They also have a tendency to act depressed.

If you feel your teen is cutting, don’t be afraid to ask. However, if you do ask don’t act shocked or like they are doing something bizarre. Teens who cut are very afraid of being shamed. If you act like you cannot cope with their behavior they will not tell you.

Obviously if your teen is cutting there are emotional issues going on. The first thing to do is to have them examined by their pedestrian. You want to make sure there are no infections or damage that needs medical attention. The next step is to have them see a therapist who specializes in teenagers and especially one who specializes in cutting. Again if the therapist acts uncomfortable with the subject the teen will not talk. The good news is that with appropriate care most teens learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthy manner and stop cutting.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and specializes in cutting and self-mutilating behavior. For more information about Dr Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com