The Good News is You are not Crazy, You have a Teenager

The Good News is You are not Crazy, You have a Teenager

Many parents of teenagers feel like they are going crazy. One day their teen is acting like an adult and like they don’t need a parent and the next their teen is acting like a child and cannot live without parents. It becomes very frustrating to many parents because they never know how their teen will be acting that day.

Many parents feel like they cannot win because if they treat their teen like an adult that is the day their teen is acting like a child. Besides not knowing what mood their teen will be in, parents get tired of their teens being angry at them because their parents guessed the wrong mood. Well parents, you are not crazy and the confusion you are feeling is real. Teens do switch from acting mature to acting child like very quickly and very often. It has nothing to do with how you are parenting your teen, it has to do with their biology.

The Prefrontal Cortex in teenagers is not fully developed yet. As a result, you see and experience the mood swings in your teens that we just described. The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning skills and the ability to make mature consistent decisions. One of the best ways that I have seen to deal with this situation is make no assumptions. When dealing with your teen see what mood they are in and respond accordingly. As your teen is getting older make suggestions how they could have looked at the situation or sit down with them and discuss how they made their decision. The most important thing is to remember they are not doing it on purpose, it is part of the process they need to go through as they become adults. They need to learn how to make rational, mature decisions. Right now when dealing with a teen, the best thing as a parent can do is to take a deep breath and assess the situation. The way you respond to them is modeling how to act like an adult. Also this will reduce fights in the family and improve communication. If you remember back to when they were toddlers you did not expect them to understand everything because they were a little child. Just because physically your teen may look and can physically act like an adult doesn’t mean that emotionally they are adults. Remember they are still maturing and need your help. A little understanding can go a long way.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience specializing in the mental health issues and providing psychotherapy for adolescents. He also has a private practice in Pleasant Hill. You can learn more about his work or private practice by visiting his web site http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Christmas

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Christmas

The Holiday Season is here and people are stressing about buying gifts and spending the day with relatives. For many people this Holidays are a happy time and for others it is a stressful time. The Holidays can be stressful because they may bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or everyone is trying to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one. Also parents are concerned how their children will act around the entire family and what will happen if their child receives a gift they do not want?

Thanksgiving has passed and next we have Christmas. Parents you can start by looking at what occurred on Thanksgiving. Overall we’re you happy with it or are there somethings that you would like to change?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Children and Holiday Gift Issues

Children and Holiday Gift Issues

At this time of year most people are worried about finishing Christmas shopping before Christmas and buying the right gifts for everyone. People also worry about how much to spend and who to buy a gift for. While we have these worries so do many of our family members and friends. It is especially difficult for families who cannot afford to spend money on gifts because they can barley afford the rent. We need to remember how much someone spends on a gift is not the point. The thought is what is important. Someone can make a gift and that gift is just as important as the gift someone bought. Parents need to educate children about this fact and model appropriate behavior for children.

One of the most awkward situation is what to do when someone receives a gift they don’t like or want. This is even more of a sensitive situation when a child or teenager receives a gift they don’t want. It is more difficult because children and teenagers often do not have the social skills to cope with the situation.

All of these worries regarding gifts can ruin Christmas for people. We should be more concerned about spending time with the people who are important to us not gifts.

This is a lesson parents need to teach to their children. The Holidays are not about gifts, they are about love.

In preparing for this article I found as list by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. which deals with this issue. She outlined the topic in away to make it easy for parents to use with their children. I have included her points below:

▪ Be sure the adults model gratitude and courtesy.It’s impossible to teach children to be gracious if they are watching their parents and other role models behave badly. Raising children well often means cleaning up our own acts. When we remember to regularly say please and thank you and demonstrate our gratitude both for the gifts we receive and the givers who enrich our lives by their very presence, we provide our children with powerful lessons in both politeness and love. When we thank our children for presents they give us — whether it is a drawing they made or something they purchased — we show them how good it makes people feel to be appreciated.

▪ Talk to your child about what giving is all about. Ideally, it is an act of love and caring. It’s a way people say, “You’re special to me. I want to make you happy.” Even when a gift is a disappointment, the intention was to please.

▪ Kids as young as 5 can learn to figure out something positive to say about a disappointing gift.Finding a reason to be grateful when it would be so much easier to get upset is an invaluable life skill. At age 8, Jocey’s son could have said, “I’ll like playing with this fire truck with my little brother.” (At only 3, my son was too young to be that sophisticated when confronted with the robot though he surprised us all by finding a way to make it less scary.) Give your kids some practice by imagining together some outrageous “gifts” and thinking about what positive things they could say to compliment the gift or the giver.

▪ Teach them that if they can’t find something to like about the gift, they can always focus on the love. Someone loved them enough to think about what to get, to go to the store to buy it, and to wrap it up and deliver it. They can always tell the person that it makes them feel good and special that someone went to all that trouble.

▪ Emphasize that it’s never, ever, okay to hurt the giver’s feelings. They mustn’t poke fun at the gift or embarrass the giver — even if the giver isn’t there to hear it. Laughing at another’s expense isn’t being funny. It’s just unkind. If those unkind comments get back to the person, it can damage the relationship.

▪ Reassure your children that if they really, honestly don’t like a gift, they can quietly come to you later to talk about it. Often gifts can be exchanged or a parent can tactfully help the giver better understand what would be a better choice at another time. And sometimes at least, what at first seemed like the most inappropriate, useless gift ever can become a dear reminder of the person who gave it.

While how a child might respond to gift is an issue, buying gifts can be an issue. Also regifting can be an issue. Again gift buying and regifting can become major issues for some families. In an attempt to avoid this issue, I have included a link regarding gift giving and receiving etiquette. I think it can help many families with some common gift buying and receiving issues. http://www.designsponge.com/20…

Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and adolescents. For more information about his work and services offered at his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Talking To Kids about Mass Shootings

Mass shootings have become a daily occurrence in our country. Just the other day there was another shooting at the Naval Base in Pensacola, Florida. Closer to home there was a threat of a possible shooting at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek. The police determined in was not a valid threat and it was a kid trying to scare people. However, I did receive calls from parents asking me, how do I talk to my child about this threat? Many parents said to me before it was easier because the shootings were far away. Now it was in our backyards and parents were not sure what to do.

It is not surprising that parents are feeling overwhelmed. According to the CDC, as of November 15th which was the 319th day of the year, there have been 336 shootings as in November 15th for the year 2019. Also there have been 250 deaths and 979 injuries in 2019. According to the CDC, there have been a total of 1347 deaths and 1684 injuries in mass shootings many of them occurred at schools. With the recent shootings at Santa Clarita and the Naval Base, the numbers will increase. When you look at these numbers and you look at there are 1.2 shootings, this is very overwhelming. It is difficult for adults to comprehend how do you discuss with a 10 year old child.

Many people think they can ignore discussing it with their children because they do not watch the news. They may not watch the news, but the hear people talking and see things on the internet. Also most schools have intruder shooting drills now. So children are very aware of mass shootings. In fact, over the last 2 years, I have seen a significant increase of children for anxiety, depression and not wanting to go to school. The kids tell me they are afraid of getting killed if they go to school. Therefore, parents need to discuss mass shootings with their children.

When you speak to your children you need to do so in an age appropriate manner. Reassure them everyone is doing everything they can to keep them safe. Do not deny that there have been shootings at schools because they know there have been shootings. If you lie about the shootings, they will not trust what you have to say. The main point children are looking for is that people are there to keep them safe and everyone is doing everything possible to keep them safe. Children look towards adults to keep them safe so it is very important as parents you say and do whatever you can to reassure your child, you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

This is a very difficult topic for children and parents. As a parent you want to reassure your child, but you do not want to lie. I have included a link to a very good video. It goes over different age groups and explains to parents how to approach your child regarding this issue. I encourage every parent to watch it and to talk to your child. Remember, if you do so in a loving way, you will help your child a great deal. The most important thing to them is that you love them and they know you are trying to keep them safe. https://youtu.be/Ddk0RUKbAMk.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is also certified to treat trauma victims. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

Smartphone as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first cellphone or Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 11. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their phone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 10XR or 11.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school student will be asking to upgrade their phones. They need the latest version otherwise they cannot function at school or contact their friends. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone XR or 11. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges especially teens and children in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. The other argument that is common between parent and teenagers is many teens tell their parents if they cared, they would by them a smartphone. Being a parent is not a popularity contest determined by how much money you spend. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child does not get into major trouble with the phone.

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

Cellphone Contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino has been working with middle school and high school students for over 20 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

The Holidays and Special Need Children

The Holidays and Special Need Children

The Holidays are here and many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this is not true for every family or child. The Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them.

The Holidays, as I said above, are supposed to be a happy time. Therefore, when parents, who have a child on the autistic spectrum, see their child getting upset or agitated, it is difficult for them. Additionally, many parents who have children on the spectrum worry about how other people will react or judge their child.

All of this worry for the parents and change for the kids can make the Holidays a stressful time for autistic children. I did read a very good article by Lori Lite which has good ideas for parents to use during the Holidays. These ideas can help make the Holidays a happy time for your child and for your family. I would suggest trying these ideas and not worrying how other people may or may not judge your child. Being Autistic is nothing to be ashamed about. I treat many autistic children and they are usually very caring, smart children. We need to change our views regarding autism. It is a medical condition like diabetes or being blind. We make accommodations for children with these issues so we can make accommodations for a child with Autism. Therefore, try some of these ideas to help you and your child enjoy the Holidays.

Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.

Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions.

Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t overbook your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece.  Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain for correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens are on the Autistic Spectrum. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Surviving Winter Break with Your Teenager Not in School

Surviving Winter Break with Your Teenager Not in School

It’s the Holiday Season and most people are excited and feeling overwhelmed too. Teenagers are very excited about Winter Break. They have no school for at least two weeks and are looking forward to staying up late, sleeping in and spending times with friends. However, many parents are not so excited about Winter Break. Most parents have to work full time so they are concerned about what their teenager will be doing while they are working and there are some family activities planned which means their teenager cannot spend all of the break with friends. Therefore, parents are starting to wonder how to handle this situation so Winter Break is enjoyable for everyone.

It might help parents, to have a better understanding of how their teenagers look at Winter Break. In their minds, they have spent a great deal of extra time during December studying for midterms, finals and completing final projects. They have had to give up some time with friends and there were several nights they had to stay up late studying. Therefore, they feel they are entitled to sleep in and spend time with their friends. Additionally, a number of juniors and seniors have friends who will be returning from their first year at college. Therefore, Winter Break is the only time they have to spend with them. Again, they feel entitled to the time because they spent a lot of extra time studying so they are entitled to some free time. Another factor is that many teenagers consider some of the family activities scheduled to be boring compared to hanging out with friends.

Now parents can just say this is what you will be doing over Winter Break because we are your parents. This will result in a great deal or arguing and teenagers sneaking off to spend time with friends. This approach is not very effective and results in a great deal of unhappiness for parents and teenagers. Winter Break feels like a prison sentence not anything to celebrate.

I recommend sitting down with all your children and developing a plan for Winter Break. First explain how you envision the break going and the activities you have planned and want your children to participate in. Explain to them why you want them to participate in these activities and what it means to you. Next let your teens discuss what plans they had for break and why these plans are important to them. This allows you and your teenagers to discuss everyone’s plans and a solution that will work for everyone. Remind your teenager that your daily expectations regarding vaping, alcohol and their over all behavior still apply. You are not setting up new house rules. You are simply setting up a schedule for Winter Break.

As for the days, I recommend setting a time they need to up by such as 10:30am. This gives them time to sleep but not sleep the day away. Also leave a couple chores they can help with when they get up. Such as cleaning up their own dishes and maybe cleaning the kitchen or doing some laundry or putting some clothes away. After that they can spend time with their friends. Ask them to tell you what they plan on doing the night before and ask them to check in by text at certain times. Also agree on a time they need to be home. During the week maybe require they are home three nights a week for a family dinner. The other nights and weekends, they can have dinner with friends or bring a friend home for dinner. Whatever they do, they need to tell you before, check in occasionally by text and be home by a certain time. As for bed time don’t spend a great deal on that one. Allow them to go to bed when they want as long as they are able to get up by the agreed upon time. If they miss getting up on time 3 times in a row, then you set a bed time. This is only for teens in high school. For children in middle school and elementary school, you need to set a bed time.

As you are coming up with these agreements, you are also writing them down on a contract that everyone will sign and get a copy to keep. Therefore, if there is a misunderstanding, you just refer back to the contract. You also should agree upon consequences if someone violates the contract and include them in the contract.

Now the big issue to confront, how much evening time your teen will spend with friends and what activities you have planned that they will attend. This is not easy. I usually suggest if the activity is a big family activity including extended family or a family tradition then your teenager needs to attend. Depending on the activity may be the can bring a friend or leave early. As for time with their friends, ask what they have planned and see how it fits into the family schedule. Most often teenagers won’t know their plans yet because they need to talk to their friends. Therefore, give them time to talk to their friends and add their events to the calendar. One important thing to remember, your teenagers are becoming young adults and need their social time too. Therefore, try to be flexible with them. If it is a family event, they definitely should be present and participate. If it is a community event or neighborhood party, it is probably fine to allow them to miss it and spend time with their friends.

As for the time they spend with friends, it is fine to require that they tell you what they will be doing and where they will be. Setting a time to be home is appropriate too. Also it is fine to ask them to check in by text too. One thing you may consider is setting up an activity with your teenager and their friends so you can spend time with them and see how they are maturing. If you decide to try doing an activity with your teen and their friends, only do it if your teenager is agreeable and allow them to plan the activity.

Remember, everything you agree to with your teenager, you will write down in your Winter Break contract. Everyone will sign it and get a copy so if there is a misunderstanding you simply refer back to the contract.

Finally, let your teenager know you are aware that they are getting older and they are starting to have social lives of their own and this is why you are having this discussion. Explain that hopefully this will help eliminate fighting over their break, but nothing is perfect. Therefore, issues may come up that you have not discussed. Ask, if an issue does occur, that everyone tries to discuss it remembering you all have the same goal of everyone enjoying the holiday. Hopefully if you keep this in mind and discusses any issues that occur it can be a happy holiday break for everyone.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 aa