The iGen Generation and The Struggles they face

The iGen Generation and The Struggles they face

I have noticed for several years how teenagers who have grown up with Smartphones have different problems the past teens I have seen in psychotherapy.

The teens who have always have had Smartphones report feeling more anxious, lonely and depressed. They also are more likely to engage in cutting and other self-mutilating behaviors. Finally, they are more likely to report suicidal feelings. I have noticed they go no where without their phones and can become violent if you take their phones away.

Many parents have noticed the same issues and asked me how they can address these issues. The problem is we don’t have an answer to this question. The iGen generation is the first generation to grow up with Smartphones and instant access to almost everything. We do not have the research to tell us how these teens will be impacted.

However, Dr. Jean Twenge did a study and her results are scary. They show 1 out of 5 iGen teens have mental health issues and the suicide rate for this generation has increased by 200%. This is shocking.

I have included a link to a presentation she did so parents can understand this problem better and some options they have to help their teenager. iGen: The Smartphone Generation | Jean Twenge | TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool via @YouTube

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website


Preparing Your Teenager for High School

Preparing Your Teenager for High School

In about six weeks a number of students will be starting their first year in high school. Parents this is a good time to think back to your first day of high school and how you felt and what you were expecting. This can help you relate to some of the feelings your teenager is having and help you when you talk to them about starting high school. Hopefully this article will be able to provide some tips to make it an easy transition for your teenager and for you.

One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors pick on and tease 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 their image and reputation are very important to them. 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 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 they may have been very popular and everyone knew them. 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. However, encourage them to have faith and be patient 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, 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. Furthermore, before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are for your teenager regarding grades, homework, after school activities. 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 no matter what 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 are being respected and 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. 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.

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.

Dr. Rubino has a private practice in Pleasant Hill and specializes in working with teens. To find out more about the work he has done over 20 years visit his web site at

Fair Fighting Rules When Teens Act Dispectfully

Fair Fighting Rules When Teens Act Dispectfully

I just posted an article about how parents can avoid power struggles with their teenagers especially when the teenagers answer in a disrespectful manner. In addition to power struggles, disrespectful behavior can result in arguing. Therefore, this post regarding fair fighting in conjunction with the one one disrespectful behavior should be helpful to parents.

We must remember that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is still developing in teenagers. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and other executive functions. Therefore, while teenagers look mature enough to have a reasonable conversation, their brains may not be mature enough therefore they are more likely to argue. However, an argument is not always bad. There are ways to have a healthy argument and ways to have destructive, hurtful arguments. Most of us never learned how the have a healthy, reasonable disagreement.

Many people feel that a disagreement or fight is always a bad thing for a relationship. However, this is not true. If you handle a disagreement or argument fairly, it can be a very healthy thing for a relationship. It can help you overcome past miscommunications or help you to resolve a problem.

As I stated above, parents who are dealing with teenagers need to remember that for teenagers their Frontal Lobes in their brains are still developing. Therefore, they cannot always reason like adults and often have difficulties having fair disagreements. I have included a list by 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.

Parents what I suggest is that you sit down with these rules with your teenager and discuss that you would like to start to using these rules in your family. Take the time and go over each rule so you both 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.

While these rules are beneficial for parents and teenagers, these rules are also useful for couples. 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.

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 20 years experience and he specializes in treating teenagers, children and families. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at or follow him on Twitter @RubinoFamily.

Coping with Teenagers when They Talk Back

Coping with Teenagers when They Talk Back

As a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I often have parents ask me what to do when their teenager answers back and always try to to make things a power struggle. I remind parents that while their teenager may physically look like an adult, cognitively they are still children. Their brains are still maturing and their basic way of communicating is with “nasty come backs.” Given this fact, parents need to remember this fact and try not to get sucked into the power struggle. This is difficult because your teenager has been watching you since they were babies and they know exactly how to push your buttons.

In order to help parents, I have listed some of the common buttons teenagers push with examples how parents can respond to their teenager and avoid a power struggle. James Lehman, MSW, has noticed the same issue and I have included some of responses below too. Remember, these responses are guidelines, you may need to alter them to fit your situation.

1. “I Will Do It Later”

When kids act out, they aren’t always confrontational. One way children get around the rules of the household is to procrastinate and put their parents off until they eventually stop asking kids to help out. While many parents rationalize, “It’s easier if I just do it myself,” you need to understand that giving in to your child gives them a false sense of entitlement, a sense that “the world owes them something” and that they do not need to meet their responsibilities. Here is an effective response in the face of your child’s passive backtalk.

Child: “I’ll do it later”

Translation: If I put it off long enough, you’ll give up and I won’t have to do it. You’ll probably even do it for me.

Ineffective parenting response: “Okay, but make sure you get it done.”

Effective parenting response: “Well, that’s fine. But you won’t get your allowance until it’s done.” Or, “Well, that’s fine, but you can’t use the phone until it’s done.”

2. “Whatever”

Kids generally say “whatever” to their parents when they’ve already lost the argument. It’s backtalk that is a final attempt to anger you and to retaliate in some small way for something that your child doesn’t like. Your best bet is to ignore it. If a kid says “whatever,” the odds are that the point has already been decided and you’re in charge of the situation. “Whatever” is their weak way of trying to save some face. If you’ve come out on top, don’t compromise your position by letting them draw you into an argument. If you give the “whatever” power and you accept the invitation to the argument then you will lose the ground that you’ve already gained.

Child: “Whatever.”

Translation: “It doesn’t bother me. I don’t care and it doesn’t matter.”

Ineffective response: “What do you mean, ‘whatever?’ Let me tell you something, young lady…”

Effective response: Ignore it, smile and turn around and walk away. You’ve already won the fight.

3. “You Can’t Make Me!”

At times, children will verbally draw a line in the sand, stare you in the eye and say “You can’t make me.” This is backtalk used to draw you into a fight, and it’s important not to start fighting. By responding with “Oh yes I can,” there’s a threat implied, and it’s only going to further escalate the situation. You’re giving the child control by accepting the invitation to fight. But don’t engage your child on her level; don’t join the fight. Instead, put aside your emotions and focus on the matter at hand.

Child: “You can’t make me!”

Translation: “I don’t want to do what you’re asking, and I’m looking to start a fight with you.”

Ineffective parenting response: “I can and I will if you don’t do it right now.”

Effective parenting response: “I’m not here to make you. But there will be consequences if you break the rules.”

4. “I Want It Now”

Do you dread the threat of a temper tantrum and feel like you give in to your child’s demands in order to avoid an outburst? You can defuse a tantrum and help prevent future tantrums by using an effective response aimed at teaching your child that acting out is not the way to meet his needs.

Child: “I want it now!” followed by a tantrum.

Translation: If I escalate my behavior, you’ll give in, and I’ll get the cookie. This worked the last time I wanted something.

Ineffective parenting response: “Sarah, stop it! I said stop it! Here…(gives Sarah a cookie) now be quiet!”

Effective parenting response: “Don’t act that way. It won’t help you get the cookie.” Then turn around and walk away.

5. “I Forgot”

Children (and adults) can be forgetful and certainly a reminder to do their work or complete a task is appropriate. But when kids use “I forgot” on a regular basis, it becomes a way to justify irresponsible behavior. As an excuse, “I forgot” means the child is avoiding a certain task or responsibility which they don’t feel they can perform and don’t know how to get help with. Or they could be acting lazy and just don’t care. Laziness explains as much irresponsible behavior on the part of children as any other explanation. Sometimes laziness can be interpreted as “I’m tired and I don’t feel like it.” Sometimes laziness can be interpreted as “My life’s not going to get better anyway, why should I try?” In either case, laziness doesn’t empower the child to take care of business. So when your child says “I forgot,” you have to say, “Forgetting is not an excuse to justify not doing something.”

Child: “I forgot!”

Translation: “I don’t feel like it.” Or ”Why should I try?”

Ineffective response: “You didn’t forget! You’re just saying that because you’re lazy.”

Effective response: “Not forgetting is your responsibility. I’ll help you learn ways to not forget, such as creating an assignment book for school or using cue cards to prompt you for the next task. If you would like, I’ll help you develop a list. But you are responsible for remembering what it is you need to do.”

6. “I Hate You”

Of all the backtalk in your child’s arsenal, the words “I hate you” can have the power to reduce any parent to tears or anger. Children know that saying this can paralyze a parent during a fight, which is why they say this to get what they want. Here is how to focus the argument back on the issue at hand and reduce the emotional sting of your child’s words in the process.

Child: “I hate you!”

Translation: You won’t let me go out tonight, so I’m going to talk hatefully to you so you’ll get upset and give in.

Ineffective parenting response: “I hate you sometimes, too!” Or, “I’m sorry, please don’t say that…”

Effective parenting response: “Maybe sometimes you do hate me. But I’m still not letting you go out tonight.”

7. “You Don’t Love Me”

Children often use guilt to manipulate us. This is just another version of “I hate you” and, again, they use this backtalk to get what they want. Don’t give in. Here’s how to deflect the guilt by using an effective response that puts the emphasis where it should be: on your child and the importance of following family rules.

Child: “Why can’t I go out with my friends? You don’t love me.”

Translation: I’m going to put you on the defensive and hit you where it really hurts so you give in and let me go out.

Ineffective parenting response: “You know I love you! I took you to the mall yesterday!”

Effective parenting response: “The issue is not that I love you. The issue is that we have rules in our family about Sunday afternoons.”

8. “It’s Your Fault”

It’s no mystery: children who say to their parents “It’s your fault” when confronted with a task they haven’t completed are trying to avoid taking responsibility for something. Here’s the important thing to remember: don’t talk “fault” but instead talk “responsibility.” Many times, kids will try to lay blame when a responsibility has not been met. So respond with, “It’s not my fault, it’s your responsibility.” The reason why finding fault is not effective is that focusing on the past will not solve your child’s problem. Focus on the present—the present is where problem-solving starts.

You: “Why isn’t your homework done?”

Your child: “It’s your fault I didn’t get my homework done because we went to the movies.”

Translation: “I’m not going to take responsibility for not getting my homework done—I’m going to make it your fault.”

Ineffective: “You’re right, I’ll write you a note, don’t worry about it.”

Effective: “Wait a minute. It’s your responsibility to tell me that you had homework to get done. Next time, tell me what you have to do before we go to the movies.”

9. “Leave Me Alone!”

Children can be adept at shutting down and shutting you out—leaving you with unanswered questions and a whole lot of frustration. If you find your child is shutting down every conversation with “Leave me alone!” or “It’s none of your business!”, here are some ways you can handle their backtalk and make sure the issue at hand gets addressed in the appropriate way without getting into a power struggle. Keep in mind that it is completely appropriate for kids to have their own space and that “Leave me alone” is appropriate and often should be accommodated. But, you should set limits and make clear to your child that being left alone for a while is not a free pass. Don’t overreact to requests for space or time alone and don’t get stuck on your child’s tone unless they’re rude or demeaning.

Child: “Leave me alone!”

Translation: “I don’t want to talk to you about this, I don’t want to perform this task, and I’m going to shut you down so I don’t have to.”

Ineffective response: “I will not leave you alone. I want your attention right now.”

Effective response #1: Again, if your child’s request is appropriate and they’re not being rude or demeaning, simply say, “Ok, we’ll talk later,” and walk away. Or better yet, set a time: “OK, we’ll talk at 7 o’clock.” Another way to handle it is by saying, “OK, when would you like to talk about this?”

Effective response #2: If it’s something where you can’t leave your child alone, simply say, “No, we have to address this now, then you can get back to what you were doing.” If it comes down to it, you can say something like, “OK, we don’t have to talk now, but there will be no more phone use until we do talk.”

10. “You Just Want to Control Me!”

When a child says to you, “You’re just trying to control me,” usually he or she is inviting you to a fight. The perception for parents here is that your child is challenging your authority. If you respond to that, you’re giving them more power. Try not to get into a power struggle or screaming match, and don’t deny the obvious. Sometimes parents say, “No, I’m not trying to control you,” when in fact, they really are. Generally, the best thing for you to do is to avoid that argument. Remember, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.

Child: “You just want to control me!”

Translation: “I’m not going to do what you’re asking me to do—instead I’m going to argue with you about it.”

Ineffective response: “It’s my house, and I will control you.”

Effective response: “I’m trying to get you to meet your responsibilities, not control you.” Or, “I want you to take responsibility for your behavior. That’s not trying to control you.”

Here is how to use this in an everyday parenting situation. Let’s say your teenage son or daughter refuses to comply with their curfew and comes home an hour late. If you hold them accountable for their curfew time then they may say, “Why are you being such a pain? You’re just trying to control me.” This is an invitation to a fight that will lead to nowhere but more frustration. Keep the focus on the child’s responsibility, meeting curfew, and stay out of the quagmire of an argument by saying, “It’s your responsibility to be home by curfew. That’s not trying to control you.” When a child wants to get out of meeting responsibility, the quickest way to do that is backtalk that is meant to make you angry. Don’t fall for it.

11. “That’s Boring”

When our kids say something is boring, they’re often expressing a low level of frustration. This frustration may come from not having anything interesting to do, or it may be that the task they have to do isn’t exciting and requires attention and energy. So when you say, “It’s time to go do your math now,” and a teen responds, “Math is so boring,” they’re expressing a low level of frustration and anger about having to do their math homework, probably because math is both boring and difficult. I tend to honor these kinds of statements in the affirmative. If a child were to tell me he was bored, I’d say, “Can I help you with any ideas on how to make it easier to deal with?” If he said yes, I’d try to process some choices with him. If he said no, I’d say, “OK, well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me,” and then go on about my business. Remember, as a parent, it is not your job to fix your child’s negative feelings or solve his social problems. It’s your job to teach him how to solve problems such as figuring out something to do. It’s also your job to let him experience the negative feelings that the problem of boredom is triggering.

Your Child: “That’s boring! I don’t want to do my math homework.”

Translation: “I’m angry and frustrated because math isn’t exciting and is difficult.”

Ineffective: “You’re just saying that because you’re lazy and don’t want to do the work.”

Effective: “I know math can be boring, but it’s your responsibility to get it done. Why don’t I help you get started?”

For parents of younger children who say that they are bored the solution is simpler: give them something to do or give them a choice of two things to do. You can start by asking them if there’s something they’re interested in doing, but don’t push them to make a choice. You can also create tasks and jobs for younger children, such as having them help you in the kitchen or in the yard. This can redirect their energy and dispel their feelings of boredom.

12. “My Teacher’s an Idiot”

Almost every kid will eventually have a teacher they don’t like, but that’s not an excuse for them to refuse to follow the rules of the classroom. When you side with your children in this situation, believe it or not, you are actually undermining your own authority in the process. The bottom line is that it’s a mistake to denigrate authority figures with your children, even if you agree with them. Keep the focus on the matter at hand and off your child’s feelings about their teacher.

Child: “My teacher’s an idiot. I hate her.”

Translation: I don’t like my teacher. Therefore, I don’t have to comply with what she asks me to do.

Ineffective parenting response: “Yeah, she’s really a jerk sometimes. You’ve still got to listen to her, though.”

Effective parenting response: “It doesn’t help to call the teacher names. What can we do to get your work done on time?”

13. “You Love Her More Than You Love Me”

When you have more than one child, from time to time they might ask you if you love one sibling more. This is not unusual, and sometimes children will put the question to you in an offhand way, pretending that the answer isn’t really that important. But the answer is important. And the best answer you can give is, “I love you as much as a mother could love a son. I’ll never love you any less.” And then your child will say, “But what about Jessie?” And you can say, “I love Jessie too, but I want you to know that I love you. Never worry about that.” Kids will sense that you love them, but there will be times when they crave affirmation, and it’s important to give it to them.

Many times, during an argument or power struggle, kids will say, “He always gets his way,” or “You love him more than you love me!” When they do this, they’re either trying to manipulate the situation or distract you as a parent. This has nothing to do with love—it’s backtalk. Do not to get pulled into an argument about who you love more, simply redirect your child to the task at hand. Say to them very clearly, “This is not about who I love more, this is about you having to go finish your homework now.”

Your child: “You love him more than you love me! He always gets his way.”

Translation: “He’s more lovable than I am, so you let him have his way.”

Ineffective: “I love you too, but it’s easier to love him because he doesn’t argue with me all the time. You’d get your way sometimes too if you’d just stop being such a brat.”

Effective: “This is not about who I love more. This is about you finishing your chores.” Or, “This is not about who gets his or her way. This is about the fact that it’s Jack’s turn to be on the computer for an hour. You already had your turn.”

14. “You’re Not My Mom, I Don’t Have to Listen to You”

When you are raising or helping to raise a child that is not biologically your own—whether you’re a stepparent in a blended family, an adoptive parent, a foster parent, or are bringing up your grandchildren—kids may sometimes use your role against you in the heat of an argument. When a child says “You’re not my mom or dad,” what they’re really trying to do is take the power away from you. Focus on your role as caretaker and calmly remind the child what the rules are in your house. The whole idea here is to avoid a power struggle. The child is inviting you to a fight and you should decline the invitation. Instead, just restate your role and the rules. It’s very important that you verbalize no judgments about the biological mother or father. Judgments will only lead to more anger and resentment, which will lead to more power struggles.

Child: “You’re not my mom/dad!”

Translation: “I don’t have to listen to you; you have no control over me.”

Ineffective Response: “You’ll do what I say anyway!”

Effective Response: “I am not your mother. But I am one of the adults in this household who is responsible for you and you are obligated to follow the rules of the household. And if you break the rules there will be consequences.”

Prepare and Practice

It is very frustrating when our kids use backtalk continually when confronted with a responsibility. The same fight seems to repeat over and over again and it wears us down. But, use that repetition to your advantage—prepare ahead of time and have your responses ready for the next time. Being prepared will enable you to manage these episodes with calm confidence and will keep you from getting dragged into a power struggle. So, prepare and practice and then execute when the inevitable happens again.

And give yourself a break if it does not seem to go right every time—this takes practice for you and it may take some time for your child to adjust to your newfound confidence and authority. Finally, if your child says something that you are not prepared for then take some time after the fight to figure out how you will respond in the future.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino or his private practice visit his websites or

Are Sixth Graders Ready for Sex?

Are Sixth Graders Ready for Sex?

Would you give a boy in the 6th grade a condom? San Francisco Unified School District and other school districts now provide 6th graders with condoms. All students need to do is talk to a school counselor and a 6th grader can get a condom.

Why are schools considering this option? They are considering this option because research is showing that teens are becoming sexually active at younger and younger ages. It is not uncommon for kids in the 6th grade to be sexually active. Research studies show 5% of 6th graders are already having sexual intercourse. This is not taking into account oral sex. When I work with middle school and high school students these days I need to ask are you sexually active? I also need to ask are you having oral sex? I often hear yes to oral sex and I am told but that is not sex. When I ask what it is, I am told we are just messing around. Many middle school kids equate oral sex with kissing. This is scary.

I understand that the San Francisco Schools are trying to protect their students, but I don’t think this is the best way to do it. From my experience working with teens, they usually start thinking about birth control after they are all ready sexually active. Also how much information can be provided in one 30 minute talk. The kids can be told how to use a condom but no one will be discussing the emotional issues and responsibility involved with sex. Also no one will be asking the child if they are ready for this step and are they prepared if the girl gets pregnant?

If we want to keep our children safe then we need to stop making sex such a forbidden subject. The kids need classes in 4th and 5th grade which explain in detail about different sexual acts and the risk they are taking even if they use a condom. For 6th graders to think oral sex is the same as kissing is crazy. It is also crazy why we are saying to them don’t have sex, when society is telling boys if you want to be a “man” you can’t be a virgin and girls are told if you want a boyfriend you have to give him sex.

Also we need parents not to be embarrassed or shy about talking to their kids about sex. Parents cannot wait until their child starts High School anymore. By the time many kids start high school, it’s too late to be discussing sex. Sexual activity should be something you discuss with your child from preschool on. Of course not going into specific details, but talking at an age appropriate manner. Start educating them about their bodies. If a child sees you are not embarrassed or ashamed they will be more likely to ask you questions before they do something. If parents act like sex is something to be ashamed about a child won’t ask their parents questions.

Also parents you must start the conversation. Many parents tell me they will discuss sex with their child when s/he asks questions until then they will wait. I have teens telling me they won’t ask their parents because it’s too odd talking to their parents about sex. If they don’t ask an adult they are going to learn by trail and error. I have had to become comfortable discussing the subject because many parents tell their teen to ask me. Yes they are getting the information, but they really prefer talking to their parents. I often encourage teens to try talking to their parents explaining that their parents feel just as awkward as they do, but the embarrassment will pass.

The main problems I see with the school handing a 6th grader a condom is no one is really discussing with the child, are they really ready to be sexually active? There is a great amount of responsibility that goes along with being sexually active. You can still catch an STD using a condom so the 6th grader needs to tell their primary care doctor they are sexually active. A girl can still get pregnant using a condom. Are the boy and girl prepared for this situation if it occurs. Also when I ask middle school students about condoms, they know very little about condoms. Some middle school students think you have to be 18 in order to buy condoms. Many middle school students do not even know you can buy condoms. These facts tell me we are placing middle school students into sexual situations, they are not emotionally prepared to handle.

To become sexually active is is a huge decision to make and I don’t think a 6th grader is mature enough to make it. Also 6th graders are not always paying attention so they may not know how to use a condom appropriately.

Yes it is shocking that 6th graders are having sex. I think a better way to handle the issue is to look at what we are teaching them in the movies, television shows and video games they are watching and playing. Sex is not a game and we are treating it like a game. This doesn’t help kids in 6th grade. We need real sex education in school and at home.

In therapy often boys will tell me they think they are ready for sex. I ask them are you sure this is the girl you want to have your first time with? I also remind them they only have one first time. I also ask are they ready for the emotions that go along with sex? The biggest one I ask is are you prepared to handle if she gets pregnant? Condoms are not a 100% guarantee. The question that always gets me is when they ask how they can get a condom? I tell them you can buy them at any drug store. I often hear I would be too embarrassed to go buy condoms. My response is if you are too embarrassed to by them then in my opinion you are not emotionally ready for sex. In my opinion handing 6th graders condoms will result in more teens being sexually active who are not emotionally ready to be sexually active. We need to think about that point.

Parents you also need to let your child know they can discuss sex with you. May be you may not agree with them about their opinions, but they need to know they can talk with you and don’t have to be afraid of getting into trouble. The main reason I hear from teens about why they don’t talk to their parents is they are afraid their parents will get mad, they will get a lecture and get into trouble.

I don’t think anyone feels a 6th grader is ready for sex, but it is happening every day. If we are going to do what is best for kids, we need to help them feel safe to discuss sex with us. If we don’t the consequences can be severe for everyone involved.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teens in middle and high school and is considered an expert in this area. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website at or visit his Facebook page at or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Facts Schools Do Not Tell Parents about IEPs

Facts Schools Do Not Tell Parents about IEPs

School is getting ready to resume and so are meetings deciding if a child qualifies for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) or a 504 plan. I have posted this article before, but it appears I need to post it again. Once again, I have been hearing from parents all over the country who are afraid about lies they are hearing from their child’s school. Many of these parents are panicked and overwhelmed. They know their child needs help at school, but they do not want to ruin their child’s future. Additionally, many parents do not know what their child is legally entitled to and the school districts take advantage of this fact.

The issue that parents are feeling confused about is should their child have an IEP or a 504 plan. An IEP is for children who are having difficulty learning subjects in the classroom. They do not have an IEP because they are not intelligent. They have an IEP because they have a different learning style. I have seen numerous parents and received numerous emails from parents stating their child’s school has told them an IEP would mark their child for life as unintelligent and possibly bankrupt the school district. None of these remarks are true.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting into a college or getting a job as an adult either. Not having a decent education can stop your child from getting into college or getting a job. Therefore, if your child needs an IEP and not a 504 Plan in order to benefit from their education, not having an IEP could stop your child from getting into college or a job because they failed to receive a proper education.

Also think about when you applied for college or a job, did they ever ask for your middle school or elementary school records? The answer is no. Therefore, there is no way for a college or job to know if your child ever had an IEP unless your child volunteers the information when they apply for college or a job. Once again, colleges and jobs never ask an applicant if they ever had an IEP. Actually, an IEP can help students receive additional time taking the SAT and ACT and assist them in college if they need it. So actually, it can help a child applying to college.

As for the idea that an IEP will bankrupt the school district, this is absurd. The school districts have plenty of money to provide children who need an IEP with an IEP. A 504 plan costs the district nothing and if the district fails to comply with the 504 plan, you really have no legal recourse. However, an IEP is a legal agreement and the laws governing IEPs are the same in every state in the United States. Also if a school doesn’t comply with an IEP, you have a number of options including legal options.

Also parents please do not pay to have your child psychologically tested or undergo any educational testing by a private mental health clinician. Legally, the school district does not have to accept these tests results. The school has the right to do all testing first. If you disagree with the school’s tests results, you can contest the results and request that your child be re-evaluated by an independent clinician. If you request an independent evaluation, you can select who does the testing and the school district must pay for the independent evaluation not you.

The only testing schools currently are not doing are assessments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Too many children were being diagnosed with ADHD and now these assessments need to be done by a mental health clinician in private practice. These evaluations you do have to pay for.

Another issue I am receiving a large number of emails about is that the school is not doing anything. Parents are saying they are hearing from the school that their child is distracted in the classroom and not doing well on tests or homework. However, the school is not doing anything. If you feel your child needs to be assessed, you need to submit a written letter requesting the evaluations to the principal. Requesting it verbally does nothing. Legally you must submit a written letter to the school principal in order to start the IEP process.

Another suggestion, parents before you panic or feel guilty about not signing that you agree with the assessments by the school because the school is pressuring you to accept their recommendations, stop and think. Look at the proposed plan and decide do you think this is really what your child needs or is the school bullying you into signing their proposed plan. If you have doubts, don’t sign the agreement and seek a second opinion. You are the one in charge not the school. The school district cannot do anything until you sign the agreement. I have seen many parents made to feel guilty if they do not sign the school’s plan. You are not a bad parent if you do not sign right away, you are a cautious parent. If you do not agree with the proposed IEP plan, you can sign that you disagree and do not accept the proposed plan. There is a space on the form for you to do so. If you reject the plan, you will not ruin your child’s education. If you reject the plan, it simply means the school district needs to do more work to develop an acceptable plan. However, I have seen many school districts doing what is best for them financially not what is best for your child and making parents feel guilty. There is no need to feel guilty if you do not accept, the first option presented. Think about it when you are selling or buying a house, you do not automatically accept the first offer and you do not feel guilty.

For more information about IEPs and 504 plans visit the website

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist and has worked with children and families for over 20 years. He also worked as an Intern at AB3632 for 2 years. AB3632 is a California program that provides counseling services for children in Special Education. They also participate in IEPs on a regular basis. Dr. Rubino has been an IEP Advocate for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website or or

Autism and Placements

Autism and Placements


Stay Connected

July 2018

How Did We Get Here?

A Perspective on Residential Therapeutic Treatment

Parents’ dreams for their children seldom include placing them away from the family home before college or adulthood. Yet that is the complicated choice many parents face when their teenagers’ behavioral and mental health reaches a crisis point, whether due to an existing disability, or when a young person develops new struggles that put them at risk. The increasing number of young people with mental health challenges has been well documented. Nearly 1 in 5 young people aged 13-18 years experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.  See the full infographic from National Alliance Mental Illness (NAMI) here.

Copyright National Alliance on Mental Health

Not all teenagers and young adults with these challenges will need residential placement. If they haven’t responded to outpatient treatment, medication therapy or are at risk of harming themselves or others, placement outside the home may be warranted. Children with an existing disability, like Autism Spectrum Disorder, with an increase in self-injurious or other risky behavior that is not being effectively addressed in their school placement, may also need a more restrictive setting.

Read the full article

Complaints About ABA Providers

Our office has received an increasing number of phone calls recently from families with children with autism that have complaints about the quality of their ABA providers. While we care about our families and the quality of the health care that they receive, we typically get involved when there are disputes with your health plan about what is medically necessary, or when your health plan is not following consumer protections under the law.

First, try to address your concerns directly with the ABA provider by discussing in person or by phone. If this doesn’t work, outline your complaint in writing. You should include specific examples of your complaint and any dates or times associated with the issue. For example, if a therapist consistently arrives late of fails to show up, document those incidences and include them in your letter. While some providers have their own toll-free complaint or customer service line, it is always a good to document your concerns in writing and then follow up with a phone call.

If you are unable to resolve the conflict with an ABA provider, it may be appropriate to contact the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). The BACB has a long list of appropriate behaviors that certified behavior analysts must abide by. According to their Ethics code, Behavior Analysts responsibility to clients include: operating in the best interest of their clients, providing effective treatment, and avoiding interruption of service, among other things. For more details, see Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts.

Read the full article


Allison Clark, Patient Advocate

Heather Morris, Advocate

Read their full bios on our About Us page.


MHAIP Recovered over 10k for Ambulance Services for Client with Eating Disorder

MHAIP was able to recover over $10,000 from Blue Shield of CA for a San Mateo teen girl with eating disorders who was transferred from an eating disorders program to a cardiac unit, after developing urgent cardiac problems.

MHAIP Recovered over 93k for 11 Week Stabilization and Assessment

A 23 year old Alameda County, CA man with autism and severe depression requested stabilization and assessment with a residential facility in Utah through his HealthNet/MHN HMO.

Residential Therapeutic Care Won Through Ongoing Utilization

MHAIP conducts pre-authorizations and ongoing utilization reviews when clients contact us prior to starting residential treatment

We recently won the 161 days of residential coverage (and ongoing) for a 12 year old girl from Colorado with bipolar disorder and severe anxiety  from United Health Care.

From Sanford Health Plan, we obtained 98 days of RTC coverage for a 15 year old girl with depression and anxiety from South Dakota.

Autism Treatment Won by MHAIP through DMHC

MHAIP won additional hours of 1:1 ABA therapy and reimbursement for out-of-pocket payments for past ABA therapy hours for a family in San Mateo County, CA who have a six-year old boy severely affected with autism.

Click here to read the details and learn more about recent cases we have won.


Tuesday, September 18, 11-12:30

Dr Karen Fessel will be conducting a webinar on “Getting health insurance coverage for those mental health and ASD treatments,” through the Dale Law Firm (


We at the Mental Health and Autism Insurance Project rely on your continued support to provide the following programs to our families:

1)     We provide advice to low-income families on how to appeal denials for autism and mental health interventions.

2)     We monitor legislation and inform policy makers on the needs of our special communities.

3)     We work closely with regulators, bringing systemic gaps and problems to their attention, so that they can enforce the law when health plans fail to follow it.

4)      We educate providers, facilities, and families on how to work with insurance, so that YOU can get your services covered.

Or donate directly through our website.


Donate while you shop

(Listed as Autism Health Insurance Project)

click here 

click here

Use either as buyer or seller

Through Employee Giving:

We are a recognized cause through the corporate employer-matching philanthropic site  Benevity (as Mental Health and Autism Insurance Project).

We so appreciate your support!

Thank you for your continued support.


Karen Fessel

Executive Director & Founder

Mental Health & Autism Insurance Project

Mental Health & Autism Insurance Project | |

Text | Link

Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Mental Health and Autism Insurance Project

346 Rheem Blvd

Suite 207 D

Moraga CA 94556


Update Profile

About our service provider

Sent by in collaboration with

Try it free today