Teenagers and Vicarious Trauma

Teenagers and Vicarious Trauma

In light of more terrorist attacks on London and Pairs and especially the attack on the concert in Manchester, England, it makes sense to remind parents how children and teenagers are being impacted. I have been seeing more and more teenagers who are complaining of anxiety and depression. Many of these teenagers are also afraid to go to school too. I have also been seeing more teenagers being placed on home/hospital for school. This means a teacher comes to the house once a week instead of the teenager going to school. This is an alarming trend.
I have also been hearing more teenagers talking about needing to carry a knife with them for their own safety. They tell me you never know when someone might try to attack you. These are not juvenile delinquents or gang members, these are average teenagers. They come from healthy families and are doing well in school and not involved in drugs. This need they feel to protect themselves is an alarming trend.

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

In addition to terrorism, this is the first generation growing up with mass shootings. According to ABC News from 2000 to 2015 there have been 140 mass shootings and since January 1, 2016, there have been more mass shootings than the previous 15 years. According to the statistics on mass shootings every day 36 people are killed in the United States by a gun. This does not include suicides. For the group we are discussing, suicide is the third leading cause of death for children between 10 and 18 years old and using a gun is one of the most popular methods of suicide. Also because of school shootings, students have seen increased security on their school campuses. Many campuses have metal detectors that students have to pass through as the enter the campus and there are police officers assigned to school sites due to the fear of violence.  

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

Additionally, children in the fourth and fifth grades are telling me they are worried about our election results. They have heard what the President has said and they are afraid other countries attacking us or that the President may start a war. Also Hispanic children who are legal citizens are afraid that they will be deported. This is a great deal for a nine or ten year old child to worry about.

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

The question now becomes, what do we do? Well we can not change the world unfortunately. However, we can monitor how much exposure our children are receiving to mass shootings when they occur. We can monitor the video games they are playing and limit access to games that focus on violence and killing. We can demand that the Congress pass gun control laws that make sense. No one needs an assault weapon to hunt a deer. We can also listen to what our children are saying and talk to them about their concerns. When a mass shooting occurs we can ask them how they are feeling, ask if they have any concerns and reassure them that you are there as their parents to protect them. Also try to become active. Look for sites by the Red Cross or the benefit concert for victims of the Manchester incident. Making a donation helps children to feel there is something they can do instead of just being a victim.

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

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and is an expert treating victims of trauma and also performs Critical Incident Debriefing. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

How Love Can Help Teenagers

How Love Can Help Teenagers

Many of the teenagers that I see for psychotherapy come to therapy believing that no one loves them. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves.
There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some they were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. Why teenagers have developed this attitude is not always the most important issue. What matters is they have this belief and what this belief is doing to their lives.

Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors such as cutting again as a way to numb these feelings or punishing themselves. Many usually become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. In fact, gangs consider their members as family members. Bullying is another way teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them and love them. It is sad that some teenagers are so desperate to feel loved by a parent figure.

The above are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. According to the CDC the number of teens using drugs, such as heroin and meth, is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers. All because many of them don’t feel loved.

We are receiving this message in many ways. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserve to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that someone cares. We really are getting the message, when teenagers are saying to people that no one cares about him. I have teenagers telling me they are willing to take a chance of overdosing just so they can escape the pain of feeling abandoned and unloved. It is heartbreaking to hear a teen tell you this as they try to hide the fact that they are crying.

We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are loved. When I tell a teen I’m working with in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to get me to throw them out of my office. They are testing the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. However, in reality they are hoping to fail and prove that I am right that they are lovable. So, I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it. I also let them know if they do walk out that my door will always be opened to them.

After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because the teenager will continue to live in pain.

The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapists like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. As a teenager it is too easy not to listen. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.

So, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes we can make in someone’s life and the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or like his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3. 

Communicating With Your Teenager

Communicating With Your Teenager

As a psychotherapist works with teenagers and their parents, I have heard a common complaint from both teenagers and their parents. Both complain about difficulties with communication. Teenagers feel that their parents don’t understand them. And parents tell me they feel like they cannot communicate with their teenagers.
I have stated in prior articles that if parents want to have good communication with their children, they must work on the parent-child relationship early. The earlier the better. If you wait until your child in a teenager, it is very difficult due to the brain development during puberty. When children are born their brains are not fully developed. Their brains, reasoning and communication skills continue to develop as a child grows. Parents need to be prepared for these changes.

I recently read a blog by Dr. Denny Coats which deals with this issue. He breaks the issue down to thee points for parents to understand and work on. I think these three points make it easy for parents to understand what is occurring and what they need to do. So hear they are:

1. Improve your communication skills

You can get away with almost any way of communicating during early childhood; but once adolescence arrives, reacting in the typical way not only won’t get you the results you hope for, it will erode the relationship. In my opinion, five skills matter most.

Listening. If learning only one skill is all your busy life permits, this is the one you should focus on. Learn all you can about listening and set a goal of to continuously improve the way you listen for the rest of your life.

Encouraging your child to think – analyzing, evaluating, learning from experience, problem-solving, decision-making, goal-setting, planning, and organizing. Yes, you’re a lot smarter than your child and you can the thinking for them, just as you’ve done during early childhood. But these mental skills take time and quite a lot of repetition to master, and your child will need them to succeed in a career, life and relationships.

Giving effective feedback – both praise and constructive feedback. Your child will need it, but you need to offer it in a specific, positive way, so that it both guides and encourages.

Dialogue. When you have differences of opinion, arguing is the instinctive reaction. The problem is that it resolves nothing and tends to alienate the child. You can learn to share and probe each other’s thinking, instead.

Conflict resolution. When your child wants something that is unacceptable to you, it’s possible to explore other alternatives that satisfy both your needs and those of your child.

These are the skills you’ll need to deal with daily challenges and opportunities and to have the dozen or so “talks” every parent should have with their growing child. Search my blog for articles about these skills. The online self-paced Strong for Parenting program has videos, articles and tip sheets about these skills. Begin experimenting with one skill at a time and learn from your experiences using it with your family.

2. Get smart about the brain development that will happen during adolescence.

It will be invisible, slow, silent and relentless, with enormous consequences. So much depends on the kind of thinking your child exercises during the teen years, and there’s much you can do as a parent to optimize the result. I wrote the free ebook, The Race against Time, to help parents appreciate what’s going on and what they can do.

3. Acknowledge that during adolescence, you’ll be raising an adult, not a child.

Yes, prior to puberty, you are definitely dealing with a child. And after puberty, you won’t be dealing with an adult. Your kid will be a no-longer-a-child-but not-yet-an-adult, what we call an adolescent.

During those six or seven years before he or she leaves home to go to college, start a career, enter military service, or even start their own family, your child hopefully will construct the foundation for the mental skills that will be needed for adult life. And aside from academic learning, teenagers have plenty of social and life skills to learn. if you think of your child as an “apprentice adult,” you’ll deal with them on that level, expect more of them and give them opportunities to learn the skills and wisdom they’ll need. If you realize you’re helping your child become a successful, responsible, happy adult, you can get a lot done. And believe me, for too many teenagers much of this development is haphazard or nonexistent.

So start now. Start improving the communication skills that matter. Help your child practice the mental skills that will give them a superior mind. Start thinking of your tween as an “emerging adult,” so that month by month and year by year you can help them prepare for adult life. 

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. For more information regarding his work or private practice please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Does Your Teenager Spend Too Much Time on the Internet?

Does Your Teenager Spend Too Much Time on the Internet?

 A common argument I hear daily in my office is how much time should an adolescent be spending on their laptop or their smart phone. Parents typically believe that their adolescents are spending too much time on their cellphones and laptops. Of course adolescents feel that their parents are being unfair and not allowing them enough time on their cellphones or laptops. Adolescents typically say they need their laptops and cellphones for homework and to communicate with their friends. They feel that their parents don’t understand how the world works today.
In fact 20/20 the ABC News Show, just did a story about how the internet is affecting teenager’s brains. We now have MRI evidence which demonstrates too much screen time has a negative effect on teenage brains and adult brains. They also discussed the issue of Internet addiction. While the American Psychological Association feels more research is needed before it can be labeled a formal diagnosis, think about it? If you can be addicted to porn, gambling or exercise, why not the Internet? I have included a link to a video discussing how the internet is impacting teenagers’ brains https://youtu.be/6Ggz9h7S4b4.

The major problem is that today’s adolescents have grown up with the internet, laptops and smart phones their entire lives. Texting is a very common method of communication for teenagers too. I have teens telling texting is their primary way of communicating with friends. However, most parents grew up when laptops could not do as much and cellphones were typically only used for making a telephone calls not texting. Therefore, there is a difference of opinion regarding how teenagers should use technology and how their parents have used technology over the years. Especially, because when most parents were teenagers themselves technology was not so prevalent.

Besides parents and teens having different views about technology. Parents are worried that their teenager is becoming addicted to the Internet and their cellphones. Having seen how some teens react to having their cellphones or the Internet taken away, I can understand why some parents feel their teenager is addicted to the Internet.  

However, parents have additional concerns too. Parents are concerned that with all the texting teens do and all the time they spend on the Internet that their teens are becoming anti-social. Other concerns are the amount of bullying that occurs online, the sexual perpetrators that are online and how easy it is for teens to obtain drugs online. Another concern is that their teen may be involved in sexting or sending naked photos of themselves while on line. Sexting is a relatively new phenomenon so we don’t have a great deal of information regarding it.

However, we do have evidence to support parents’ concerns. There are numerous examples of cyberbullying and examples of teens commuting suicide due to cyberbullying. There is evidence of child predators using the internet to prey on teenagers. There is also evidence of teenagers being able to access drugs easier and engaging in sexting and sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves via the Internet and texting.

Therefore, there are reasons for parents to be concerned. While there are research studies which indicate that there are reasons to be concerned about how much teenagers use cellphones and go online, there is also research showing there is reason to be concerned about what teenagers are exposed to online and can access online. Some studies do conclude that teenagers spend to much time daily online and on their cellphones. Some studies indicate that teenagers should be limited to one to two hours per day online. As I stated above, the American Psychological Association is considering including a diagnosis of internet addiction in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual. However, because the amount of people using cellphones and the internet in numerous ways, there is no agreement about what defines an addiction and what is normal usage. Therefore, parents are encouraged to monitor their teens and use their own judgement regarding rules involving cellphones and the internet.

While, there is research indicating that the internet can pose a danger to teenagers, there is also research showing that there are benefits to the internet and cellphones. The research has shown that teenagers who are depressed, anxious or questioning their sexuality that they can find cites online where they can talk with other teens feeling the same way. Texting has been shown as a way friends have of identifying friends who are suicidal. Because of the Internet, they were able to get their friend help. In fact, just this week, Facebook has added additional ways that people can get help for someone especially if they feel their friend might be suicidal. Many teens I work with find it easier to open up to friends or parents via texting or emailing at times. Therefore, while research shows there are reasons to be concerned, there are also studies indicating that cellphones and the internet can provide positive benefits to teenagers.

So, what do parents do? At this point there are no firm answers because this technology is so new. Therefore, parents need to pay attention to the news and research studies that are being reported. Furthermore, parents need to have conversations with their teenagers and educate their teens about the risk associated with texting and the internet. Also parents need to use their judgement and set rules regarding cellphones, texting and using the internet that they feel are appropriate. Currently, the accepted amount of time for a teen to be online recreationally so for fun and this doesn’t include homework is one to two hours a day.

Another issue is that Internet addiction may also affect adults. Therefore parents, you need to monitor your internet use and set an example for your teenagers. Such as no cellphones during dinner or no cellphones or Internet use after 9pm during the week. These are a couple of examples.

As for treatment of Internet addiction. The Utah Wilderness Camps they showed on 20/20, I do not recommend. These camps typically costs thousands of dollars and are not covered by insurance. Also so far, I have not seen a teenager benefit from attending one. In my opinion, individual psychotherapy is appropriate. Because just like any other addictions/compulsion, there are always underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino does treat teens and adults who feel they are addicted to texting or the internet. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

The Truth About Teenagers and Underground Parties

The Truth About Teenagers and Underground Parties

The fire in the Oakland Warehouse was a terrible, tragedy. A number of young lives were lost needlessly and many families and friends are going through the grieving process because they lost a loved one. Unfortunately, this tragedy that was waiting to happen and could happen again. Summer is coming and many teenagers will be going to similar underground parties.
These “underground parties” are very common with teenagers and college students. The place of the parties are usually posted on Facebook or other social media sites that teenagers use the day before the party. Typically these parties occur in warehouses in Oakland and San Francisco. The party organizers do not get permits nor do they consider safety. Typically at these parties there is a lot of alcohol and drugs such as ecstasy, pink, spice, wax, heroin etc. Therefore, the party organizers are looking for out of the way locations were they are unlikely to be detected by the police.

Many teenagers view these parties as fun because of the dancing and because typically these parties start late at night and go until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Also since it is undergone if they want to drink or use any of the drugs they can. All they need is the money to buy it and no one will stop them.

Typically a teen will be looking on social media to find the underground parties for the weekend. Often while online they meet other people who are going and they often make plans to go with someone they just met online. Since the parties start usually after 10pm many parents don’t know if their teenager is going to an underground party. The teen usually says they are spending the night at a friends house and they sneak out of the friends house to go to the party.

I have had many teenagers tell me about these parties. When I point out the risk such as they don’t know anything about who set it up, the safety of the area or the warehouse, the safety of the people since they just met these people and the safety of the drugs since they have no idea about what they are really taking or drinking. Teenagers tend to say that I am overly concerned and there is nothing to worry about because they have gone to these parties before.

However, the fire that occurred in the Oakland warehouse shows there is something to worry about. The organizer had no concerns about safety nor is he taking responsibility for the fire and what happened. Furthermore, since it was done secretly no one knows for sure who was there and if they are safe or not. I saw a page on Facebook for people to check in as safe. However, this doesn’t help the families who are waiting to hear about a loved one or who lost a loved one.

Parents this is an excellent time to sit down with your teenager and talk about these “underground parties.” Teenagers have a lot of free time during the summer and they feel entitled to be able to party because they were in school all year. Discuss the dangers associated with these parties. Teenagers may argue about the fact that these parties are safe, but point to the Oakland party as an example that the parties are not safe. Discuss with your teen other places they can go to and hear the tech and dance music and where they can go and dance.

Parents we also need to put pressure on the authorities to hold the owner of these warehouses and party organizers responsible for what happens at these parties. The Oakland fire was a horrific event. Also many kids overdose at these parties. Many of these teens die because no one wants to call the police or everyone is so busy dancing and using that they don’t notice if someone has overdosed. Again, the organizer is never held responsible.

One last point, parents when you discuss the “underground parties” with your teenagers use the Oakland fire as proof that bad things can and do happen. Many teenagers feel safe taking chances with their lives because they don’t believe anything will happen to them. The tragedy in Oakland proves something can happen.

This was a terrible tragedy and hopefully we can prevent others from occurring in the future.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and learning about their online activities. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Issues Related to Teenage Suicide

Issues Related to Teenage Suicide

May is devoted to Mental Health Awarness. One issue that we need to address is suicide a mental health issue for children and teenagers that often is ignored. I hope the information in this article helps you understand the issue of suicide. To start off with, I have included an article where six people describe their suicidal feelings and the help they need http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.co.uk/AlJc2http://linkis.com/huffingtonpost.co.uk/AlJc2.

In today’s society there has been a significant increase in depression, anxiety and suicide among teenagers and children. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children 10 to 18 years old. Yes 10 year old children are committing suicide daily. The increase is significant enough that Netflix is running a series about teenagers feeling suicidal. The show is called 13 reasons why.

In my practice I am seeing more and more children and teens reporting they feel depressed, anxious and overwhelmed. One of the main reasons I hear for these feelings is that children feel a great deal of pressure to succeed in school. I have kids in 5th grade and 6th grade worrying about grades. Not because their parents will get mad because if they don’t get As they wont get into a good college and won’t get a good job and won’t be able to afford a house. They only feel like a success if they can make a lot of money. They don’t even consider how compassionate and caring many of them are and the good they offer our world. In their eyes, compassion is nothing if you are not driving a Mercedes.

This is a great deal for a 5th grader or 6th grader to worry about at their age. It is also a terrible way for them to value theirselves. This is how we create Bullies because compassion is looked at as a weakness.

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert working with children and teenagers for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Rubino and his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com