The Importance of Extended Family

The Importance of Extended Family

In our fast pace world and chaotic lives we sometimes forget the importance of passing on traditions from generation to generation. Another problem that impacts this is our society has become very mobile. We no longer live close to our relatives. It’s not uncommon for grandchildren to live in California and grandparents to live back east. Also with jobs becoming more difficult to find and the cost of living increasing families are moving where ever they can find a job or to a place to live that is affordable.

However, since many families are not living close to each other, family members cannot provide they support they could in the past, such as watching grandchildren after school. Additionally, children cannot as easily establish close relationships with grandparents and aunts and uncles, when they live close by. These adults could serve as additional role models and inform parents if something seemed off with the child. They are also able to spend additional time with the children and reinforce what parents are teaching their children and reinforce the family traditions and values.

The other thing that the close connection to generations provided was a sense of security. If there was a problem a child knew they could turn to their parents, aunts or uncles or cousins. It also helped a child’s self-esteem. You had the adults who could reinforce that you were worthy and you had cousins who would defend you at school or in the neighborhood because you were worth it. Also your older cousins could help you learn what to expect as you went from grade to grade. There was a sense of support and security that most children don’t have today. Furthermore, children with support from extended family members are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

The advancement in computers and communication may provide a way to try to recreate this sense of family. With such things as Skype, where you can talk and see the other person, it’s almost like being with the person, but it is not the same. Children can Skype with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins too. We just have to make time for it. For those families that live close to each other, you need to remember the value of family and make time for family. At times it may be difficult, but you will find that the time and effort are worth it. I have found that children with close family ties and connections to their cultures do better in school and life. They have a sense of pride and a sense of where the came from that other children don’t.

I have attached a link to an article with a link to an article about sharing traditions with family. Check out this article from First 5 LA: http://www.first5la.org/index.php?r=site/article&id=3615&utm_content=buffere936a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

I think you will find it interesting.

Dr Michael Rubino has been working with children/teens and their families for over 20 years and is well respected. For more information at Dr Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com.

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Lessons Children Learn from Their Dads

Lessons Children Learn from Their Dads

We have all heard very often how important a mother is to a child especially a young child. While this is true Dads are just as important to children and young children. I say Dad because any man can father a child, but it takes work to be a Dad to a child.

Because of the stereotype we have about men in our culture, Dads are often not considered to be important in children’s lives. We tend to focus on mothers and what they provide children. Also because men tend to work a lot and have a tendency not to express emotions, many people assume Dads are usually not emotionally available to children.

However, if we look at the stereotype it also demonstrates why Dads are important. Dads are the male role models to their sons. Dads teach their sons how to treat women, their wives and their children. They teach their sons how a man is supposed to act in relationships and react to people in general.

Dads are also role models for their daughters. Their daughters see how their Dads treat their Moms. This is the first example girls have of how they should be treated in an intimate relationship. If their Dad is verbally and physically abusive, they will most likely expect their boyfriend or husband to treat them that way. Additionally, if girls are exposed to a Dad who is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive, they are more likely to have low self-esteem as adults and be bullied as a child. Boys also are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and be bullies, if their Dad is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.

Additionally, boys tend to look for validation from their Dads that they are doing a good job developing into an adult man. If their Dad is not emotionally available, many boys interpret this as they are a failure to their Dad and they become hurt and angry. Since men and boys tend to have difficulties expressing their emotions, because men don’t express sadness or similar emotions, they tend to express these emotions as anger. In other words, boys and men tend to project their pain onto others.

If we change our mind set and see how valuable a Dad is to kids then may be Dads can start meeting the emotional needs of their children and families. However, this requires men to stop living up to the stereotype society has about how men are supposed to act. Since men tend to focus on the stereotype about male behavior, they tend to pass this stereotype on to their sons.

I have a friend who was able to ignore the male stereotype and write a wonderful poem to his son. He wanted his son never to doubt how he felt about him and he wanted to make sure he shared it with his son. What a tremendous gift he gave to his son! Also what a fantastic role model he is being to his son about how to be a Dad.

I asked for his permission to print it here and he graciously said yes. I hope other Dads will read this and share a gift like this with their son or daughter. Also I hope it helps to eliminate the false stereotypes we have about Dads.

I never want this to go unsaid, about my son,

So here in this poem, for all to hear

There are no words to express how much you mean to me,

with a smile upon my face, and warm feelings in my heart, I must declare!

A son like you, always polite and full of joy,I thought could never be.

Since the day you were born, I just knew you were like a mini me,

from your first breath I knew,

God sent me a blessing- and that was you.

For this I thank him every day,

You are the true definition of a son, in every way.

Your kindness and caring with love for all,

you give my life meaning, for us to share.

Becoming your father has shown me a new sense of being.

I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,

Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.

Always remember that I know how much you care,

I can tell by the bond that we share.

For a son like you there could be no other,

And whether we are together or apart,

Please do not ever forget-

You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience working with children & teens. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Suggestions for How Teens Should Post Online

Suggestions for How Teens Should Post Online

Teenagers posting personal information on line has been an issue for a while. Also with the advent of cyber bullying it has made what teens post on line even more of an issue. Many teenagers have committed suicide due to cyber bullying.

In addition to cyber bullying, on line posting by teenagers has been associated with depression and low self-esteem. Many teens feel everyone always has positive things about their lives to post. Also some teens feels embarrassed because other teens have over 500 friends and they do not have that many friends. These issues involved with posting on line do have a dramatic impact on teenagers.

I recently read a blog by Frank Sonnenberg which addressed the issue of appropriate on line sharing by teenagers. His blog shared some comments by Sue Scheff. She is a nationally recognized author, parent advocate, and family Internet safety expert. Her new book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, is powerful! The book is filled with practical advice and real-world examples, as well as powerful tools and strategies, to ensure that you thrive—and don’t become a victim of the cyberworld.

I have found her work very helpful and I tend to make the same recommendations to the teenagers I see for psychotherapy that Sue put in her book. Below are some guidelines Sue Scheff recommends about on line posting. I support these recommendations because they help protect teenagers from cyberbullying and feelings of depression and low self-esteem.

Sharing much too much: It’s about time we realize that not everything we do in our life needs to be documented online. Many of us have become addicted to documenting practically every breath we take on social media, from eating a doughnut to taking a train ride. Is it any wonder that overshare was The Chambers Dictionary’s word of the year in 2014? Even digitally savvy teens think people are divulging TMI online. In a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 88 percent of teen social media users agreed that people share too much of themselves on social media. Everyone needs to understand the importance of social sharing for your platform—versus oversharing for your ego. A 2015 UCLA study revealed that people who overshare on social media are at a higher risk of being cybershamed. This study suggests oversharing of personal information leads bystanders to blame and not feel for the victim.

Sharing inappropriate material: The Internet is unforgiving. Before texting, tweeting, emailing, posting, or sharing anything, consider how you’d feel if your words or images went viral. Is your human need for approval, for eliciting likes and retweets, driving you to share questionable material? Does the content convey how you truly want to be perceived? You should have zero expectation of privacy when it comes to cyberspace.

Sharing with the wrong people: You should frequently review the settings on your social media accounts and make sure you actually know who are connecting with. Who’s in your Facebook friends and cell-phone contact lists? Do you actually know them? Would you be embarrassed if you accidentally butt-dialed one of them? In 2010, Jimmy Kimmel dubbed November 17 National Unfriend Day, a time to review your contact list and weed out your true friends from your virtual acquaintances. Just because you’ve set your privacy settings as high as possible doesn’t mean you are 100 percent secure from trolls or a friend turned foe. You may believe that you’re only sharing this with your core group, but remember, you don’t always have control over what photos others choose to take and share.

Sharing in haste: People often refer to the phrase, “Think before you post.” I say, “Pause.” It only takes a second to post—and 60 seconds to pause. Take that minute to consider that post before you hit send. Picture yourself in that photo or receiving that email. Is this something that could be embarrassing or humiliating at a later date? Does it reveal too much information? Always ask the permission of others who are in the photo, especially with children, before posting it, and never assume that they have given you permission unless they have. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times—think before you post—but that hasn’t stopped many of us from making digital blunders.

Sharing without dignity: When we see adults, politicians, celebrities, or athletes acting childish or bullish online, it sends the wrong message to our fellow adults and to our kids. Many of these people are role models who our youths look up to. But when we have videos circling of hip hop-stars sniffing cocaine over a woman’s breasts and politicians trashing the reputation of private citizens or getting caught with their digital pants down, like Anthony Weiner, over and over again (and over yet again), we have crossed a line.

Sharing with negativity: I’m sure everyone knows people who use their social media feed as a venting machine. The complaining never stops, whether it’s their bleak life, their horrible job, or their dismal dating scene. Worse is when they impose their negative thoughts on your good fortune—you’ve just landed your dream job, and they make an unenthusiastic remark like, “Not a great company to work for.” Yes, we’ve all experienced the Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers in our world, and we don’t want to be one of them—especially online. From the moment you are given the privilege of your first keyboard, your virtual résumé begins. It’s up to you to maintain and create a positive persona. It’s true, we can’t be happy all the time, and it’s fine to reach out for support in times of grief. But the good news about the Internet, and even your smartphone, is that you can turn it off if you’re having a bad day. Also, never post something in haste or anger that you might later regret—log off instead. I like to say, “When in doubt, click out.” Remember, once you post a comment, a thought or a picture, it is on the internet forever. No matter what you do, you can never totally erase it. Also if you hurt someone, you cannot change that fact either. On last point to remember, colleges are now searching for your posts on line when you apply to their college. They can find posts you thought you erased and those posts may cost you being accepted to a college. This year, Harvard University withdrew their acceptance offers to approximately 100 applicants because of posts they discovered after the acceptance letters had been mailed. Bottom line, on line posting can have very serious negative impacts on your life or other people’s lives that you are not intending to hurt.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work with teenagers or his private practice visit his website www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Dealing with Teenagers without Losing Your Temper

Dealing with Teenagers without Losing Your Temper

Teenagers and children are very talented at getting parents to lose control when parents are trying to discipline or trying to have serious conversation with their teenager. If you think about this issue, it makes perfect sense. Children have been watching their parents since the day they were born. Therefore, teenagers and children know exactly what buttons to push in order to get parents to lose their temper. Also, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, this is a common way teenagers have learned to handle their parents. If they get their parents to lose their temper, then the parents forget about the original issue and the teenager avoids getting into trouble.

I recently read an article for Empowering Parents written by Debbie Pincus. She did an excellent job laying out the steps parents can take in order not to lose their temper. These are steps that I recommend to parents all the time. I have listed these steps that will help parents keep their calm below.

I have had many parents ask me about what to do when their teenager pushes their buttons and they feel like they are going to lose their temper. I tell parents not to get upset because that is the teenager’s goal. If they get their parent to lose their temper, then they avoid consequences for their actions and avoids the issue. Therefore, I tell parents to remain calm and to even take a time out if necessary.

1. Make the commitment not to lose it. Remind yourself that you’re going to try to stay in control from now on. Notice what sets you off—is it your child ignoring you? Or does backtalk drive you up the wall? It’s not always easy, and I think it’s hard for anyone to control their temper 100 percent of the time, but still, making that first promise to yourself is the beginning of calm—for your whole family.

2. Expect that your child is going to push your buttons. Usually we get upset when our kids are not doing what we want them to do. They’re not listening or they’re not complying. In our heads, we start worrying that we’re not doing a good job as parents. We worry that we don’t know what to do to get them under our control. Sometimes, we fast forward to the future and wonder if this is how they’re going to be the rest of their lives. In short, we go through all sorts of faulty thinking. And in doing that, our anxiety goes way up. I think the best solution is to prepare for your child to push your buttons and not take it personally. In a sense, your child is doing his job (being a kid who can’t yet solve his problems)—and your job is to remain calm so you can guide him.

3. Realize what you aren’t responsible for. There’s confusion for many parents as to what we’re really responsible for and what we’re not responsible for. And so if you feel responsible for things that really don’t belong in your “box”—things like him getting up on time or having his homework completed—it will result in frustration. They don’t belong in your box—they belong in your child’s box. If you always think you’re responsible for how things turn out, then you’re going to be on your child in a way that’s going to create more stress and reactivity. So you can say, “I’m responsible for helping you figure out how to solve the problem. But I’m not responsible for solving the problem for you.” If you feel like you’re responsible for solving your child’s problems, then he’s not going to feel like he has to solve them himself. You’re going to become more and more agitated and try harder and harder. You’re not responsible for getting your child to listen to you, but you are responsible for deciding how to respond to him when he doesn’t listen to you.

So already you’re going to be calmer with that kind of thinking. If you feel responsible for getting your child to listen, think about it—just how are you supposed to do that? How is anyone supposed to get another person to do something; how are we supposed to control what somebody else really does? Instead, decide to be responsible for how you want to deal with your child if he doesn’t listen. Think about the kind of consequences you want to hand out, based on what you can and can’t live with—your own bottom line. In the long run, standing up for yourself will help you be the leader your kids need.

4. Prepare ahead of time. Notice when the anxiety is high and try to prepare for it. You might observe that every day at five o’clock, your family’s nerves are on edge. Everyone is home from work or school, they’re hungry, and they’re decompressing. For many families, it’s just a terrible time of day; everybody’s anxiety is up and patience is at low ebb. Ask yourself, “How am I going to handle this when I know my teen is going to come screaming at me? What do I do when she asks to use the car when she knows I’m going to say no?” Prepare yourself. Say, “This time, I’m not getting into an argument with her. Nobody can make me do that. I’m not giving her permission to hit my buttons.” Your stance should be, “No matter how hard you try to pull me into a power struggle, it’s not going to happen.” Let yourself be guided by the way you want to see yourself as a parent versus your feeling of the moment.

5. Ask yourself “What’s helped me in the past?” Start thinking about what’s helped you to manage your anxiety in the past. What’s helped to soothe you through something that makes you uncomfortable? Usually the first thing is to just commit yourself to not saying anything when that feeling comes up inside of you. In your head, you can say something like, “I’m not saying anything; I’m going to step back; I’m going to take a deep breath.” Give yourself that moment to be able to do whatever it is you need to do to get calmer. I always have to walk out of the room. Sometimes I go into the bedroom or bathroom, but I leave the situation temporarily. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to react to your child.

6. Take a breath. Take a deep breath when you feel yourself escalating—and take a moment to think things through. There is a big difference between responding and reacting. When you respond, you’re actually taking some time to think about what you want to say. When you react, you’re just on autopilot. As much as possible, you want to respond thoughtfully to what your child is saying or doing. Make sure that you take that deep breath before you respond to your child because that moment will give you a chance to think about what you want to say.

Think of it this way: when we’re upset and trying to get our child to do what we want, we’re going to press harder. We’re going to try to control them more, to shape them up or talk some sense into them, so we yell harder. And we go from 20 to 40 and it keeps escalating. It might be the time of day. Perhaps your child has had a hard day and then we react to their mood. And then they respond in kind and it just escalates. The anxiety feeds on itself.

7. Keep some slogans in your head. Say something to yourself every time you feel your emotions rising. It can be anything from “Stop” or “Breathe” or “Slow down” to “Does it really matter?” or “Is this that important?” Whatever words will help you, take that moment and go through a list of priorities. I personally keep a mental picture handy to calm myself down: I think of a beautiful place in my mind that always calms and relaxes me. Try to come up with that mental picture for yourself. Working on that will increase your ability to be able to go there more automatically.

8. Think about what you want your relationship to look like. How do you want your relationship with your child to be some day? If the way things are now is not how you want your relationship to look in 25 years, start thinking about what you do want. Ask yourself, “Is how I’m responding to my child now going to help? Is that going to help me reach my goal?” This doesn’t mean that you should do what your child wants all the time—far from it. Standing by the rules of the house and giving consequences when your child acts out is all part of being an effective, loving parent. What it does mean is that you try to treat your child with respect—the way you want him to treat you. Keep that goal in your head. Ask yourself, “Will my response be worth it?” If your goal is to have a solid relationship with your child, will your reaction get you closer to that goal?

When your child is aggravating you, your thinking process at that moment is very important.  The whole goal is really to be as objective as we can with what’s going on with ourselves and with our kids. Ask, “What’s my kid doing right now? What’s he trying to do? Is he reacting to tension in the house?” You don’t have to get him to listen, but you do have to understand what’s going on—and figure out how you’re going to respond to what’s going on. Then you can stay on track and not be pulled in a thousand different directions.

The thinking process itself helps us to calm down. As parents, what we’re really working toward is “What’s within my power to do to get myself calm?” So the less we can react, the better—and the more we think things through, the more positive the outcome will be. Thinking helps us to be calm and breathe; calm helps us to get to better thinking. Observing ourselves helps activate the thinking part of the brain and reduces the kind of “emotionality” that gets in the way of better thinking.

That’s really what we’re talking about here: responding thoughtfully rather than simply reacting. Someone once said, “Response comes from the word responsibility.” So it’s taking responsibility for how we want to act rather than having that knee-jerk reaction when our buttons are pushed. And if we can get our thinking out in front of our emotions, we’re going to do better as parents. And that’s really the goal.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and their parents. If you would like more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Facts about Guns and Boys in the United States

Facts about Guns and Boys in the United States

I recently read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. The fact that mass school shootings continue in our country, I feel it is important that we pay attention to the facts in Mr. Fenwick’s article.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence. Therefore, teenagers in our area are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living?

The study indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

38 percent suicides

6 percent unintentional deaths

3 percent law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of deaths by guns were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking, they tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.

Dr. Rubino has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

Loving a Child with ADHD or is Oppositional

Loving a Child with ADHD or is Oppositional

As a psychotherapist who treats children and teenagers, I often work with children with attention difficulties and are oppositional. These children having many difficulties at school, at home and with friends. One of the primary difficulties in their lives is their relationship with their parents. Many parents tell me they love their child with these issues, but accepting it is very difficult. They even admit loving the child at times is difficult. This creates a great deal of guilt for these parents. It also creates more difficulties for the child because they can sense their parents feelings.

Empowering Parents recently published an article by Anna Stewart. Anna is a parent with a difficult child and explained these feelings very well. So well that I am using part of her article below. I am doing so because I believe it will help many parents with a difficult child who are feeling guilty about their reactions to their child. Also I believe she offers good idea to improve the parent-child relationship so both parent and child feel loved and accept each other.

I was in love with my baby before I ever met him. And when I first held him, my whole body flooded with love. He was an easy baby as long as he was with me, but any time I tried to do something without him, he cried. I thought it was a sign of his affection for me.

Then he learned to walk and talk and express his opinions. Danny protested when we started looking at preschools. He asked me why I would send him away. I assumed he would enjoy kindergarten like I did, but he didn’t. His distaste for school got stronger, along with his resistant attitude. By the time he was in fourth grade, he outright refused to do homework. He was rude to his teachers, got other kids riled up and left a trail of debris wherever he went. I loved my son, but it was hard to accept him and his behaviors.

Every parent I have met loves their kids. While they have different ways of expressing their love, they all say they feel love—they just know they do. But like me, they may not accept who their child is, or what they care about, believe in or value. It’s not easy to love and accept a child who is different than you are or who doesn’t appear to fit in or who has behaviors that are hard to be around.  We want our love to be enough, but the truth is, without acceptance, it usually isn’t enough for our children. They know the difference between love and acceptance.

Though I couldn’t see it at the time, my son picked up on my disappointment in him. Where he once could find sanctuary with me at home, my anger at his behavior meant he no longer had a safe and loving place to learn how to find his own peace.

Instead, his teachers and I looked for a way to explain his “issues.”  We put him through a special education evaluation. I took him to a psychiatrist who gave him a list of labels: ADHD, ODD, mood disorder and anxiety, and he was then prescribed mood-altering medication. Danny knew he was not always in control of his behaviors, but he hated the medications, the labels and the look in the eyes of the adults around him. He could feel the judgment. He was internalizing the label of being broken, worthless, and unlikable. Not surprising, this made him fulfill what he felt and his actions got worse.

After weeks of forcing him out of the car, locking the doors and driving away while he raged in front of his classroom, I knew something had to change. And that something was me.

Danny was doing the only thing he knew how to do, so it was up to me to change my words, my actions and my way of showing him I loved and accepted him. The question was, did I accept him? I knew I hated his behavior; I felt ashamed of it and often ashamed and disappointed in him.

Danny’s brain worked differently than most of his classmates. He learned by doing, not reading. His creativity came through when he was given the time he needed to examine all the angles. His sharp mind and quick wit needed to be expressed, but not on a math worksheet. Danny had ADHD, and to him that meant he felt like a failure. He knew the people around him were unhappy with him. He could feel our grief. He could feel that we wanted to change him and that we did not like who he was, not just how he behaved. He felt broken. Danny did not feel loved and he did not feel accepted.

Many, many of our sons and daughters who live with differences such as ADHD, learning disabilities or anxiety, know that the world does not want them the way they are. The world sees them as defective, in need of remediation and simply not acceptable.

Thankfully, more adults with brain differences are sharing their stories. They are speaking out about what it is like to grow up never being good enough. One young man said, “Ican put up with my own hardships okay, but the thought that my life is the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.”

Another said, “School was hard, home was hard. I was stressed about everything all the time. I knew I was different and I know my parents and my teachers didn’t like me. And I didn’t like myself.”

That was my son. He couldn’t tell me that’s how he felt when he was in elementary and middle school. He simply did not know how to talk about it. I didn’t either. But I knew that I had to stop trying to “fix” Danny. He wasn’t broken, defective or disabled. He had so many strengths; but we had all lost sight of what those were because they were hidden in his anger, defiance, worry and sadness.

Here is one big piece that many parents face—our children’s differences are not ones we can relate to, so we are not prepared to both love and accept them.

I did not grow up with ADHD. I only heard about it after I became Danny’s mom. Modern parents who did grow up with ADHD often did not get diagnosed or get help until they were adults, so when they see their child struggle, they are helpless, just like they were as children. We merge our children’s conditions with their identities and label them disabled.

Now, more teens and adults are merging their conditions with their identities and labelling them “neurodiverse.” Offered a way to fix their challenges, they are saying, “No thank you, this is me.” Dr. Ned Hallowell, one of the leaders in ADHD, has the diagnoses of ADHD and dyslexia. He loves what he calls his “Ferrari brain” and does not want it taken away. He does want some of his symptoms to be better-managed, which he does through a comprehensive approach of natural and medical interventions. He has learned to accept and value his neurodivergence.

So how to I accept my son? How do I reconcile the boy I thought I wanted with the one I have? If I love him but don’taccept him, can he love and accept himself?

First I had to ask myself if I could accept the fact that I was a mother of a child who was different than his classmates. Could I live with the image of me as a parent of a child with a disability?  Or was it that I was afraid of my own beliefs—that Danny was inferior, that he would be dependent, that he couldn’t make it?

I started to listen to Danny. We tested him but did not agree to have him receive special education services: he was angry, not disabled. He asked to stop taking medication, and since we could not see any measurable benefit, we agreed. That also gave him the beginning of some control in his life. (This was our personal decision, and not a judgment. Every parent has to make this decision based on their own child and family.)

Danny’s seventh grade team of teachers asked us to meet with them. They sat in a circle and took turns telling him that he was blowing it. They could see he was smart, capable, charming, and creative but his classroom behaviors, refusal to do any school work and escalating physical altercations with other boys were derailing him. It was the most brutal meeting I have ever attended. I was hurt and angry that others would not accept him. But in Danny’s case, it was tough love and it worked.

Danny could see, even if I couldn’t, that his choices were indeed his choices and they were not getting him anywhere he wanted to be. He could also see that one teacher in particular was a true ally—though he tried to push her away, she wouldn’t go.

I think Danny realized that he was loved and accepted by me at home and by Mrs. K at school. His armor of attitude, anger and defiance started to crack. That let in some light in three main ways:

Change our words:

I started to say things to Danny that showed I valued his uniqueness. I would admire his ability to remember with great detail, the fishing trip where we caught a barracuda (which he did not eat but was eager to have us eat!)

He began to accept that his brain was wired differently. It wasn’t broken but different. That allowed him to start seeing the strengths he had in his ADHD brain, and not just the weaknesses. He started to accept help. The first thing he and Mrs. K did was clean out his locker and backpack and design an organization system that worked for him.

Change our actions:

I started to look for and praise the emerging adult in him. When I saw him do something such as refill the dog’s water bowl, I acknowledged his thoughtfulness (rather than praising completing a chore). When he started to get himself up in the morning using his alarm clock, I made sure he overheard me on the phone telling my sister about how impressed I was at his growing independent skills.

Change our way of demonstrating love:

Danny liked receiving little gifts, so I would make sure I got him something he liked at the grocery store. He loved a certain kind of wavy potato chip, so I would get him his own bag every once in a while, for example.

I also wanted him to give us a way to demonstrate his love, so we discussed how he could contribute to the household. As you can imagine, chores like taking out the trash were not getting done and were also creating a lot of stress between us. He also wanted to cook, so he planned and prepared a meal for the whole family at least once a week. He got so into it, he would write up menus and not allow anyone into the kitchen while he cooked. Cooking for us gave him confidence, acknowledgement and a sense of real contribution.

Danny has ADHD that he now accepts and understands. He knows he actually needs to fidget, that he learns better with music on and that he has a quick mind. He has also accepted that he is bright, capable and a fast hands-on learner.

As I have learned to love and accept my son, he has learned to love and accept himself. What could be better than that?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens have ADHD and ODD. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Helping Teenagers Avoid Risks Associated with Memorial Day and Graduations

Helping Teenagers Avoid Risks Associated with Memorial Day and Graduations

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of summer and graduations and graduation parties are starting to occur. Many teenagers will be involved in various activities celebrating graduations and Memorial Day. It’s a popular weekend for teenagers to be going to parties, drinking, and having swim parties and barbecues with friends. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

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

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. One in five teenagers die in these drownings (CDC statistics). This is only the number who die. It doesn’t include Traumatic brain injuries or teenagers breaking their neck or back in an accident. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months or longer. Again we assume such activities as swimming or a barbecue are safe and nothing will happen, however, accidents do occur.

Since it is Memorial Day Weekend and people will beginning to celebrate graduations too, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental drug overdosages. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. And if you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen.

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

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point of this article is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting “I never told him I loved him” or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Also take the opportunity to talk to your teenagers about parties or activities they have planned. Acknowledge there may be drinking or drug use and discuss a safety plan with your teenager, if they find themselves in an unsafe situation due to alcohol or drugs. Many high schools now have Grad Nights because of these risks. Grad Night provides teenagers the opportunity to celebrate their graduation in a safe environment. Thereby, decreasing the possibility that someone may accidentally get hurt. Therefore, high schools have given you an opportunity to discuss these issues with your teenagers and hopefully prevent a tragic accident. My recommendation is to take the chance you have been given by high schools and have an open, honest discussion about their safety.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.