Guns Will Not Cure the Coronavirus

Guns Will Not Cure the Coronavirus

Being under quarantine can be a very stressful and scary situation. It has changed all of our daily routines plus we have no idea how long the quarantine will last and how many people will become sick or die. The last time our country experienced anything similar to this was the Spanish flu in 1918. Therefore, no one has any experience with a pandemic since the last one was in 1918 and most of us were not a live at that time.

As a result, of fear and no one being able to answer how long this will continue, people are hoarding. If you go to the grocery store bleach, Kleenex and toilet paper cannot be kept on the shelves. Stores are having to limit how many bottles of bleach or packages of toilet paper people can buy at one time. This hoarding will not stop you from getting the coronavirus, but it does add to the hysteria. People watch the news and see the empty shelves so when they go to the store they also start hoarding. They are afraid with all the empty shelves that they may not be able to buy what they need in the future. Additional hysteria is not what we need right now.

This hysteria is increasing anxiety in children too. They see the news and hear people talking about not being able to buy toilet paper in addition to hearing this week that all schools are closed for the year and this makes them anxious. I hear about this anxiety in their sessions. Additionally, they tell me they are afraid that people will break into their homes to steal toilet paper. I have been telling them they do not need to worry about such things and the situation is not that bad. However, I can no longer say this to the children.

Today it was reported that since the quarantine has started there has been a significant increase in gun sales. Stores that sell guns are reporting it has been a long time since so many people have been coming in and buying guns. Children hear this and their fears about someone breaking into their homes seem possible.

This is a scary and anxious time for everyone. We do not need to add to the anxiety or hysteria regarding the coronavirus. The virus is a medical condition and will require medicine or medical treatments to cure it. A gun will not cure the virus, but guns will add to the hysteria about the virus and possible other unfortunate situations.

During times such as the quarantine, depression, anxiety and incidents of domestic violence do increase and this increase has been documented by research studies and the CDC. Therefore, guns around the house during quarantine can increase the odds of a suicide attempt, someone being shot accidentally or even someone being killed by a gun shot. Therefore, while being quarantined does provoke anxiety and is scary because we do not know exactly what is happening, we do not want to add to the anxiety. Therefore, before you buy a gun, stop and think. Will it help end the quarantine? No. Is a role of toilet paper worth taking the risk of someone attempting suicide or being killed by accident? No. What will the gun do? It will add to the anxiety and fear people are experiencing especially children. Therefore, its probably better not to buy the gun and look around your community and look at how you can help at this time. Maybe helping an older neighbor who needs help shopping or carrying grocery items into their house. This would be a better use of your time than buying a gun. Finally, we do not need a mass shooting incident while everyone is being quarantined. You never know what will happen when a gun is around.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and specializes in treating children, teenagers and dealing with trauma incidents. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Dealing with Teenage Issues during the Quarantine

Dealing with Teenage Issues during the Quarantine

During this period of quarantine common issues parents have with their teenagers may intensify. Let’s face it being together 24/7 for at least three weeks can and will bring up a lot of old and petty issues. One such issue you may face with your teenager is their bedroom. Many parents tell me that their teenager’s bedroom is like a junk yard. Parents are embarrassed by the bedroom and feel the teenager is being disrespectful. Many parents ask me should they demand that their teenager clean their bedroom. Also many parents ask about is it appropriate if they search their teenager’s bedroom. Also during the summer, but I hear it all year long, parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their room Let’s deal with this one issue at a time.

Parents it is very important to remember to pick and choose your battles. There are a lot of issues you will need to discuss with your teenager. Therefore, it is important to ask yourself, is it worth an argument? Teenagers are at a point in their life where they do need their privacy. They are also at a point where they are trying to find their own identity. Their bedroom is a place they use for part of this process. Also you want your teenager to learn responsibility. Their room is something they can be responsible for.

My recommendation is not to make an issue of their bedroom. During this quarantine you and your teenager will become stressed over numerous issues. Also in the long run you will have more important issues such as school, how late your teen wants to stay out, where they want to go and the common issues of alcohol, drugs and sexual activity. Therefore, their bedroom really is a minor issue. In my opinion it is not worth the fight. Arguing about their bedroom, which they view as their private space, can lead to bigger problems with some of the other issues I listed above. During this quarantine period, teenagers need a private space so they can take mental breaks. Also remember these are only some of the issues you will need to set guidelines and expectations about your teenager’s behavior after the quarantine. This is why I strongly recommend leaving the bedroom alone.

Many parents ask me, “then I should just let them live in a junk yard?” The answer is yes. However, there are some guidelines I do set with teenagers. I tell them that Mom and Dad are not going to clean their room as long as they comply with the following guidelines:

The bedroom door must be able to be closed so no one else has to look at the mess.
People can walk by the room without smelling anything such as rotting food.
There are no ants or bugs going into or coming out of the room.
They do not keep dishes in their room so Mom has dishes when she needs them.
They are responsible for getting their clothes out of the room and cleaned. They are also responsible for putting away their laundry.

If they do not follow these guidelines, then they are giving Mom and Dad permission to go in and clean the room as they see fit. I ask the teenager and parents to both agree to these guidelines. I also recommend writing down the guidelines. Therefore, two months from now if someone remembers the agreement differently, you have a document you can refer back to which states what everyone agreed to.

Therefore, I recommend to parents if their teenager can agree to these guidelines, let them live in a junkyard. If they forget to get their clothes to the washer then they will be the one wearing dirty clothes. This is helping them to learn responsibility. It also gives them a sense of independence which they need.

I remind teenagers, if you do not want Mom and Dad cleaning their room then they need to abide by the guidelines. I also remind them it is their responsibility to get their clothes to the washer. If they don’t then they will be wearing dirty clothes to school. I also remind them that they cannot stay home from school because they do not have any clean clothes. I am basically telling the teenager that their parents and I feel they are responsible enough to take care of their room. This again helps the teen feel more mature and understand that they have to start assuming more responsibility for theirselves.

Now for the next issue, searching your teenager’s room. I do not think it is something parents should do on a regular basis just because their child is a teenager. As parents you have a responsibility to make sure you are raising a responsible young adult and if they need help, you have an obligation to provide them with the help they need. Therefore, if you have valid reasons to believe your teenager is using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, then yes search the room. A valid reason would be noticing the smell of marijuana on their clothes or coming from their room. Finding marijuana or alcohol bottles in their backpack or car that they use. Other signs could be changes in their behavior and grades that are associated with drug use. However, before searching the room, I would recommend when your child enters middle school that you discuss with your child about the conditions which would make you search their room. If you feel it is necessary, tell your teen that you will be searching their room. Obviously, you do not tell them a week a head of time so they can hide things. I suggest you calmly inform them when they are home that you will be starting to search their room in a few minutes. It is important you explain the reasons why you are searching their room.

Parents may be concerned about an argument. This may start an argument, but this argument is worth it. Remind your teen about the agreement the two of you had made about searching their room. If you feel your teenager is not mature enough to abide by the agreement and is likely to start a physical fight, then you do not tell them and search it when they are out of the house. Remember you are only searching the room if you feel your teen is having a serious problem and need professional help. As a parent, it is your responsibility to get them help when they need it. You will want to remember this fact because your teenager may be very angry with you. However, it is better to have an angry teenager than a dead teenager. Many of the drugs teens are using today can kill someone very quickly and teenagers are not usually aware of all the risks.

Therefore, in general respect the privacy of your teenager’s bedroom, however, if you notice signs that indicate your teen is having difficulties then search the room.

As for the last issue that become more apparent during the quarantine is parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their bedroom. They hear them staying up late, sleeping until noon and the rest of the time playing games on their laptops and talking with friends using the games. Yes this can be an issue. The best approach is to discuss this issue prior to summer. However, if you did not, it is not too late. Let your teen know you need to talk to them about their room. Do not attack telling them they are spending too much time in their room. They will simply stop listening and the discussion is over. Before talking to them think about what and why you are concerned about the time in their room. One major reason hopefully is you want the opportunity to spend some time with them. Explain your concerns and some possible solutions you have developed. At this point ask your teen how they feel and do they have any solutions. If you have a calm, caring conversation and you are willing to consider all options, you should be able to resolve the issue. Most teens want to hear that their parents care and want to spend time with them. They tend not to admit to these feeling but they are their. Also teens do better when they feel you have listened to their ideas and are not just telling them what to do.

Remember the quarantine is stressful and scary for everyone. This is not a time you want to be arguing daily with your teenagers. If we all remember we are all in the same situation and decide to work together, we can get through this quarantine together.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist who teats teenagers and children. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino 3.

Being Quarantined with Your Children

Being Quarantined with Your Children

The coronavirus has taken a turn no one expected. Before we were thinking about precautions we should take and now the entire San Francisco Bay Area is under quarantine for at least 3 weeks. This means 3 weeks of no school and 3 weeks of the kids at home. Many parents are starting to panic. They may not be able to go to work, but many people are being asked to work from home. So how do you work from home and cope with kids who are going to be very bored? In some ways it sounds like a horror movie, but it’s not. This is our reality.

The first thing to do is not to panic. If you panic it’s going to make it harder to make rational choices to get through the quarantine. Also if you panic you children will feel anxious and insecure and will be more likely to act out. It’s important to remember that you are all in this together and you will need to get through this together.

The first thing to do is to sit down with your children and discuss the situation. Reassure your children you are taking all necessary precautions to keep them safe and that children tend not to catch this virus. Explain that the doctors have decided to have this quarantine as away to get control of the virus so that more people do not get sick. It is important to explain this calmly so your children will remain calm. They will be watching you as a way to gauge the situation. If you are panicked and anxious, they are more likely to be anxious. If you are calm, they are more likely to be calm and not over react.

The next thing I recommend is a family meeting to discuss the new house rules during the quarantine. Explain it will be important to keep a schedule because the quarantine will end and they will be returning to school. Also some schools may have sent homework home or they may be having classes online. Therefore, they need time to do their homework. However, point out that you can use some of the time to have fun. You can have a family game night, a family movie night and other things that you may decide to do. Try not to have the news on a lot because most news stations are running stories about the virus 24/7 and this can provoke anxiety for children and adults.

As for IPads, texting and time online, this would be a good time to renegotiate your standard rules. Typically an hour a day is what is recommended. However, given the fact children and teenagers will not be able to see friends at school or go out with friends on the weekends, allowing more screen time would be appropriate. This can also help them cope with the quarantine by being able to maintain contact with friends. However, it is a good idea to checkin with your children about what their friends are saying about the virus. This way you can correct misinformation that your children may be hearing from their friends. Remind them their friends do not have all the answers and if they have questions or concerns regarding the virus to ask you.

As for a schedule, set a time for everyone to wake up, get dressed and have breakfast. It doesn’t need to be at 7 am, but I would suggest no later than 9am. After breakfast have everyone do something related to school. If the school has assigned work or having work online this would be a prefect time to do their assigned work. If their is no assigned work have them read a book or use their IPad or laptop to long on to a site that has school work. There are many sites devoted to learning. Your school website may have some posted or local news station such ABC7 are posting the sites on their websites.

After a couple hours of work take a break for lunch. After lunch, if the weather permits have your children spend some time in the backyard getting some fresh air and playing a game for exercise. After they have spent some time outside have them return to their school work. Around 3pm let them stop their school work and use their electronics to play and keep in touch with their friends.

When it’s getting to be dinner time have the entire family participate in preparing dinner and have dinner together as a family. Take the time to catch up with your children and teenagers about what is going on in their lives. Also take this time to decide on an after dinner activity such as a game, a movie or if there is a certain television show everyone likes to watch. Again this can be good family bonding time and can help you when the quarantine ends. If your teenagers find out spending time and talking to their parents is not torture, they are more likely to continue talking with you after the quarantine.

Again, since the quarantine is not forever and children and teenagers will be returning to school after the quarantine, set a bedtime for children and teenagers. It should be age appropriate, but make it slightly later than when school is in session. This will help your children are teenagers not resist the quarantine so much if they are getting some benefits from it. They may be small benefits but any will help. Also I would suggest allowing an hour after family game time for teenagers to be able to text friends and wrap up their day.

The quarantine is going to be stressful on everyone but if you remember you are in it together as a family, it can help you with the stressful times. In addition to settling a schedule, if you have neighbors who are elderly or family friends who are elderly, volunteer to help them with shopping or just stop by to check on them and see if they need anything. By helping others it helps you not to feel so sorry for yourself and to appreciate what you do have in your life.

The choice is yours, you can look at the quarantine as a disaster and feel like you are being tortured for the next three weeks or you can look at it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your children and teenagers. By trying to strengthen your relationship with your children and teenagers during the quarantine, when the quarantine ends you may have a better relationship with your children and teenagers. You may find out that strengthening your relationship with your family was worth all the difficulties created by the quarantine.

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

The Least Restrictive Environment

The Least Restrictive Environment

Many schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus, however they can still have IEP meetings or the meeting will resume when school resumes. This will give parents time to prepare for their IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon to help a student who is having difficulties learning at school. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or www.LucasCenter.org.

Do Not Leave Your IEP at Home when You Leave for College

Do Not Leave Your IEP at Home when You Leave for College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Over 20 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Right now many students are preparing to leave home and start their new lives in college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptop etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

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Could My Child have ADHD?

Could My Child have ADHD?

School is now in its second semester and many parents are tired about fighting over homework or telephone calls from school that their child is being disruptive in class again. The school or family members may be suggesting to parents that the child has ADHD and needs medication. Many parents are not sure about the diagnosis and they are concerned about their child taking ADHD medication. I hear this very often from parents and do many assessments on children to determine if a child has ADHD. Yes ADHD is a really disorder, but too many teachers and schools rush to the conclusion that a child has ADHD and needs medication.

According to statistics by the American Psychological Association, five percent of children in the United States have ADHD. It is also more common in males and it does tend to run in families. According to the CDC 15.9% of boys and 5.6% of girls have ADHD. However, not every child who has ADHD requires medication. Many children can be treated with psychotherapy and behavior modification. Therefore, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD do not rush to medicate your child. There are different subtypes of ADHD and different severities of the diagnosis.

If you child does have ADHD, they are entitled to accommodations such as extra time taking a test. It’s important to get them the accommodations they need. Children who have ADHD, but do not receive accommodations tend to show signs of low self-esteem around the fifth grade. These would be covered by a 504 plan. However, if your child has severe ADHD and needs resource assistance too, they are entitled to an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Many schools may tell parents ADHD does not qualify for an IEP. This is not true. The severity of the ADHD determines if a child needs an IEP. They would qualify under the categories of Emotional Disturbance or Other Health Impairments.

If you feel your child may have ADHD or their school suggests the idea, make sure you have your child appropriately assessed by a professional who specializes in ADHD. In the past schools would often diagnosis children with ADHD. Schools are no longer supposed to make this diagnosis. If they feel a child might have ADHD, they are supposed to have your child evaluated. Many parents take their child to their pediatrician, however, many pediatricians are not trained in diagnosing ADHD. I would suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health clinician trained in working with children and in assessing for ADHD.

As I stated above, if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, make sure you take your child to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and in doing assessments. The assessment for ADHD is not very difficult and an appropriate evaluation by an appropriate mental health clinician should cost around $250 depending on where you live. I have seen some parents who have spent thousands of dollars getting CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. You do not need an expensive scan of your child’s brian to diagnosis ADHD.

The DSM V, the diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use, list the criteria needed for the diagnosis. I am including a link to the Center for Disease Control which list the criteria for the diagnosis and other information about ADHD, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Typically the diagnosis can be made by a clinician interviewing the parents, having a play session or two with the child and observing the child at school or consulting with the teachers. However, remember if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, you want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and assessing children for ADHD. Your child’s pedestrian should be able to refer you to someone or if you call your insurance they will probably have referrals.

Before you rush to have your child assessed, remember some basic facts. Most children between the ages of two to five are very active. They also have very short attention spans. Sometimes you need to give a child some time to mature especially if you have a boy. Remember boys mature slower than girls and tend to be more active than girls. It is important to keep these facts in mind when you are wondering if your child has ADHD.

Now if you child is more hyperactive than other kids his age or his attention span is shorter than most kids his age, there might be an issue. Also if there is a strong family history of ADHD in the family such as his father had ADHD as a child and paternal and maternal uncles all had ADHD as children, there might be an issue. Also if your child was born premature or there were complications during the pregnancy or child birth, there might be an issue. Premature babies or babies with a difficult pregnancy or birth are more likely to have ADHD and learning disabilities.

Bottom line, if someone suggests that your child has ADHD don’t rush to the pedestrian seeking medication. Compare your child’s behavior to other children and consider the risk factors. If your child doesn’t have many risk factors for ADHD maybe wait six months and reassess the situation. The most important thing to remember is if you decide to have your child assessed for ADHD, make sure you go to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and ADHD. You want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children with ADHD and assessing children for ADHD. Also remember you do not need any expensive scans like a CT scan. There are other treatment options besides medication, so do not rush to medicate your child either. Consider all the treatment options.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and assessing children. He has over 20 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

There is Nothing Wrong If You Don’t have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend in High School

There is Nothing Wrong If You Don’t have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend in High School

It’s Valentine’s Weekend and a major issue for many teenagers is if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Having a girlfriend or boyfriend is very important to many teenagers. Often teenagers feel defective if they do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Many people are familiar with this line, “you complete me,” from the movie, Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise. A deaf couple signs this message to each other in an elevator and Tom Cruise’s character assumes they must really be in love. However, this may not be the reality. In reality it may be an unhealthy relationship.

As a psychotherapist with 20 years experience treating couples and teenagers, I have observed a common mistake that many people make regarding relationships and love. Many people tell me they feel an emptiness inside themselves and describe it as a “big empty hole.” They assume that a relationship will fill this emptiness. In other words, they are relying on their partner to eliminate the empty feeling they are experiencing.

This is a mistake. The only person that can fill that emptiness you feel is you. When I work with couples or an individual who is experiencing this emptiness, they usually are upset with their partner. They are upset because their partner is not filling the emptiness. Also the other partner is frustrated because they are tired of having to constantly reassure their partner. They report they are tired of always having to worry about meeting their partner needs and that their needs are constantly being pushed aside.

This type of pattern is very common in relationships where there is domestic violence or a substance abuse problem. Also jealousy is a major issue in these relationships. The person who is experiencing the emptiness is very sensitive to feeling rejected or abandoned. This is usually a result from childhood issues that have never been addressed. However, as an adult, if they sense these feelings in their relationship they tend to over react to them. The person may drink excessively to reduce their fears and men often result to verbal or physical abuse. Anything that will keep their partner in the relationship and continue to fill the empty space.

This tends to occur because as we grow up there is a great deal of pressure for people to be in relationships. You see this in children in first grade or kindergarten when adults jokingly ask children if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. If a child doesn’t they often feel there is something wrong with them.

I see this issue a lot with teenagers. I have teenagers who feel they are defective because they never had a girlfriend or boyfriend. This defective feeling increases significantly, if the teenager never has been on a date. They believe if they are going to be a “normal” teenager, they must at least be dating. Boys tend to believe they must be sexually active too. I have had teenagers tell me they felt suicidal or were using drugs because they did not have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are willing to risk their lives using drugs or believe they are better off dead, if they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend. They are so tied up trying to live the stereotype, they can’t believe that many teenagers do not have a girlfriend or boyfriend and do not date in High School.

This pattern continues into adulthood. Many women feel defective if they are 30 years old and not married. Men feel as if they are not men if they do not have a girlfriend. Both men and women often settle for anyone as long as they can say they are in a relationship.

As children, we never learn how to love and care for ourselves. Ask someone if they would go out to dinner by themselves and most people look terrified by the idea. They have no idea what they would do and they are afraid about what other people with think. This is a sad state that we cannot love ourselves. If we always need someone to reinforce we are lovable, we turn our power over to strangers. If someone says something nice about us we feel good, if they say something hurtful, we feel unworthy as a person. But, why should someone else determine our value? We should be the one who judges if we are lovable or not. A relationship should add to our life like a bottle of wine adds to a meal. A relationship should not define us as a person.

As a result of this problem, many couples end up divorcing because a partner is tired of having to reassure their spouse daily. I have seen these divorces become very nasty and costly. So both parties are hurt even more and so are the children. They only people benefiting are the attorneys.

We also have this same issue with teenagers. However, when they break up it tends to be more dramatic. A teenager may start to use drugs, develop an eating disorder, start cutting, become depressed and may attempt suicide. The behaviors are not uncommon after teenagers break up.

We see this acting out behavior more in teenagers and children. Teenagers and children are desperate to feel that they are loved by their parents especially. If they don’t feel they are loved, there is a tendency to act out. Disney’s movie, Frozen, has a segment where the trolls explain that if someone doesn’t feel loved they may act out in pain or make poor decisions in an attempt to find love. Oprah, during her last show, had a very good way of expressing this need. She stated, “everyone wants to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.” The program Challenge Day, which Oprah recommends, states what teens are looking for this way: every teenager wants to feel safe, loved and celebrated. I see it every day, when teens don’t feel loved, they act out. Negative attention is better than no attention.

How do we handle this issue? We need to start to acknowledge as a society that a relationship doesn’t make you a complete person. Only you can make yourself feel complete as a person. Also we need to remove the stigma of seeking mental health care. We need to encourage adults who feel incomplete without a relationship to seek psychotherapy and deal with their issues. Parents, if you notice that your teenager is desperate to be in a relationship, help them get psychotherapy so they can deal with the pain they are feeling. Remember this emptiness feeling typically begins in childhood. Therefore, if we show children and teens that they are loved or get them help when they are acting out, we can prevent them from dealing with this emptiness for years.

Again, please remember a relationship should add to your life, it should not make you a person or define you as a person.

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with families and teenagers. If you would like more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.