Why Today’s Teens Are Feeling Anxious and Depressed

Why Today’s Teens Are Feeling Anxious and Depressed

“What are we doing to our kids?” is a quote from Cameron Crowe, who wrote the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High a movie from 1982. I ask this question on a daily basis. Cameron Crowe while discussing the movie with CNN for their special report on movies made his statement about teenagers. He explained he went undercover in a high school as a high school senior to write the movie. He stated he was shocked at how sexually active these kids were in high school. He stated between the focus on sex and working, the kids were being denied their adolescence. They were going from kids to adults very quickly. Sadly what Cameron Crowne noticed in 1982 has continued and has only become worse. It is so bad that I typically have difficulties scheduling appointments with teenagers because of tutoring sessions, meeting with college consultants and their homework. Many teenagers are so overbooked that they seldom have a free minute to relax.

Cameron Crowe was commenting on high school students in 1982. However, what he noticed occurring in high school in 1982, however it is now starting to occur in middle school not high school. In middle school today it is not uncommon for kids to be sexually active. In fact, many middle schools now provide condoms to sixth graders. Many 6th graders do not think oral sex is being sexually active. They tell me they are just “messing around, like kissing.” In addition to sex, kids in middle school are using drugs. They are not just using marijuana. Many middle school students are using concerta, ecstasy, vaping and designer drugs. Additionally, what they are exposed to on television and in movies has changed dramatically. I use the film, Good Will Hunting, in an anger management group for teenagers. The movie is rated R, but they only swear. I looked at the release date and it was in the early 1990’s. If you watch some television shows today, they come close to showing people having sex. This is a significant change and has a big impact on the kids watching these television shows and movies.

In addition to being sexually active and using drugs many middle school students are worrying about how much money they will make at their jobs. Kids are looking at different careers and thinking about how much they will get in paid and what they will be able to afford. They wonder about, how big of a house or what type of car will they be able to afford as adults? Mr. Crowe’s observation was correct in 1982. However in 2023, kids are losing their childhood too early and they are losing their childhood earlier and earlier. In 1982 it was high school in 2023 it is occurring in middle school. When will it start occurring in fifth grade?

In addition to these factors, teens in middle school and high school continue to live through the pandemic. Most kids had a year of remote learning which was a disaster. Therefore, teenagers were forced to spend over a year at home by themselves and their main interaction with friends was by texting or gaming. As a result, many teenagers feel like they have lost a year of their lives that they will never get back and a year of exploring life with their friends. Many teenagers are reporting depression , suicidal feelings and anxiety due to the Pandemic. Who can blame them because they have lost a year of their childhood that they cannot get back. Additionally, some children are now having panic attacks regarding going to school or being in crowds. They are not use to being around a lot of people and many still are concerned about being exposed to the Coronavirus or some new virus such as Monkeypox.

Even though many teenagers are back in school, their school experience is not the same as it was prior to the pandemic. Their ability to socialize is still limited greatly and schools have changed many after school activities and have canceled events such as indoor dances. So teenagers are back in the classroom, but they still feel lonely and many see no end to the pandemic or school shootings in site.

Since I specialize in treating children and teenagers, I have had more children and teenagers reporting depression, anxiety and a sense of loneliness over this past year. In fact, in my office the number of middle and high school students seeking therapy has increased by a factor of 10. Besides parents calling, schools and insurance companies are calling daily regarding adolescents who need therapy. Many of these teens are feeling disconnected and out of touch with their friends and other teenagers their age. In 2000, I was noticing this in a few teenagers now in 2023 a majority or teens and middle school students report feeling lonely and isolated and anxious. I am also beginning to hear this from fifth grade boys too. Besides loneliness increasing in middle school and high school, the number of kids feeling depressed is increasing significantly. It makes sense. Teenagers have lost a year of “normal” teenage life and no one knows what to expect next, another school shooting or a return to remote learning due to this new variant. This provokes anxiety and depression when you don’t know what to expect from the future. Especially when predictions are changing daily, teenagers are left having to wait and they see no end in site.

You may ask with their focus on friends and sex, how are they feeling lonely or isolated? With this focus on friends, sex, drugs and the future comes a great deal of competition. Everyone wants to look like they know exactly what they are doing. Therefore, they may be talking and texting each other, but they focus more on shallow issues. No one really opens up about their true fears and worries. As a result, they feel lonely and isolated. The movie and play, Dear Evan Hansen, explores and explains how many teenagers are feeling lonely and insignificant. They have missed a year of “normal, typical” experiences which help them mature. Teenagers know they are not going to get these years back which is depressing. Therefore, they are using computers, drugs and sex as a way to numb out the anger, disappointment and anxiety about what they are missing and not to worry about what their futures will be like.

A very good example of this are teenage boys. Most teenage boys are trying to live up to the outdated stereotype about what it takes to be a man. According to the stereotypes men don’t cry, don’t focus on emotions because they are weak and must be sexually active to be a man. There is a documentary, The Mask You Live In, which focuses on boys conforming to this outdated stereotype. Overwhelming the boys in the documentary reported feeling lonely and isolated. They shared they had no one who they could talk to when they felt overwhelmed or confused by life. They always had to have the right answer and they did not always what was the right answer. As a result, they made mistakes and they felt lonely not being able to ask for help. They felt like they had to hide their true feelings which makes them feel lonely.

Having over two years with little to no personal contact with their friends only increases this feeling of isolation and loneliness. Since teenagers try not to act like they need help, they are experiencing more feelings of anxiety and depression. The CDC has documented a significant increase in the number of teenagers coping with depression and anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic. Also as I stated above we have experienced a tidal wave of teenagers seeking psychotherapy. Furthermore, the longer we ignore issues such as school shootings, the longer children worry about their safety and futures, and the number of kids feeling anxious, depressed and isolated will continue to increase not decrease.

Texting and online gaming have increased as a way for teenagers to feel a connection with their friends. Many parents worry about their teenagers texting or gaming, but if it provides a sense of connection with their friends and the world, I have recommended to parents to adjust their rules regarding these behaviors during this time that teenagers are adjusting to the new normal. Teenagers need a way to feel connected to others. Without this sense of connection during this adjustment period, we will see an increase in the number of teenagers committing suicide or overdosing on drugs.

Another aspect to teenage boys and girls feeling lonely, isolated, depressed and anxious is that they tend to close themselves off emotionally. As a result, they do not know if anyone cares about them. They never know if someone loves them. This can create major issues for teens. In the Disney movie Frozen, they point out how people will act out in pain and make mistakes when they don’t feel loved or cared for by people. The movie also points out how opening yourself up so you can feel love will help people change and make better choices. The lead character, Elsa, when she felt lonely and afraid could not control her power and it only caused destruction. When she finally opened herself up and saw she could be loved she discovered the good her powers could do. When she was afraid she isolated herself and when she felt loved she opened up and interacted with others. The idea of allowing themselves to be emotionally vulnerable is a very scary concept for teenagers. They don’t know what to expect and they don’t feeI in control. Teenagers need to feel a sense of control especially during this time of their lives and with all of the unknowns in our world today. I see this happen daily with teens. When they feel no one cares, they isolate themselves and say hurtful things to keep themselves isolated. When they discover people care, they allow themselves to open up and start to share their true feelings and interact with others. They are very happy and surprised when they make this discovery.

Parents may notice that their teenagers are not taking to them or listening to them despite the fact that parents are trying to be supportive. The problem is that your teenagers are feeling so depressed and anxious that they are ignoring their parents. Many teenagers see how society is acting and they see no hope. They assume you are going to try to make them feel better, but you are just as powerless as they are so they ignore you. Be patient with them and continue to be there for them. By taking this approach when your teenager is ready to talk, you will be there and not miss the opportunity.

In 1982 the world was much easier. In today’s world things are moving fast and make it easy for people to isolate by texting or using social media to communicate. In addition, teenagers have lived through a pandemic (which no other recent generation has had to do), mass shootings and a political climate that has changed how we communicate and view the world and each other. As a result, teenage boys and girls feel pressure to follow the outdated stereotypes about men and women. There are few people telling teens they don’t need to follow these stereotypes. We also need to set examples about communication. Adults need to not text so much and rely on social media as often as they do. Parents need to take time talking with their children as soon as they are born. Technology can be a great thing but it is making many people feel lonely and isolated. Teens as well as adults. We need to study technology and look at how it is impacting our lives and the lives of our children. One thing for sure, I have seen technology increasing the amount of teens feeling lonely and depressed. We don’t want our kids to lose out on their childhood. Therefore, we need to study the impact technology has on us and teach our children how to use it responsibly. Also we need to teach teenage boys and girls that they don’t need to live up to the outdated stereotypes about men and women. We need to encourage our kids to be themselves and to accept themselves.

Additionally, remember today’s teenagers are the only teenagers in recent history who have had to cope with daily mass shootings and a pandemic which has killed over 1,000,000 Americans. We need to look at all these issues and help our children and teenagers cope with the world they have to live in. Hopefully this will help our children reclaim their childhood and be kids.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Memorial Day Weekend and Teenagers

Memorial Day Weekend and Teenagers

This weekend is a big weekend. It’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s also the beginning of graduations celebrations and it’s the beginning of summer too. For many teenagers this means parties, hanging out with friends and staying out late. It’s a popular weekend to celebrate by drinking, smoking and some teenagers head for the beaches or swimming pools depending on the area they live in. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year 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 by breaking their back. Concussions are very common and can have life long effects on someone. For example, Concussions can lead to Post Concussion Syndrome. As we learn more about concussions, we are learning that concussions can cause a number of issues for a person.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool. These injuries can occur in car accidents too.

With it being the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of graduations and graduation parties, 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 overdosing. You have no way to know if your teenager 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.

Since you never know what may happen, take the opportunity to talk with your teenagers. When you talk to your teenagers talk to them using a casual tone. If it sounds like a lecture, your teenagers are probably going to ignore you. However, if you just approach them to have a calm conversation they are more likely to listen. Besides using a calm tone, remember to listen to what your teenagers have to say. Therefore, you want to have an open, two way conversation with your teenagers.

As I mentioned above, you never know what to expect when you are dealing with teenagers today. A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). 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 your teenager. 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 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. Talk with them about your concerns and listen to them about how they are feeling and what is going on in their lives. 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 the ironic part to this weekend is it really a time to honor the men and women who have served in the military. To remember all those soldiers who have been killed, injured for life or coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Traumatic Brain Injury, so we can benefit from a democracy that allows us the freedom to live our lives how we want to live life. So we can go to church if we want and express our opinions without having to fear for our lives.

However, over time we have forgotten the meaning of today. Therefore, we do not value what we have and take chances with our lives we do not need to take. We also forget the veterans who are paralyzed or trying to cope with PTSD and reliving the war they were in daily. This also has a major impact on veteran’s families too. Another fact we forget.

May be if we take a few minutes to remember the true meaning of this weekend, we will value life more and be less likely to take senseless chances such as driving drunk. We may also remember the veterans who are still struggling with their injuries today and ensure they get the help they need and deserve. Many do not and as a result the suicide rate for veterans is very high compared to the general population. There are few treatment option for them too. A very sad fact when they provided us with the freedom we enjoy daily.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. He has over 25 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work, his private practice or to contact him visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Information for Parents about How to Handle the Benadryl Challenge

Information for Parents about How to Handle the Benadryl Challenge

It is getting close to the end of the school year and many teenagers are stressed about finals and completing final projects. From working with teenagers for over 25 years, I know many of them feel that they are entitled to a break from studying and a chance to have fun. Well Memorial Day weekend is coming up and many teenagers are planning on using the long weekend as a break and a chance to have fun. Teenagers can define how they have fun in a variety of ways. For some teens it’s online gaming with friends, maybe it’s hanging out at the mall and for some it’s drinking alcohol and using drugs. Teenagers have been finding ways to get high for years because they believe that it is fun. However, many teenagers are not aware that the ways they are choosing to get high can cause serious health risks even death. Teenagers were using and still use the cough medicine, Robitussin, because it contains DMX an provides an easy high. However, stores have made it difficult to buy Robitussin so it’s not as easy to use as it use to be. Well teenagers are now using another allergy medication. Teenagers are now using the medication Benadryl made by Johnson and Johnson.

Many parents are familiar with Benadryl. It is a common medication pediatricians prescribe to parents when their children have allergies. This medication is considered safe for young children and parents can purchase it over the counter. Additionally, many pediatricians suggest that parents use this medication when children are having difficulties sleeping. Besides being a safe allergy medication for young children, it also has a tendency to make children and adults drowsy. Most people fall asleep after taking Benadryl.

Now the app TikTok, which is very popular with teenagers, has away listed on the app so teens can use this medication to get high. It is called the Benadryl Challenge. People who use TikTok have issued a challenge to other TikTok users. The challenge is to take as many Benadryl pills as they can so they start hallucinating and experience a high. Therefore, we have teenagers across the country taking dozens of Benadryl pills. Teenagers are able to get Benadryl easy because it is sold over the counter and is considered a safe allergy medication by most people. Therefore, most parents won’t suspect anything if their teenager tells them they are taking Benadryl for their allergies. Additionally, since it is easy to get and a majority of teenagers feel that it is safe, a number of teens will probably be taking the challenge over Memorial Day weekend as a way to relax.

However this challenge posted on TikTok is dangerous and deadly. Johnson and Johnson has stated that Benadryl was not designed with the intention of taking dozens of Benadryl pills at a time. For example, a 15 year old girl, who was taking the Benadryl Challenge, has died from taking too many Benadryl pills. Additionally, three 15 year old teenage girls in Fort Worth, Texas were hospitalized because they took too many Benadryl pills. Johnson and Johnson has stated that if you take to much Benadryl it can cause seizures and serious heart problems. The company has the guidelines on the bottle regarding what is an appropriate dosage of Benadryl for different ages and weights. Johnson and Johnson is warning parents about this TikTok challenge so parents can address it with their teenagers.

Parents TikTok is very popular with teenagers, despite the fact that the government is banning its use on all federal cellphones. Teenagers are not concerned with the debate about Tim Tim being used by China to collect information and they are not thinking about how dangerous this challenge can be and that people can die. If your teenager uses TikTok discuss this challenge with them and watch to see if your teenager has any Benadryl. If they use TikTok and have Benadryl take the medication away from them. You may be saving their lives. Additionally, even if your teenager doesn’t use Tik Tok discuss the Benadryl Challenge with them. We all know teenagers talk about things that are going on in their lives. They definitely will be talking about this challenge even if they don’t use Tik Tok and many may decide to take the challenge.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, take this time to discuss with your teenagers what they are planning to do for the weekend with friends. Also take the opportunity to have an open, honest, nonjudgmental discussion about issues such as drugs, alcohol and sexual activity. Remember a teenager’s brain is not fully developed until they are 25 years old. There are a lot of decisions they need to make and at times they are confused about the information they are hearing from various sources. They want you to see them as young adults and they don’t want to get into trouble for asking a question. Therefore, if you establish a pattern of nonjudgmental conversations, you will increase the likelihood that your teenager will talk to you if they are confused or concerned about something. With the number of substances available to teenagers in today’s world, you may be saving their lives if they feel comfortable talking with you about difficult issues.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or on Apple.

The American Mental Health Crisis

The American Mental Health Crisis

The United States is facing a mental health crisis. We are facing a crisis in the number of people dealing with a mental health issues and who need psychotherapy. We are noticing this crisis especially in children and teenagers. Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, suicide and drug overdoses are at epidemic rates in teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the CDC reported that the number of teenagers killed by guns increased by 30% between 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the CDC reported that 45,000 people under the age of 19 years died as a result of a gun. Imagine how many parents, other siblings, friends and first responders are dealing with PTSD, anxiety and depression due to these deaths. Additionally, the CDC reported that between 2019 and 2021, the percentage of high school teens experiencing persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness increased from 37% to 42%, continuing a decade-long trend of declining mental health among young people. For LBGT+ teens and minority teens the rate is as high as 57%. Currently for teenagers and children depression, anxiety, PTSD and drug overdoses are at epidemic rates and the number one cause of death for teenagers are guns and the second leading cause of death is suicide. When we look at the nation as a whole 29% of people reported experiencing depression in 2020 which is a 10% increase since 2015 (CDC).

While we see there are many people who need psychotherapy, there are not enough therapists to meet the current need. According to the APA, 56% of Americans or 6 out of 10 people are seeking psychotherapy. Our country did not have enough psychotherapist prior to the pandemic, but the need has significantly increased since the pandemic. In fact, since the pandemic started 80 percent psychotherapists reported seeing an increase of people seeking psychotherapy. The largest increase of people seeking therapy was in children aged 13-17 years old. There was a 46% increase in this age group (APA). Additionally, many psychotherapist reported receiving calls from at least 15 new patients per day. Most psychotherapist stated that they could not keep up with the demand for psychotherapy and were unable to treat many of the new patients calling their offices even using wait lists. While the pandemic is declining, there still is a significant need for psychotherapy. Many people are still struggling with anxiety and trauma conditions. Additionally, now people are trying to resume their daily activities prior to the pandemic. Many people are finding it difficult to resume their routines prior to the pandemic and many are having difficulties getting out of bed (APA).

People who live in major cities are having and had easier times finding psychotherapists because they are more available in large cities. However, people living in rural areas were and still are having significant difficulties finding psychotherapists because of their location and the lack of psychotherapists in rural areas. Many of these people are having to resort to telemedicine for psychotherapy. However, the lack of the internet in rural areas is making even telemedicine difficult for some patients.

What happens to people who cannot get psychotherapy? For children and teenagers they may develop life long anxiety or depression disorders. They may develop significant difficulties leaving their homes, they can become antisocial and they can become dependent on drugs or alcohol. These are a few issues that may develop. We do not know who will develop what symptoms or conditions for sure. However, research strongly indicates that children and adolescents who do not receive psychotherapy when symptoms first occur are more likely to develop mental health disorders as adults (APA, CDC). Adults who do not receive therapy are more likely to struggle with mental health disorders for the rest of their lives. Also they are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope and often live isolated lives (APA, CDC).

Why is this happening in the United States? The primary reason is because we do not place a high priority on mental health. Another reason is that we do not place a high priority on those studying to be mental health professionals. For example, besides my Bachelor’s degree, I have a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and my Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology and I am certified to treat anger management, military and their families and first responders. I also took the same neurology course as medical students and worked over 5,000 hours as an intern. However, in order to hospitalize a patient I have to call the police and have them decide if someone is suicidal despite all of my training. Mental health professionals are not allowed to treat patients as we feel is necessary. Instead we need to follow a patient’s insurance guidelines. Finally, we are not paid the same as other professionals with the amount of education and experience that we have acquired. This is all due to a negative stereotype about mental health. Many people feel it’s not real and people who are depressed are faking. However, as we do more and more research we are finding a strong link between physical and mental health. A fact we really need to pay attention to.

The statistics that I quoted above were all getting worse over time. Also the mental health issues are increasing at a significantly fast rate. Before we were referring to rates increasing over 10 years, now we are looking at two years. Look at our environment in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death, we are handing out narcon because teenagers are over dosing at an alarming rate. We have at least one mass shooting a day. Ethnic minorities and LGBT+ adults and adolescents have to be careful where they go and what they are doing because violence against them is increasing significantly. We are also seeing a significant increase in antisemitism. The economy is uncertain and inflation is on the rise. Many teenagers are afraid they won’t be able to afford a home. Many teenagers are afraid that they won’t live until 18 and they will be shot a school.

We are living in a very stressful world and it doesn’t not seem like we are going to change our society any time soon. We still have people who believe Trump won the 2020 election and that the attack on the Capital Building was a peaceful protest. These people choose to ignore how many police officers were killed that day and have committed suicide due to the trauma of that day. Additionally, when they were trying to hang the Vice President, how can you call that a peaceful protest? With all of this going on we are going to need more psychotherapists so children and teenagers do not have to wait months for the psychotherapy treatment they desperately need. We also need to treat psychotherapists with the respect they deserve and make insurance companies pay psychotherapists a fair rate. Otherwise, with the rate of psychotherapists retiring because they are at retirement age and placing the pressure on the remaining psychotherapists to treat everyone who needs therapy, you will have psychotherapists burning out at tremendous rates. It seriously time for us to take a step back and re-evaluate our mental health system, our attitudes regarding mental health and how we are going to save our mental health system and the mental health of our Country.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

To Search or not Search A Teenager’s Bedroom

To Search or not Search A Teenager’s Bedroom

Teenagers have always spent a great deal of time in their bedroom. Now, due to computers, many teenagers spend even more time in their rooms gaming with their friends especially since the pandemic. However, many parents worry about what else their teenager may be doing in their room, such as vaping or drinking alcohol. As a result, many parents ask me, if is it appropriate if they search their teenager’s bedroom. Besides parents worrying about what their teenager maybe doing in their rooms, parents are frustrated that their teenagers bed rooms are a complete mess. The question about searching a teenager’s bedroom has been occurring long before the pandemic. However, since the pandemic and the quarantine, I have been hearing the question more often. While I understand parents concerns, we need to remember that teenagers do need their privacy. Their ability to have privacy has been significantly reduced due to the pandemic and quarantine. So parents feel in order to be a responsible parent they need to look at their teenager’s bedroom, however, developmentally teenagers need privacy, what to do? This is not an easy issue so let’s deal with this issue.

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 lives 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. Additionally, many teenagers, especially with the Coronavirus and school shootings, feel they have no control over anything. For many teenagers they feel a sense of control in their bedrooms. They find this sense calming and reassuring. Therefore, it’s important to remember these issues and allow teenagers some additional time in their bedrooms. Also you want your teenager to learn responsibility.

My recommendation is not to make an issue of their bedroom. During this post pandemic period when we are readjusting our lives and schedules, 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 pandemic 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:

1. The bedroom door must be able to be closed so no one else has to look at the mess.

2. People can walk by the room without smelling anything such as rotting food.

3. There are no ants or bugs going into or coming out of the room.

4. They do not keep dishes in their room so Mom has dishes when she needs them.

5. 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 pandemic 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 pandemic 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 25 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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino 3.

Mother’s Day can be Difficult

Mother’s Day can be Difficult

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for many people Mother’s Day is not a happy day. There are many people who grew up without a mother. Their mother may have died when they were a child due to cancer or the Coronavirus, they may have grown up in foster care going from home to home, their parents may have divorced and their mother was not involved in their lives or maybe they were adopted or they may have been raised by a grandmother or even a father who tried to be both mother and father. These are just a few reasons why someone may have grown up or is currently living without a mother figure. As a result, Mother’s Day can bring up a number of different feelings for these people. They may feel sad or the may feel very angry to name a few emotions. For an idea how widespread this issue is in our country, 1,000,000 Americans died due to the coronavirus. Many of those who died were mothers, grandmothers or mother figures for someone. Therefore, we have over 1,000,000 Americans who are dealing with Mother’s Day without a mother they can physically spend the day with and celebrate. If you think about, there are a lot of people and many of them are small children who are having difficulties understanding why their mother was taken away or in some cases abandoned them. Therefore, we need to be aware that not everyone will be feeling happy on Mother’s Day.

In addition to the Coronavirus, there are other reasons that Mothers Day maybe difficult for people and children. For some people, as I stated above, their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Some people may have had an argument with their mother at some point in their lives and they no longer speak to each other. Finally, many people have lost their mothers, grandmothers and aunts over the year due to cancer, heart attacks and other diseases. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the recent death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who died from the Coronavirus or cancer. Other mothers may have left the family due to a drug problem and are not involved with the family any longer. Seeing television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them. Also if their school is making Mother’s Day gifts it can be especially difficult for children whose mothers have died or left the family. Often children whose mother has died or left, act out at school and home when their class is making Mother’s Day gifts.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and on Mother’s Day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate themselves and not want to be involved with anyone or anything having to do with Mother’s Day. If you have a child who has a difficult or No relationship with their mother, you may want to be aware to how they act as it’s getting closer to Mothers Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. It is important that you understand that Mother’s Day is difficult for them and you understand if they are upset or don’t want to do anything. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do to remember their mother. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family too. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Divorce Issues Belong at Home not at Your Child’s High School Graduation

Divorce Issues Belong at Home not at Your Child’s High School Graduation

With the large number of divorces in our society, brings a lot of new situations in life, especially if you have children. Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced, it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle of the divorce. This is the ideal situation, however, we do not always get the ideal situation.

Very often divorces are high conflict, and the two of you argue over everything and anything. Usually in these high-conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose -between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation. Imagine a child who loves both parents feeling like they have to choose between their parents. It’s no surprise that many children feel like they caused their parent’s divorce.

This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays. Parents argue about pick-up and drop-off times, how long they have the children for holidays, and there is often arguments about can a child bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. In short, parents argue about everything and the children become sick and tired of the arguing.

The other factor that adds to this is grandparents saying negative things about the ex-wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress on the children who are trying to deal with their parent’s divorce.

The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a longterm boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments are about, They are not my child’s mother, and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life.”

In short in a high-conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become use to arguing about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times, some children do choose sides hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused.

This type of divorce creates a great deal of issues for children, and I cannot cover all the issues in this article . I would need a book to cover all the issues. However, just to name a few, high conflict divorces create self-esteem issues for children, trust issues for children and often drug and alcohol issues so they can escape the stress of the divorce.

Most of the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish that their parents would stop fighting so they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument and how the divorce is going to interfere with their lives again.

Graduation is one of those issues.

Parents will often start arguing about issues such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school and now he wants to come.” Or, “If your mother shows up, after everything she has done, I won’t be in the same room as her.” And of course there is always the issue of “he better not bring her to my child’s graduation.”

What is a teen to do?

They have spent the last four years working very hard in high school and graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishment. This generation of high school seniors have had to deal with mass shootings and shootings drills, plus they had to cope with the pandemic and remote learning. They have had several very difficult issues to cope with that other generations have not had to cope with and they have earned the right to be proud of graduating and wanting to celebrate the day without divorce issues. In addition to all they have had to overcome, they want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate their accomplishment. This main people are usually their mother and father except in rare occasions. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about how graduation will be because of the divorce?

Your teenager did not get divorced. You and your spouse divorced, and even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents. This is a fact you need to remember. Also if you don’t want to ruin your teenager’s high school graduation, you need to act like parents. This means putting divorce issues aside, biting your tongues if necessary and acting civil with your ex-wife or ex-husband. It also means communicating this to grandparents about acting civil and not mentioning or being rude to the other side of the family.

So remember, this means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else.

Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice? Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teen’s graduation a happy day for them.

What you need to do is you and your ex spouse sit down together, or email each other, and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold one day so your teen can have a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not.

This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties.

The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. Allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight will there be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, being parents and relationships.

This means putting aside all your feeling and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day, their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else.

Well isn’t it time that you followed your own advice? Stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make your teen’s graduation a happy day for them.

What you need to do is you and your ex spouse sit down together, or email each other, and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold one day so your teen can have a happy graduation. The two of you need to talk with grandparents and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not.

This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you sits on the left and one sits on the right. You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties.

The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and decide how you can do it civilly. This will be the best graduation present that you can give your teenager. Allow them to have their graduation day to celebrate their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight will there be. You are also teaching them a lesson about love, communication, being parents and relationships.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. If you want to know more about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Apple and Spotify.

Helping Teens Cope with End of the School Year Stress

Helping Teens Cope with End of the School Year Stress

The end of the school year is around the corner and it is that time of year again – it’s Finals time.

Your teenagers are probably very stressed or getting stressed. There is a lot of things going on right now, Junior Prom, Senior Ball, acceptance letters for colleges are arriving so are letters of denial arriving too. There are also other end of the year activities. For some seniors, their acceptance into a university may be conditional on their final grades. Therefore, they will be very worried about finals.

As I stated besides finals, there are the Prom and Ball to worry about. Many of the teens are stressed about who to ask, will they get asked, or should they go alone or with friends and of course what to wear and how much will it cost? Also then there are the after parties. They worry about which one to go to and there is the issue of drinking that night, using drugs and having sex that night. Parents remember when you were in high school and all the issues associated with the Prom or Ball.

If that was not enough, there are final projects due, research papers and many high schools require community service hours too. In addition to this there is the normal homework and finding time to study for finals.

In many classes the final may be worth fifty percent of the students grade. The final grade in a class is very important. This grade will be part of their overall GPA which can affect what colleges Juniors can apply to and their ability to get scholarships. Also as I mentioned above for some Seniors, colleges have put a condition on their acceptance. The student must get a certain grade in a class or maintain a particular overall GPA in order to be accepted to the college.

As you can see there is a great deal of pressure on high school students during this time of year. Also since the competition to get into colleges has increased and the competition for scholarships has increased so has the stress on high school students.

Many students will do what ever they need to in order to survive this time of year. This includes using alcohol or weed to help them relax or sleep. They will also take friends ADHD medication, use cocaine, or start taking caffeine pills or start drinking a great deal of coffee or energy drinks so they can stay awake and study. They don’t realize how much caffeine those energized drinks contain. Also the combination of weed to sleep and caffeine to stay awake can cause mood changes, psychosis, heart rates to race and even death.

Most teens want to do things on there own so they will tell you everything is fine and they have it covered. They think it is fine because of the substances they are using and they think they have the substances under control. Remember a teenagers prefrontal lobes are not fully developed yet. Therefore, they only focus on the here and now and not on the future. Also they do not have the reasoning skills adults do. Therefore, teenagers have a tendency to be impulsive.

If your teenager is getting anger very easily or crying easily this is a sign that something is going on. If you notice a change in their eating habits such as going from eating a lot to eating nothing, this is another sign. Also if you notice a change in their sleep pattern such as awake all night and falling asleep at odd times this is also a sign. These are all signs indicating that you need to sit down with your teenager and explore what is going on in their life. When you have this conversation do so in a caring manner, not in a tone that sounds like you are accusing them of doing something wrong. If you come from a caring point of view, your teen is more likely to feel that they can open up and be honest with you.

Therefore, if you notice anything that is making you worry, sit down and talk to your teen. Explain you know there is a lot of stress right now and point out the changes you have noticed and what you are concerned about. Reinforce you are not having this conversation because you are mad or they are in trouble, you are having this conversation because you love them. If they are using things or doing things because they think it will help them study, let them know you are there to help. Explain some of the dangers associated with what they are doing. Remind them no grade is worth their life.

Hopefully they will listen to you and confide in you. If they continue to deny everything and you feel they are using some type of substance, then go to any local pharmacy and buy a drug testing kit. Explain you are only doing this for their safety and they are not in trouble. They may be afraid or embarrassed to tell you. They may feel like a failure in your eyes. As their parent they need your love and support right now not a lecture. Again remember when you were in high school and how difficult it was to tell your parents certain things. Doing a drug test might be extreme, but when you consider they may be using cocaine or fentanyl, which is deadly, the test is not so extreme. It is your responsibility as a parent to raise your teen to be a healthy, responsible adult. With the amount of pressure on teenagers right now, they may make some poor decisions. The drug test may help you save their life.

As I stated above some seniors will not get into the colleges they have been planning to go to. Additionally, some juniors and seniors may not be able to attend the prom or ball with the person they wanted because that person is going with someone else. Both of these situations can cause teenagers to become depressed. Again if you are noticing significant changes in their sleeping or eating habits this is a major red flag. Also if they are isolating themselves and seem like they don’t enjoy anything anymore. These are all symptoms of depression. If you are noticing symptoms of depression, schedule an appointment with an adolescent psychotherapist and have them assessed for depression. It’s important that it’s a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers because teenage depression often look different from adults who are depressed. Your primary care physician may miss it. Also if they are dealing with depression there is nothing to be ashamed about. When you consider all the stresses placed on teenagers today, it is no surprise that we are dealing with an epidemic of depressed teens in our country.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teens, trauma victims including first responders. He has over 25 years experience and his work is nationally recognized. To find out more about Dr. Michael Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/Drrubino3.

We cannot Afford Spring Break

We cannot Afford Spring Break

Spring break is around the corner and high school students are wondering where their family will be going. Many college freshmen are hoping their parents will give them enough money so they can go to Mexico or Florida. Many high school and college students feel they are entitled to spring break because they have to work hard in school.

However, schools including public schools now cost money for such things as sports. The economy has changed since the pandemic and prices have increased for many things especially food.

Every family cannot afford a vacation over spring break or to pay for their college students to go on a trip. Many parents are not sure how to approach this subject and many feel guilty because they cannot afford a vacation right now. Parents are doing their best and do not need to feel guilty. The cost of living has increased dramatically and paying for your child’s education is more important than a vacation.

Here are some ways to explain it and also things to be grateful for even if you are not going on a trip https://yourteenmag.com/family-life/communication/no-plans-for-spring-break

While it may be difficult to explain it’s important for teenagers and college students to learn they cannot spend more than they have to spend. Also learning to be grateful for the benefits you have such as a house, car, food and family, is very important for teenagers. If you are always looking at what you don’t have and never appreciate what you have you will likely end up living an unhappy life.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Importance of Family

The Importance of Family

Since technology has advanced so rapidly, many of our lives have become more complicated. One result I have observed is that we are having difficulties maintaining family connections and traditions. As a result of our fast pace world and chaotic lives we sometimes forget the importance of passing on these family 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.

The month of February is dedicated to Black History, however, it also addresses the importance of contact between generations. Black History month has many goals. It is a way to acknowledge what Black Americans have contributed to the United States and also a way to remember the struggles they faced due to discrimination. Therefore, it is also away to establish pride in younger Black Americans by helping them to become aware of their history and to remember their history and the struggles. By helping the younger generations remember their past, a bridge is being connected to their past generations which shows how the prior generations helped Black Americans achieve what they have achieved and are achieving today.

Now since many families are not living close to each other, family members cannot provide the 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, the same way as when they lived close by. These adults could serve as additional role models and inform parents if something seemed off with the child. They were also able to spend additional time with the children and reinforce what parents were 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 and Zoom, 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. Additionally, research has shown that families who eat dinner together have less mental health problems. Furthermore, research shows that children who are connected to their family generations have better self-esteem as adults.

I have attached a link to an article which is 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.

Finally, I think we can learn a lesson from Black History Month. Knowing where you came from and the issues your grandparents and great grandparents struggled with is important information for everyone and parents should take time to educate their children about family history. In addition to maintaining bonds between the generations. Another issue which points out that this is important for someone’s mental health is children who were adopted. Most adopted children around the age of 20 years old do seek out information regarding their biological families. They typically say they have a need to know about themselves. They love the families who adopted them, but it doesn’t answer the question who am I?

Dr Michael Rubino has been working with children/teens, their families, trauma victims including first responders for over 25 years. For more information at Dr Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his websites at www.rcs-ca.com, www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.