Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

While most of the schools in California are starting the year with remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) are obsolete. In fact in some ways the pandemic has created more problems with IEPS. I have already been contacted by several families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Even with remote learning children are going to need their accommodations listed in their IEPs, but the IEPs need to be completed. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed.

This is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?

Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Well it has taken some time, but finally most school districts have decided when school will be starting and how students will be resuming school. This decision has been made fairly late for most students. Many schools will be resuming school in two weeks and several schools that have tried returning to the classrooms have already started, but several are already having to interrupt classes because students and teachers have already tested positive for the Coronavirus, such as in Georgia. The children and teenagers I have spoken with are angry and upset about school resuming. However, most of them are also happy too, but don’t like to admit it. This article will explore how parents can help their children and teenagers resume school in the middle of a global pandemic.

Starting back to school in the middle of a pandemic can create anxiety and fear for some students, since they still are hearing about people contracting and dying from the Coronavirus. Also since most students have been through a great deal of stress prior to the pandemic such as dealing with daily mass shootings last year, schools closing suddenly due to the quarantine and now they are resuming school but have no idea what to expect. Many students are tired of dealing with the unknown and many kids are losing interest in school too. They want their lives to be somewhat normal again. Since most the children and teenagers that I deal with will be returning to school remotely, I will be looking at the issue from that perspective, however you can use many of the same suggestions for children returning to their classrooms for school. In my opinion, remote learning is the best option for this semester, but there are various opinions and parents need to do what they feel is best for their family.

The first thing parents can do before their child or teenager returns to school is explain what to expect at school. Children’s imagination can be very active and often their imagination is worse than reality. By explaining how remote schooling will work you are preparing your child what to expect and they don’t have to imagine what remote school will be like. Also because you are explaining all the details you are telling your child and teenager that you have inspected the plan for school and you are feeling safe enough to allow them to participate. Children know that if their parents felt the situation was not appropriate for them that you would not allow them to be involved in the situation.

The next step for parents is to listen to your child and teenager. Allow them to vent their frustration, their fears and their disappointment and any other feelings they may have about the plan for school. It’s important for them to express all their feelings and concerns so you can address them. Also if they are not allowed to express how they are feeling most likely they will start to feel resentful because they feel like no one cares about their feelings. If this occurs, they could resist participating in the remote schooling. The most common feeling you will probably hear is anger and frustration about not being able to see their friends daily at school and hang out with their friends. Remember, due to schools closing early and quarantine restrictions many children and teenagers have not been able to see their friends for several months now. Yes they understand the need to be careful due to the Coronavirus, but they are also tired of it especially when they see adults not wearing masks and disobeying the guidelines. A good example is the motorcycle rally they are having in South Dakota.

In addition to listening to their feelings, validate their feelings. Let them know they are entitled to whatever feelings they are having and this is not an easy situation for anybody. Empathize with their feelings too. Explain while it’s not easy for anyone it is more difficult for them because they are young and they want to enjoy life. You can understand how frustrating it is with no one being able to give them definite answers about when their lives may return to normal. Reassure them that you have heard all their feelings and concerns and you are going to do your best to help them through this situation.

Another important thing parents can do with their children is to brainstorm. Now that you know their feelings and concerns, you and your child or teenager can brainstorm about how you can address the various issues and concerns they have about the remote schooling. If at the end of last school year the remote schooling was slightly chaotic you can agree to work with them until you figure out the system for this year. If they are missing friends, maybe there is away they can see friends in person but still adhere to the guidelines of wearing masks and keeping appropriate distance from each other. If they are missing working out at the gym or practicing with their team, there maybe a way they can do workouts at home or there maybe coaches offering private lessons. You can also see if the school has developed an answers to these situations. Most importantly let them know you will look at all the options and you may have to consider options outside of the box because of the unique situation with the pandemic. The main point is you will work with them as hard as you can to address their concerns and make their lives feel as normal as you can given the pandemic.

Finally schedule regular check-ins with your children and teenagers. The above steps are a good beginning, however things can change. Therefore, what was working at the beginning of the school year may not be working two months later. If you have regular check-ins and something changes you can catch it before it becomes a big issue. In addition to checking-in with your child, remember to check-in with your child’s school. Ask about how your child is doing and also ask if there are any proposed changes scheduled for the remote learning. Again if there are changes being proposed, you can prepare your child so you can hopefully make the transition any easy one rather than a stressful one.

Finally, remember the children and teenagers of today have been under a great deal of stress due to the mass school shootings which were occurring daily before the pandemic and quarantine. The pandemic has only added to their stress levels. Since the beginning of the pandemic depression and anxiety disorders have increased significantly for children and teenagers (CDC). Anxiety and depression were already at epidemic levels for children and teenagers before the pandemic. Therefore, anything we can do to help reduce anxiety and depression for children and teenagers will help them adjust to the remote schooling. Remember we are all in this together and need to all work together and we will survive the pandemic. If you do notice that your child or teenager is acting more anxious than normal or appear several depressed, make an appointment for them to see a psychotherapist experienced with treating children and teenagers. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if your child needs therapy during this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Apple or Spotify.

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

We have people blaming teenagers and college students for not wearing masks, having big parties, such as pool parties, on the weekends and that college students are hanging out at bars and as a result of their behavior we blame them for Coronavirus rates increasing across the Country. College students and teenagers have been involved in a number of protests, such as Black Lives Matter, and we are saying the virus is increasing because of protestors not wearing masks and not social distancing too. Finally, we are looking at teenagers and college students across the Country having Coronavirus parties and this is another reason the virus is spreading. As of today, August 4, 2020, there have been 159,000 deaths in our Country due to the Coronavirus and we are averaging 1,000 more every day (CDC). There are a tremendous amount of people who have died in our Country and in my opinion we are being unfair blaming teenagers, college students and protestors.

If we look at the White House, what do we expect from teenagers? Today in an interview the President stated yes a 1,000 people are dying, but that is how it is. No empathy in his tone of voice and taking no responsibility. He has been holding press conferences about the Coronavirus and he has stated people can wear masks but he will not require it. Additionally, he has been going all over the Country and he does not wear a mask. He wore one only once. Therefore, what message is he sending to the Country and teenagers especially? Additionally at the President’s press conferences he continues to state that the malaria drug is a cure for the virus. However, numerous studies by our top medical experts have all shown that the drug is ineffective and can cause deadly side effects. Yet he stands in front of the Country and makes it a popularity contest by saying people like Dr. Fauci better. Again this is what teenagers do, if you confront them on a story that they cannot back up with facts, they say you don’t like me. How can we expect teenagers to be responsible about their actions, when the President cannot be reasonable about his actions?

The President has been pushing that all school children must return to school on time and in their school buildings. However, his son’s school has delayed the beginning of their school until October and they will be doing remote learning (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Again we have a message of do as I say not as I do. What are teenagers and college students going to think when it is clear the President is willing to gamble with their lives, but not his son’s life or his family’s life?

Let’s take a different look at this situation. If your teenage son was not doing well in school and he was in danger of not passing his classes and his response to you was, “it is what is.” How would you feel? If this same son spent every weekend hanging out with friends and not doing his homework or studying, what would you think? Furthermore, if your teen did see any reason to spend his weekend trying to repair his grades and he believed it was more important to hang out with friends because he needed a rest, what would you think? I don’t think you would approve of your son’s behavior. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the President spends his weekends golfing not addressing the pandemic. Today, 8/4/20, was the first time in six months that he attended a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Team (ABC, CBS News, CNN). Looking at the standard the President is setting for teenagers, I’m sure, as I stated above, you would be disappointed in your son’s behavior, but how can you say anything based on the President’s actions? How do you argue with your teenager to do his geometry homework, when the President is ignoring 159,000 Americans dying?

Parents you are faced with only one option in my opinion. You need to explain to your son that yes the President is not being responsible and ignoring his duties. However, two wrongs do not make a right. The President can choose to be irresponsible and he will have to face the American voters and may lose his job. Just like the President will be judged by the voters for his choices, you need to point out to your son that his teacher will judge his choices about studying by the grade he receives in the class. Additionally, you will be judging his choices about school based on the grades he receives in his classes. Finally, you need to point out and educate them on the fact that just because someone else chooses to ignore their responsibilities, even if he is the President, it does not give him the right to ignore his responsibilities. The final choice is up to him and he must face the consequences for his actions.

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

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. This brings up the common argument about how much time teens are spending on line. Many parents have concerns that their teenager is addicted to their smart phones and gaming. Teenagers feel that their parents are over reacting and they can’t become addicted to their devices.

However, due to the pandemic gaming is now one of the few safe activities teenagers can do. Most places such as movie theaters and malls are closed so gamine provides a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to their social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

While the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices and gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this year and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. As I stated, many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis. While it is a diagnosis according to the WHO, gaming again is one of the safe activities teenagers can engage in during the pandemic. This does create a difficult situation.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan have inpatient treatment centers for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers have told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

However, as I stated above, the pandemic does create a different situation regarding teenagers gaming online with friends. Since this is a safe way for teenagers to maintain social contacts, I think we need to create new guidelines for the pandemic. Parents are aware that teenagers can become addicted, but they can monitor how their teenagers are acting before and after using electronics. Also maybe have a day without electronics, while allowing some extra time on other days. So try to balance out how much time they are on electronics along with doing other things such as going outside for walks to get exercise.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis. Given these guidelines it appears to me that parents can allow teenagers to use their electronics more during this time of the pandemic. Parents can make sure to balance electronic time with other activities such as exercise. Furthermore, parents need to be observing their teenagers mood on a daily basis. If the teen is looking depressed or acting anxious then the parents need to schedule a time to have their teenager evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

With that be stated, the Coronavirus pandemic does present parents and teenagers with a entirely new set of issues. If we stay calm and flexible, we should be able to address these new issues without a great deal of stress for parents or teenagers. Remember this is a new situation for everyone and no one has experienced this type of health situation before. Therefore, if we all work together, we should be able to find solutions to the new issues we continue to face on a daily basis.

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

Managing Screen Time, Bedtime and Online Schooling

Managing Screen Time, Bedtime and Online Schooling

Due to the Coronavirus and having to shelter in place, many kids have been using computers, IPads and smartphones to entertain themselves. Also many teenagers state this is how they can still communicate with friends by texting, FaceTime or Zoom. Since it’s summer many parents are allowing their teenagers to use electronics more because there is not much to do as a result of the coronavirus. Additionally, many families have had to cancel or drastically change vacation plans due to the pandemic. This all makes sense and is appropriate given the situation we are living in and the limited number of options children and teenagers have to enjoy the summer.

While most parents are fine with the increase use of electronics over the summer, they are worrying about what happens when school resumes. Many families are still waiting for final decisions to be made by school districts. However, it appears based on medical advice and the recent increase in the spread of the Coronavirus that most children are teenagers will not be returning to their schools and instead they will resume online schooling like they were doing at the end of school last year. Whether they are returning to the physical school structure or doing school online, they still need the appropriate amount of sleep. Many parents are concerned with relaxing some of the rules around electronics, how will their children respond to less electronic time when school resumes and if there are difficulties, how will it impact their children’s sleep if they are using electronics prior to bedtime.

Research studies have shown the electronics, and especially screens, can be stimulating to children and teenagers brains. While that might be a good thing during the day, it’s not at night when it’s time for kids to sleep.
Part of the stimulation from electronic screen time is from the blue wave light that comes from screens. During the day, many things stimulate our brains, and blue wave light is one of them. But at night, blue wave light exposure sends a signal to the brain that it’s daytime. When exposed to blue wave light, children may struggle to wind down and begin the process of falling asleep.

Besides the effects of blue wave light, screen time affects sleep if children become stimulated having conversations over the phone or text, playing games, or engaging in social media. Video games or movies might include disturbing themes or images that will affect sleep and emotional health.

How to Manage Screen Time for Better Sleep:
Your pediatrician may have their thoughts about how screen time affects sleep and you may want to consult your pediatrician about the appropriate amount of screen time before bedtime. Limiting screen time mostly to daytime hours is best. Blue wave light exposure during the day isn’t as problematic as nighttime exposure. And stimulation from screens during the day is normal.

As parents, it’s essential to set clear rules on screen time use. A good rule of thumb is to avoid screen time at least 2 hours before bedtime. Encourage kids to engage in other relaxing evening activities during that time as part of a healthy bedtime routine. They can read a book, work on a puzzle while listening to relaxation music, and get ready for the next day. The other rule parents should enforce is to avoid screen use in your child’s bedroom. Their bedroom should be an environment devoted to sleep and relaxation, and when you bring screens into it they may be tempted to engage rather than sleep. Additionally, when you bring your electronics into their bedrooms, you are sending a mixed message about not using electronics before beds. This may result in teenagers trying to use electronics in their bedrooms, when you think they are asleep. It is not uncommon for some teenagers to stay up until 2am texting or watching movies on their smartphones.

Another factor to consider is how screen time has replaced play time in some households. Kids who are using screens for many hours a day may be sedentary while they do so. Activity and exercise are a part of a healthy lifestyle, as they reinforce a circadian rhythm that’s in sync with the environment and allow kids to be tired when it’s time for bed.

Screens have become a part of everyday life and are an important tool for kids and adults. It’s imperative for parents to show their children the proper way to use screens without negatively affecting their lives. Take the lead to demonstrate responsible use so children can enjoy screen time as well as a good night’s sleep. Therefore, try to develop a nightly routine for yourself where you stop using electronics before you go to bed. By modeling appropriate behavior regarding electronics before bed, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will follow your example and you also decrease the likelihood of arguments because you are not asking your children to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.

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

Dealing with Visitation Issues during A Pandemic

Dealing with Visitation Issues during A Pandemic

After a divorce there are still issues to address. One of the major issues is child custody and visitation, especially exchanges for visitations. The issues usually are addressed in the divorce settlement and the Court Mediation report. However, even though the Mediation Agreement attempts to address these issues, there are usually still issues.

I have parents who are divorced come in very often arguing about issues that occur during visitation exchanges. A majority of times these issues are addressed by the Mediation Agreement. However, many parents are still fighting with each other after their divorce is final. Typically I see this when one or both parents are not ready to let go of each other yet. Arguing over the visitation exchanges is a way to still keep them in contact with each other. However, parents do not pay attention to the price the children are paying. By focusing on visitation exchanges this puts the children in the middle of the divorce.

By focusing on visitation and putting the children in the middle of the divorce, I see children who become depressed and anxious. Often these children start acting out at school and home and their grades start to decline. Also many of these children often start drinking or using marijuana so they can numb themselves out and ignore their parents’ arguments. Most of these children ask me, why can’t they just stop fighting? They are already divorced, what else do they want?

Goldberg Jones is a very good divorce attorney who writes articles regarding issues related to divorce and how these issues impact the children and the family. He wrote a very good article regarding visitation exchange issues. I found the suggestions very good and helpful. I would recommend that divorced parents read these ideas and try them. Therefore, I have included them in this article for you to review and try. You have nothing to lose by trying and you could help reduce the stress your children experience with visitation. You may also reduce your stress and frustration and allow yourself to let go of the marriage and move on with your life.

How often visitation issues occur often depends on the custody agreement, parenting plan, and the visitation schedule. Visitation may be a couple of times a week, once a month, or only around major holidays, but it’s likely going to be a repeating event. Also how well the parents work together as co-parents and allow the divorce issues to be past issues plays a major role in determining if visitation goes easily or is a source of ongoing arguments.

In the best of times, even if both parents can be civil, custody exchanges will probably still be a little awkward. In less amicable scenarios, prepare for outward hostility that resembles the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan. Pack a helmet and prepare to duck.

In more combative circumstances, it helps to have a strategy in place to keep things civil. That’s easier on everyone, especially the kids. There are ways to cut down the amount of face time and limit the friction. It may never be easy or ideal, but it helps with stress level and peace of mind, for both the parents and the children—no kid wants to watch mom and dad fight.

  1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT THE BABYSITTER’S
    In contentious situations, the more you see your ex, the more potential there is for friction and conflict. Sometimes it’s simply best not to see each other if you can avoid it. There are practical ways to circumvent this. One common approach is to make custody exchanges at a babysitter’s house or at daycare.

One parent drops the kids off and the other parent picks them up. If you schedule it right, the two of you may almost never come face-to-face. Because there are other people involved, you may encounter scheduling hurdles. Clear communication about who is picking up the kids and when is key. But once you iron out the kinks, this strategy helps limit contact and potential fights.

  1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT SCHOOL
    Similar to using daycare to facilitate custody exchanges, you can use your child’s education to the same end. Again, one parent drops the kids off at school in the morning while the other picks them up after. This has the desired effect of not having to see your ex more than is absolutely necessary. It can be useful in situations where parents are prone to fighting.

Like with the child care, you’ll need to arrange this with school administrators. Schools like to know they’re handing kids over to right people. But if there is clear communication between all the involved parties, it’s possible to make these arrangements work.

  1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES IN PUBLIC
    Many people want to avoid causing a scene in public. If you and your ex can’t handle custody exchanges without fighting, consider meeting in a public place. Choose a neutral spot where neither parent is likely to start a ruckus. If such a place exists. In some situations, nowhere is off limits, but being exposed often encourages both parties to be on their best behavior.

Where depends a great deal on the people involved. Pick a centrally located park. The mall, a restaurant, or a coffee shop where you know the regulars are all options. Extreme cases may call for supervised visitation centers or even a police station. Then again, if you just kind of rub each other the wrong way from time to time, a supermarket parking lot may work fine.

  1. INVITE A THIRD PARTY WITNESS
    While people are reluctant to fight in public, they’re also often hesitant to start trouble in front of friends or acquaintances. One strategy that can smooth over problematic custody exchanges is bringing along a third party. A mutual friend or even authority figure can help keep the peace, especially if it’s someone who knows both parents.

If there are individuals both of you maintain a relationship with, that might be the ideal fit. This approach often serves to calm down heated emotions. And if things do escalate, having a witness never hurts.

If you do go this route, it’s important to give some thought to who you bring along. If you have a new spouse or significant other, consider the ramifications of their presence. Is that going to touch on a sore spot and ignite lingering resentment? In some situations, it might be best to ride solo instead of risking a potential fight.

  1. COMMUNICATE VIA ALTERNATE MEANS
    Visitation, overnights, and custody exchanges often become logistical tangles. With football games, school plays, robot camp, and the many other activities children participate in, scheduling gets complicated. Pulling it off requires regular communication. If there are problems in this area, conflict often arises. When it involved kids, some level of contact must exist. Fortunately, there are alternative means of communication.

You may have mutual friends or family members willing to serve as go-betweens. Though it tends to get expensive fast, enlisting a lawyer or mediator is another potential strategy.

Thanks to modern technology, you have more outlets than ever before. If you can’t talk on the phone or in-person, email, texting, instant messaging, and other online options exist. Websites like Our Family Wizard provide shared scheduling services and online tools for co-parenting. There are even numerous smartphone apps for tracking parenting schedules and children’s activities. 6.

  1. PREPARE FOR CUSTODY EXCHANGES AHEAD OF TIME
    Preparation in advance of custody exchanges is key. The more prepared you are, the faster and smoother they’ll go. Before your ex picks up the kids, take the time to gather everything they need for this particular stay. Whether it’s a quick overnight or a two-week vacation, make sure to gather the essentials.

Did you pack all of the regular medications they take? Do they have all the school books they need to get their homework done? That report on the solar system isn’t going to write itself. If your daughter has a baseball game, pack the mitt and cleats. If your son can’t sleep without his special stuffed zebra, it needs to make the trip. Knowing you have everything set reduces the amount of time you have to interact with someone you’d rather not see.

Think about what the kids can’t live without and send it with them. Otherwise, you risk a middle-of-the-night call or visit from your ex. If the goal is to limit the amount of contact, that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

After a divorce, it may be quite some time before you want to see your ex again, if ever. But when you have kids, that’s not really an option. Custody exchanges can be tough, but it’s something you have to deal with.

For the sake of the kids, for their well-being—as well as your own—it’s important to try to make these encounters as smooth and painless as possible. Have a plan, be efficient, and keep your seething emotions in check for a few minutes. Hopefully, that’s all you’ll need. Taking steps to limit conflict in a custody exchange is healthier for everyone involved.

Also remember children have been through more stress than they can tolerate. Besides the divorce, children have been dealing with mass shootings and mass shooting drills at schools for several years. In 2019, there was a mass shooting everyday (CDC). As a result children and teenagers reporting anxiety and depression disorders have reached epidemic levels (CDC). Furthermore, cutting in teenagers has reached epidemic levels and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old (CDC).

In addition to dealing with mass shootings, now children are dealing with the Coronavirus. No one has any answers and children have had their worlds shrink. They have had to shelter in place, schools were closed early so they have had little to no contact with their friends. Finally, they have no idea about the upcoming school year and are hearing conflicting reports. Therefore, children and teenagers have had more stress than they can handle. They need you, their parents, to put divorce issues aside and make visitation civil and for the two of you to make decisions about the upcoming school year without arguing and drama. They do not need anymore stress. Finally, if you are noticing symptoms of anxiety or depression in your children and it appears they may need professional help, please do not argue about it. Have your child evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers are after the examination, calmly decide what is best for your child. Please do not make it into a contest between the two of you. Put your issues aside and just focus on your child.

If you have questions about child custody or parenting plans, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at his San Diego office.

I think these are all very valid points and important issues to consider and feeling that often occur during and after a divorce. I often recommend the same approach and encourage parents to consider the same issues in regards to their children and themselves. Divorce is a very painful experience even when it is handled well and with respect for each other. However, the truth is most children I see for divorce issues are because their parents are still hurting so they children sense it and take on the family pain trying to solve it. So please try these ideas especially during this time of uncertainty.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is an expert in treating children who are involved in a high conflict divorce. For more information regarding Dr. Michael Rubino or his practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

A Dangerous New Teenage Activity

There is a disturbing new dangerous trend occurring in teenagers that parents need to know about so they can talk to their teenager. We know that many teenagers feel a sense of being invulnerable and nothing bad will happen to them and their friends. It appears that teenagers in Alabama are putting this belief to the ultimate test (CDC, CNN). As a result, they are risking their lives, their friends lives and the lives of their families for a few hundred dollars.

The starting point of this risky behavior is in Alabama and city mayors and paramedics have heard about the risky behavior and they are very concerned. Teenagers are having Coronavirus parties. They invite people who are infected with the virus to a party and then they sell tickets to the party to their friends and other teenagers. The first person who can provide proof from a physician that they have contracted the virus after attending the party wins all the money that was collected. Teens are using social media and word of mouth to advertise these Coronavirus parties. They do not consider how dangerous these parties are and that they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives and with the lives of any one they come in contact with after the party.

We know that teenagers brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old and the last part of the brain developing is the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for more advanced functions such as reasoning and dealing with abstract concepts. Therefore, when the White House and President Trump are saying 99% of Coronavirus infections are not serious, some teenagers will listen to President Trump. Also when President Trump states we have the virus under control, again some teenagers will listen. They have difficulties reconciling statements from Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington which indicate the virus is not under control and reaching very dangerous levels in our Country. They are not sure who to believe. Also most teenagers don’t listen to a lot of news so they are not aware that United State citizens cannot fly to Europe because the virus is so much out of control in the United States that other countries don’t want to expose their citizens to the virus again. Even if you want to go to New York, the state of New York is requiring people to go into a 14 day quarantine. New York finally has the virus under control in their state and Governor Cuomo is doing what he needs to so New York keeps the virus under control. Therefore, since teenagers are hearing the virus is not a big threat and the President refuses to wear a mask, they are not aware how the virus is really impacting people or how dangerous it can be.

As a result, these Coronavirus parties don’t seem very dangerous to them and they could win $200. They are unaware that they can die from the Coronavirus. An 11 year old boy died in Florida from the Coronavirus so children do die from the Coronavirus (CDC). They also are unaware of the risk they are taking with their families lives. These parties seem like fun to them. It is summer and they are looking for ways to have fun especially having been in quarantine for the past 2 months. Additionally, no one can give them definite answers about school yet. Maybe they will be going to school on line or maybe they are going back to school part time. How they resume school also has an impact on their ability to see their friends and have fun hanging out with their friends. Therefore, they are dealing with a lot of uncertainty that no one can answer right now. However, these parties mean fun with their friends now, they can win some money and the President is saying they don’t need to worry about the virus. As a result, it is easy for their brains to decide to go to the party and have fun with their friends. Currently, it’s the only answer that makes sense to them when they look at how the President and the government are responding to the pandemic.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. As of today, 136,000 people in the United States have died from the Coronavirus (CDC). Today another 792 people in the United States died (CDC). When we have hundreds of people dying everyday from the Coronavirus, we should not be making this a political issue. All this accomplishes are more people getting infected and more people dying. It also increases the amount of stress and anxiety that our children and teenagers are experiencing. This anxiety results in more teenagers needing psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and more teenagers turning to alcohol, drugs (CDC) and now Coronavirus parties as a way to cope.

Parents what your teenagers need from you is for you to discuss the current situation with them and what are the current recommendations from the CDC. For example, when they go outside they need to wear a face mask and to keep 6 feet in between them and other people. Also to wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their faces when they are out. Also have an age appropriate conversation about how dangerous the virus can be. Therefore, explain to teenagers how these Coronavirus parties are very dangerous. They can also transmit the virus to other family members or friends who have other health conditions resulting in that person’s death. Furthermore, if they do catch the virus some studies are showing people can have life long after effects such as depression or neurological issues. Overall the message should be since we do not know what this virus can do, it’s not something to ignore and needs to be taken seriously.

Discuss that you understand there are conflicting reports at times and this can be confusing. Therefore, if they hear things that are confusing or friends saying things that do not make sense, they should ask you. Together you can discuss the confusing information and look up the latest information on the CDC website or your county’s Coronavirus website. Bottom line explain that yes this is a very confusing time but if you work together as a family you can help each other to understand what is happening and to stay safe. Let the politicians play games with their careers and lives, but not your children’s or family’s lives.

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

Is my Teenager Depressed due to the Coronavirus?

Is my Teenager Depressed due to the Coronavirus?

Because we do not deal well with mental health issues in our society, there are a lot of myths about mental health. There are a lot of misconceptions about depression in particular. Over the last two years depression and anxiety have reached epidemic rates in teenagers (CDC). In fact, suicide in now the second leading cause of death for children 10 years old to 18 years old (CDC). The increase has been attributed to the numerous mass shootings and the mass shooter drills give have had to do in school. Now teenagers are having to deal with the Coronavirus and having to shelter in place for over thee months. Research has shown that having to shelter in place has exacerbated depression for some teenagers and has caused some teenagers to become depressed and anxious (CDC). Since many parents have been consulting me about how to tell if their teenager is depressed, I was reading an article by Dr. Jerome Yelder, Sr., which outlines many symptoms of depression. He explained them so they are easy to understand and covered all symptoms parents need to be aware of regarding depression. This is important because typically children and teenagers do not act like adults do when they feel depressed. I have outlined his list below for you to review and decide if you feel your teenager needs to see a mental health clinician for depression.

Sleep Problems
Depression can affect your body as well as your mind. Trouble falling or staying asleep is common in people who are depressed. But some may find that they get too much shut-eye.

Chest Pain
It can be a sign of heart, lung, or stomach problems, so see your doctor to rule out those causes. Sometimes, though, it’s a symptom of depression.
Depression can also raise your risk of heart disease. Plus, people who’ve had heart attacks are more likely to be depressed.

Fatigue and Exhaustion
If you feel so tired that you don’t have energy for everyday tasks — even when you sleep or rest a lot — it may be a sign that you’re depressed. Depression and fatigue together tend to make both conditions seem worse.

Aching Muscles and Joints
When you live with ongoing pain it can raise your risk of depression.

Depression may also lead to pain because the two conditions share chemical messengers in the brain. People who are depressed are three times as likely to get regular pain.

Digestive Problems
Our brains and digestive systems are strongly connected, which is why many of us get stomachaches or nausea when we’re stressed or worried. Depression can get you in your gut too — causing nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.

Headaches
One study shows that people with major depression are three times more likely to have migraines, and people with migraines are five times more likely to get depressed.

Changes in Appetite or Weight
Some people feel less hungry when they get depressed. Others can’t stop eating. The result can be weight gain or loss, along with lack of energy. Depression has been linked to eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating.

Back Pain
When it hurts you there on a regular basis, it may contribute to depression. And people who are depressed may be four times more likely to get intense, disabling neck or back pain.

Agitated and Restless
Sleep problems or other depression symptoms can make you feel this way. Men are more likely than women to be irritable when they’re depressed.

Sexual Problems
Hopefully your teenager is not sexually active. While they may not have the sexual problems adults do, when they are depressed, they may show a lack of interest in dating or relationships and tend to isolate. They also may feel they are sexually unattractive.

If you’re depressed, you might lose your interest in sex. Some prescription drugs that treat depression can also take away your drive and affect performance. Talk to your doctor about your medicine options.

Exercise
Research suggests that if you do it regularly, it releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, improve your mood, and reduce your sensitivity to pain. Although physical activity alone won’t cure depression, it can help ease it over the long term. If you’re depressed, it can sometimes be hard to get the energy to exercise. But try to remember that it can ease fatigue and help you sleep better.

If you feel you child or teenager are experiencing the above symptoms and may be depressed, have them evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Remember, children and teenagers often display different symptoms when they are depressed so it is often misdiagnosed. Also do not be embarrassed or ashamed. The pressure children and teenagers are facing in the world today can be very overwhelming and can easily cause a depressive episode. The Coronavirus was the straw that broke the camels back for many teenagers. The most important thing is if your child or teenager is experiencing depression, get then the treatment they need.

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

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

This article is slightly different from my other articles. This article is written for teenagers. Since most families have been spending more time together due to the pandemic and shelter in place orders, the issue of respect has been a popular household topic. Many teenagers feel very mature and often feel entitled to more freedom because they feel they are mature for their age, in their opinion. This is a common argument I hear from teens and they say they feel disrespected by their parents. Most parents have a different point of view and feel disrespected by their teenagers.

Parents while the target audience for this article is teenagers, you may find some of the issues I mention helpful when speaking with your teen. You may be able to use this article as a way to start a discussion with your teen about your house rules and respect.

In my office, I hear daily from teenagers how they feel disrespected by their parents. This is common problem between teens and their parents and has increased with the quarantine situation. Teenagers feel disrespected by their parents and that their parents treat them like children. Sometimes this may be true, but overall teens are expecting too much from their parents.
Yes it is true that as teenagers you are becoming young adults and that you should be able to handle more responsibility. The big word in that last sentence is SHOULD. Just because you turn 13 or 16 doesn’t mean you are in charge of your life. You are a YOUNG adult. Noticed I capitalized the word young. There is still a number of life experiences for you to learn and until you do, your parents are responsible for you, especially during the pandemic. There is a lot we do not know about the Coronavirus and the situation is changing daily with new health orders. It’s your parents responsibility to ensure you are safe.

A number of you have heard your parents say when you are 18 you can do as you like and that is the truth. Prior to you turning 18, any trouble you get into, your parents are responsible for it. If you damage property, your parents are legally responsible. If you get arrested and put in Juvenile Hall, your parents receive a bill from the County for the length a time you were in Juvenile Hall. In other words, legally and financially you are responsible for yourself and your actions. However, your parents are still available to help especially during the pandemic when no one is sure about what is happening in the world.

You may think that prior to the age of 18 that you do not need your parents, but you need their permission to drive and basically for anything you want to do. Even if they give you permission for you to drive and you get your license, they have the ability to have your driver’s license suspended at any time they want while you are under the age of 18. Also if your parents are divorced, both parents must sign the consent for your driver’s license. You cannot play your parents against each other to get your driver’s license.

As I started off, now that you are a teenager you SHOULD be able to handle more responsibility. This responsibility is not an automatic gift you receive when you turn 13. This respect you so desperately want is something you have to earn. How do you earn it? You earn it by respecting the rules that your parents have set and by taking care of your responsibilities – for a teen, your primary responsibility is school. This means going to school on a regular basis (or completing your online assignments during the pandemic), doing your homework and turning it in, earning decent grades and not making poor choices such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, marijuana or vaporizing. You may say this is unfair, well welcome to the adult world.

Ask your parents how many times they have to do something at work they feel is unfair, but if they want their job they have to do it. Ask your parents how many days they get up tired or not feeling well and they would prefer to stay home from work, but they still go to work. They go to work because the have a family to support and bills to pay. Your parents want you to succeed in life. If you feel they really are not giving you enough freedom, then ask your parents if you can discuss this issue with them. However, ask in a mature, respectful manner do not demand a conversation. When you discuss the issue with your parents have some things you have been doing, e.g., your homework, respecting curfew, that demonstrate you can handle more responsibility. Do not just demand it because your friends have it.

Remember the respect and maturity that you want, you must earn. You earn it by respecting your parents, other adults and recognizing that you have responsibilities. You do not get it because you turned 13 or because your friends have it. This can be a difficult time of life, but it can be a time when you learn a lot about the world and yourself. If you remember you need to earn your parents trust and you actively try to do so, your parents will work with you and start to trust you. The choice is yours, you can make your teen years difficult or make them easier by working with your parents – you decide.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work with teenagers or his private practice visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Anxiety is a common issue for children especially when we were all on quarantine and kids having to attend school from home. Remember children’s imaginations are very active. During the last few months we have had conflicting information from the White House and the medical doctors, such as Dr. Fauci who is the expert, about the Coronavirus and what we need to do. Therefore, there has not been a lot to explain to children and they have heard a lot on the news. Many parents tell me they have limited the access to news but with their IPads, phones and friends, they hear more than we are aware of. Also don’t forget, prior to the pandemic the children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis. Therefore, children and teenagers already were dealing with a lot of anxiety before the beginning of the pandemic.

The White House had told us they had the virus under control and it was time to start reopening the economy. However, we now find out that this was not the truth. In fact, today our Country had its highest numbers for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic. Many states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are reporting numbers indicating the virus is out of control in their states. The doctors are clearly stating we opened too soon and we will need to at least pause reopening and in many cases possible go back to shelter in place. California is re-evaluating their numbers and most countries will be issuing new health orders that will take effect immediately. This will definitely increase anxiety for children, teenagers and parents. In other words, it will increase anxiety for everyone.

According to the CDC and what I have seen in my patients, anxiety has been at epidemic levels for children for awhile. The most common reason children are coming into therapy right now is anxiety or depression associated with the state of our Country (mass shooting, riots and the pandemic). Many parents want to know what they can do in between therapy sessions to help their child with their anxiety, especially now since, many people are experiencing an increase in anxiety as the pandemic spins out of control. I ran across an acronym by Lori Lite that is designed to help children who are anxious. The acronym is ASSURE. I will explain what is stand for and how to use it below.

A – Align with your child
 with their body language
 with their tone and volume of speech
 validate their feelings
S – Share your experience
your feelings in stressful moments
mistakes you’ve made and how you emerged from them
how you cope with stress in day-to-day situation
perspective you’ve gained from seeing “this too shall pass”
S – Skills-training
give them words for feelings and worries
get them involved in appropriate exercise and activities to release stress
teach and model coping strategies like visualization, deep breathing, positive imagery
U – Uncover stress-related signs and symptoms
body aches – head, stomach
irritability and mood change
appetite change
sleep changes
R – Reassure them
that they’ll come through
that you’re there for them
that you’re proud of the effort they’re investing in calming and coping
things will normalize – recall examples
E – Engage the topic when they’re calm
listen to what they say and don’t say
respect their process in overcoming stress and worry
brainstorm options while they’re calm, since that’s when the “thinking” part of the brain is turned on.
This may not eliminate their anxiety all together, but it should help reduce their anxiety. Also remember if their anxiety is severe also seek psychotherapy for your child with a therapist who specializes in treating children. Psychotherapy can now be done via telemedicine so there is no risk of exposing them to the virus. Between the mass shootings and the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, our children are living through historic times. We have never experienced events like we currently are experiencing so there should be no surprise that children may need psychotherapy at this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. His practice does offer telemedicine. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.