Helping Teens and Families Cope with The Current Coronavirus Wave

Helping Teens and Families Cope with The Current Coronavirus Wave

The pandemic has reached a very frightening point. Over 250,000 people have died from the coronavirus and daily we are setting new highs for how many new cases are diagnosed. We are also running out of hospital beds and the CDC is preparing us for a massive number of deaths over the next few weeks and the Holidays. As a result of the current situation, California is implementing shelter in place orders again.

Today’s teenagers have access to all this information via their smartphones. News updates pop up on their phones and once again their lives have been turned upside down due to the shelter in place orders. Teenagers are losing hope and wondering if their lives will ever return to normal. Teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and very stressed about how their lives have changed. Many college students and high school students are having to attend school remotely. Additionally, events such as sports, the prom and graduation ceremonies have already been cancelled. The high school experience they have heard about and have been waiting for no longer exists. Many teenagers are feeling depressed and angry about how their lives have changed. Furthermore, they have no control over the situation and have no idea what to expect from life.

Prior to the pandemic depression and anxiety rates were increasing for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the suicide rate for teenagers had gone from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Since the pandemic and shelter in place orders depression and anxiety has reached epidemic levels for teenagers (CDC). The number of teenagers cutting (self-mutilating behavior) has increased significantly because they feel out of control and are having significant difficulties processing all the feelings they are experiencing. Also suicide rates and drug overdoses have increased in teenagers. Again because they feel helpless and are having significant difficulties processing their emotions.

Furthermore, besides their school experience changing significantly and not being able to hang out with friends, many are living in families who are worrying about paying the rent or having enough money for food. Unemployment is at a record high so many teenagers are living in a family where both parents have lost their jobs. This is a huge amount of stress for a child or teen to experience and have to cope with daily.

As a result, many teenagers are severely struggling with mental health issues due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, the Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found and their recommendations:

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.

Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.

When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.

Get help when you need it

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:

• Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.

• Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

• Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.

• Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.

• Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.

If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

Continue your self-care strategies

You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.

In addition to the facts above, people who have had the virus have been reporting feeling anxious and depressed. They have also reported the virus has impaired their ability to make decisions. This is being referred to as “the long haul syndrome.”The bottom line is the virus is creating mental health issues for those dealing with the quarantine, first responders, medical personnel and people with the virus. We are focusing on getting the virus under control which we must do. However, as we struggle to get control of the virus, we also need to address the mental health issues created by this pandemic. At this point, we have no idea how many will need mental health care and for how long. Therefore, as we focus on finding a cure, we may want to start to prepare for the mental health issues which are occurring and will after the quarantine.

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

Issues with Cellphones as Gifts for Teenagers and Children

Issues with Cellphones as Gifts for Teenagers and Children

It is the Holiday Season and many middle school students will be asking for their first Smartphone and many high school students will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 12. In today’s society many people including teenagers view cell phones as a necessity of life. I have seen teenagers argue with their parents how they could not function at school or in life without their cellphones. In fact, some teenagers become physically violent, if you take their phone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, cellphones are a privilege not a necessity. We need to remember that fact. Yes for some parents it is a tool they use to keep in contact with their child and for their child to use if they feel they are in danger. However a regular cellphone will do this it doesn’t have to be an IPhone 12. However, since we are dealing with what I call the IPhone generation, most teenagers will not be satisfied and will feel cheated unless they have the latest version of the Smartphone on the market.

During the Holidays many elementary, middle school and high school students will be asking to upgrade their phones too. As I stated above, they feel they need the latest version otherwise they cannot function successfully in their lives. Therefore, many children will be asking for the IPhone 12 for example. Most children and teenagers who are asking for these expensive phones usually never consider the price. They believe they are entitled to have the latest cellphone.

Many people have forgotten that cellphones are privileges not necessities especially for teens and children in fifth grade or in Middle School. They have grown up with everyone having a cellphone so they don’t see it as a privilege. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common between for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get what they want. They tell their parents if they cared, they would buy them the smartphone they need and want. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. Also how much you spend on gifts or giving your child or teenager has no correlation with your love for your children or teenagers. As a parent you need to do what you feel is best for your child.

Parents if you stop and think about it, why does an 11 year old child need an IPhone12? They do not need to track mileage or expense accounts nor do they need to remember their own doctor appointments. There is really no reason they need a Smartphone. Also if you do get them one, they do not need it with them all the time. It is important to set limits where and when they use their phones. Why do they need their cellphone when they go to bed? Most teens who take their cellphones to bed will typically spend hours texting friends or watching YouTube. When morning comes, they are too tired to get up because they were awake until 3am playing with their phone.

Smartphones are an area where technology has moved faster than our ethics. If you think about it, IPhones and Smartphones were not around in the year 2000. Now everyone including a majority of children in fifth grade and teens have an IPhone or Smartphone. In my opinion an adolescent does not need a cellphone until they enter Middle School and at that point all they need is a basic cellphone. They need a basic phone so they can check-in with you if their plans change or if they feel they are in need of help.

As I stated above, there is no reason that a teenager really needs a Smartphone. They are not taking care of a family nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for what they need it for. I understand that given the way our society has changed some parents may find that it is helpful to their family if a child in middle school has a cellphone. This is a decision that every parent needs to make based on their family’s situation.

The parent needs to make this decision, not let the child guilt them into buying them a cell phone. If you are divorced and have children, this may be extremely difficult, but the decision about if your child gets a cellphone or not, should be a joint decision by both parents and a decision you both agree on. One parent should not buy a cellphone without consulting the other parent and they should not use it as a weapon in the divorce.

If you decide that your middle school child is mature enough for a cellphone, you should discuss the rules and guidelines about using the phone prior to getting a phone. Some things to discuss are who they give their cell number to, not texting during class and not taking it into the bedroom at night so they can text most of the night. As I stated, many kids will text with their friends until 2 or 3 am and then be too tired for school the next day.

Also there should be a discussion about sharing photos. You never know what someone will do with a photo if they get mad with you. Also there needs to be a discussion about the law. It is not uncommon for teens to send their boyfriend/girlfriend nude photos of themselves. What they don’t understand is they are under the age of 18 years old. Therefore, if they have a nude picture of their 15 year old girlfriend, they can be charged with possession of child pornography. Many may say this won’t happen to me, but I have had a number of teens in psychotherapy because they were charged with having child pornography. Also you need to remember, once those pictures are out on the internet, they are out there forever. There also needs to be a discussion about on-line perpetrators too. There are many pedophiles on line trying to lure unsuspecting teens into their plans. Your children need to understand this is a real risk and what to watch for.

Finally, it should be made clear that the phone does not belong to the child — the phone belongs to you the parent. Yes you are giving them the phone to use, but it still belongs to you. If you ask for it back, then the child hands it over no questions asked. Also if you feel they are using their phone in an inappropriate manner, all you need to do is call your cellphone carrier and request that their phone line be suspended. It cost you nothing and it is an easy way to control the phone. When you feel that your child has earned the right to have the cellphone back all you do is call your carrier to reinstate that phone line.

It is very important that you and your teen have an agreement about conditions regarding their cellphone use. All of these conditions and agreements should be written down in an agreement that you sign and the child signs. You each get a copy of the agreement and one copy is posted on the refrigerator. If there are any disputes about a rule, you simply go back to the agreement and you follow what is written. A written agreement is very important because I have seen parents have conversations, make agreements and then 6 months later there is a disagreement and everyone’s memory is slightly different so you have a big fight.

Also given how many adults have gotten into trouble with their Smartphones, if you are going to allow your child to use any kind of cellphone you must discuss the pros and cons so the child or teen understands the responsibility they are assuming, if you allow them to use a smartphone.

Below I have included a sample contract that you can use with your child and modify as you need:

Cellphone Contract

I, child’s name, will not bring my cellphone to the family dinner table.

I will not go over our plan’s monthly minutes or text message limits. If I do, I understand that I may be responsible for paying any additional charges or that I may lose my cellphone privileges.

I understand that I am responsible for knowing where my phone is, and for keeping it in good condition.

I understand that my cellphone may be taken away if I talk back to my parents, I fail to do my chores, or I fail to keep my grades up.

I will obey rules of etiquette regarding cellphones in public places. I will make sure my phone is turned off when I am in church, in restaurants, or quiet settings.

I will obey any rules my school has regarding cellphones, such as turning them off during class, or keeping them on vibrate while riding the school bus.

I promise I will alert my parents when I receive suspicious or alarming phone calls or text messages from people I don’t know. I will also alert my parents if I am being harassed by someone via my cellphone.

I will not use my cellphone to bully another person.

I will send no more than _____ texts per day I understand that having a cellphone can be helpful in a emergency, but I know that I must still practice good judgment and make good choices that will keep me out of trouble or out of danger.

I will not send embarrassing photos of my family or friends to others. In addition, I will not use my phone’s camera to take embarrassing photos of others. I understand that having a cell phone is a privilege, and that if I fail to adhere to this contract, my cell phone privilege may be revoked.

Parent Responsibilities I understand that I will make myself available to answer any questions my tween might have about owning a cellphone and using it responsibly.

I will support my child when he or she alerts me to an alarming message or text message that he or she has received. I will alert my child if our cellphone plan changes and impacts the plan’s minutes.

I will give my child _______ warning(s) before I take his or her cellphone away

Signed ______________________________ (Tween) Signed ______________________________ (Parents). Date ______________________________

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with middle school and high school students for over 20 years. He is considered an expert in this field. Dr. Rubino is one of the founding members of the National Alive & Free Program, a program designed to work with teens. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Some Kids Only Want Food for the Holidays

Some Kids Only Want Food for the Holidays

The Holiday Season is here, however, this year it will be very different due to the Coronavirus. We have 225,000 people who have passed away from the virus so far. So we have numerous people who are grieving for spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents and friends. Furthermore, many parents are unemployed. Millions of families cannot afford to pay the rent or buy food. Food Banks are reporting a significant increase in the number of people seeking food. Parents are getting in line at 5 am when the Food Bank opens at 9am. There are doing this because they are desperate for food so they can feed their children.

A teacher asked her first grade class to write letters for Christmas. She asked each student to write one thing they want and something they need. One of the children wrote this heartbreaking letter asking for food and shoes. However, she was not the only one. Many children were asking for food, clothes and a place to live.

This video details the need that many families are facing and how many children are focusing on food and clothes for survival not toys. https://youtu.be/j_05ZuhqCZM

This video is the tip of the iceberg. Currently in the United States one out of five children are going to bed without food and are homeless (CDC). This is the United States, how are we allowing this to occur? While families are having to beg for food and a place to live, President Trump is focusing on lies about how he did not lose the election and playing golf instead of discussing World leaders how we can cope with the Coronavirus. He is the President and the welfare of these families should be his first priority not playing golf.

Many people assume that hunger is not a problem in the United States. However the current statistics of one in five children living below the poverty level and not having enough to eat and many living on the streets tells us that we have a severe problem in the United States. It’s not because they have drug addicted parents either. Many of their parents work 2 or 3 jobs, if they can find a job. As a result of the pandemic, we have unemployment rates that are similar to the Great Depression. We have been aware of this fact before the elections, but the President has refused to act.

I do see children in this situation for psychotherapy. These children are often depressed and see no hope for the future. They feel that they will be homeless for their entire life. In therapy I am trying to help them to not give up. The suicide rate has increased due to the Coronavirus pandemic and if a child sees no hope for their future they do think about suicide. I am able to provide these children psychotherapy because I see them pro bono.

The other sad fact is that the United States government continues not to act. Additionally, the few programs that are helping these families will expire the day after Christmas. Many of these programs are their only source of food. The children are the future of our country. Why would the United States, considered the richest country in the world, cut programs that will increase the number of children living in poverty? Should a child in the United States, need to be asking Santa Claus for food and a blanket? Should the Country’s focus be taking care of President Trump’s ego or children who have no food or a place to live? Where are our priorities?

Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work with children visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Pornography and Teenage Boys During the Pandemic

Pornography and Teenage Boys During the Pandemic

I have wrote previous articles about the old stereotype regarding what it takes to “be a man” and how this stereotype negatively affects teenage boys. This stereotype typically leads young men to become sexually active in middle school, according to the current research data, and it also leads to a sense of isolation. Teenage boys have been lead to believe they should be prepared to handle life like a grown man. However, they are not fully mature nor are they prepared to handle everything on the own. However, due to the stereotype they feel they cannot ask for help or share their concerns with their friends. Hence they feel isolated, alone and like failures at the age of 16 years old.

This article is going a step further and discussing the epidemic of addiction to porn that many teenage boys and men are dealing with today. In our society sex is a tabooed subject. It is unusual if anyone sits down with a teenage boy and discusses sex. They typically learn by talking to friends, having sex or the most common way pornography. However, no one discusses how to treat a sexual partner, diseases you can catch and the importance of mutual consent.

Many parents may feel this issue doesn’t apply to their son. However, with the internet being available on laptops, game centers and phones most people stumble on to pornography by accident and very easily. Look online for yourself. It is very easy to access pornography in today’s world. Most research studies indicate that most boys have been exposed to pornography between the ages of 8 years old and 10 years old. Their young minds are not prepared to process what they are seeing nor are they prepared for the feeling they experience and how their bodies respond to what they are seeing. They continue to watch and to go back to the sites over and over and many become addicted. Even though pornography addiction is not a formal psychiatric diagnosis yet, most research studies have concluded that the number of teenage boys visiting porn sites at least once a day has reached epidemic rates. Some teenage boys have self reported going to porn sites five to 10 times a day. Therefore, while the DSM V does not list porn addiction as a formal diagnosis, many researchers and clinicians believe that people especially teenage boys can become addicted to pornography.

This is an issue parents do need to pay attention to during the pandemic. Teenagers are having to spend more time at home and cannot see their friends like they are use to. Therefore, many teen boys are reporting being bored and some report being slightly depressed. Since they are spending more time in their bedrooms and have easy access to pornography via their phones or laptop, there is a temptation to look at pornography to help with being bored. This simple distraction can easily turn into an addiction during the pandemic. They are isolated and have no idea when the pandemic will end. Pornography therefore becomes an easy escape and habit before they know it.

Lisa Ling did an episode about porn addiction in her series This is Life. I have included the YouTube link here to the episode. YouTube does charge $1.99 to watch the episode but if you have teenage boys it is well worth the cost. She was able to talk to men in their thirties, homosexual men and an 18 year old high school senior who openly discussed their struggles with pornography and masturbation. They all explain how easy it was to become addicted but how difficult it is to stop. Some men had been trying for years to stop using pornography and still can’t succeed. Here is the link https://youtu.be/UqoCg9Srs18.

Additionally, these men and teenager discussed how pornography has negatively impacted their lives. Besides the guilt and shame they felt about their addiction, they reported difficulties with obtaining and maintaining an erection. Many also reported a decreased interest in having sex. They no longer felt interested in women sexually. They stated they were sexually interested in pornography only. One man stated the only way he could have sex with a woman was to fantasy about porn. Many of you may think these issues primarily pertained to the men in their thirties or 40s. Well these issues impacted the entire group even the 18 year old high school senior. The 18 year old high school senior reported he was only able to get an erection if he was watching pornography. He also stated he no longer was finding girls his age sexually attractive. He stated he found he was more attracted to pornography and despite his desire to stop he was not able to stop watching pornography.

Overall most of the men reported feeling isolated and lonely due to pornography. They felt embarrassed to tell their families or to seek help. Even if they wanted help, they did not know where to go to get help. The man who arranged this group that Lisa interviewed started a website NoFab. It is an online support group helping men over come their addiction to pornography and masturbation. When I say men, most guys on the site are between 18 and 24 years old. This site found that teens between the ages of 13 and 16 are at the greatest risk for becoming addicted to pornography. Most likely because at that age a boys hormones are out of control and they have little to no sexual experience. So unfortunately what they learn about sex comes from pornography a fantasy world.

This subject also pertains to teenage boys during the quarantine. How many teenage boys are spending more time in their bedrooms on their laptops and smartphones. How many are bored of being in the house and looking for something new. Well pornography is new and can eliminate being bored. We have no idea how many teenage boys may be starting their pornography addiction during the quarantine.

Father’s if you noticed changes in your teenage son in the past and you think it may be related to pornography or if he is spending a lot more time in his room since the quarantine then talk to him about pornography. However, do so calmly and gently. Remember how you felt at his age and if the subject of sex came up. You don’t want to embarrass him or make him feel his sexual feeling are wrong or perverted. Explain that pornography is a fantasy and not reality. It is adult entertainment not entertainment for teenagers. Also explain how it can give a boy the wrong idea about how to treat a woman or what she really wants. Basically, do not be afraid to have an open, frank discussion about sex and pornography. Also don’t be afraid to ask if they feel they are having problems with pornography. Reassure them if they are, you will not get mad and you will help them find help for the issue. Remember don’t shame them. Be there as their father to eliminate the lonely, isolated feeling and help them on the road to recovery. Also tell them how proud you are that they were brave enough to speak up and ask for help.

If your teenager needs help look for a psychotherapist who specializes in teenagers, addiction issues and sexual issues. Pornography addiction is not like being an alcoholic. A person can stop drinking alcohol, however, they cannot stop having sexual feelings. Sexual feelings are part of being human so they have to learn a new way to relate to their sexual feelings.

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

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

In today’s world texting has become a very common way for people to communicate with each other, especially for teenagers. Before the Coronavirus, when I would go to a baseball game or the theater, I would see adults texting the entire time. I have even seen people fired via text. We also have a President who makes major announcements via Twitter. His actions make teenagers feel Texting is normal. Additionally, it’s no surprise teenagers today feel texting is the normal way to communicate because they grew up with it. Any teenager today is part of what I refer to as the IPhone generation. Since these kids were born there have been Smartphones that they have been using. Therefore, texting or having instant access to information via the internet is normal to them. They never have seen an encyclopedia or a card catalog at a library. The teenagers I currently see for psychotherapy, use texting as their primary way of communicating with each other. Besides texting by Smartphones, teenagers also now text each other as they play video games oline. Try removing a teenager’s Smartphone or gaming console so they cannot text, many teens become very upset and some even become violent. Additionally many parents don’t feel texting is really communicating, however adults need to pay attention to how often they text people.

While technology is advancing at a fast pace, our laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with the latest advances. However, when laws are passed or ethical standards set, many teenagers and adults are not aware of the new laws. This is creating a tremendous problem for teenagers and their families. I have worked with many teenagers who are struggling with an issue, such as being accused of threatening someone via text, but they had no idea they were doing anything inappropriate.

Additionally now we have the Coronavirus pandemic and teenagers are having to attend school remotely and are not able to hang out with friends like they did before the pandemic. Therefore, for many teenagers texting has become their lifeline helping them stay in touch with their friends. Again these teenagers have grown up with texting so it’s normal to communicate via text. Many parents don’t understand how texting is the same as talking to another person. However, remember when you were in High School most teenagers spent hours on the telephone because we couldn’t text.

Something that it is important for teenagers to remember is that any time you post something online, tweet or text, it is on the internet forever. Some teens will say when they text it’s just from phone to phone. However, it remains on the phone forever and also on the server that provides your cellphone service. In other words, someone can get your text history from Verizon. This is why many celebrities have won very large monetary judgements against people who have posted false or embarrassing material on the internet. You can remove it from the site it was posted to, but it still can found on other sites. Therefore, if a teenager post something, they need to think about the fact that it will be out there forever and anyone can see it. This may lead to embarrassing situations.

Most teens worry about their grades and after school activities because they do not want to wreck their chance of getting into the University of their choice. However, many teenagers are not aware that many colleges check social media sites and the internet when they apply. The schools search for the applicant’s sites but also search to see if the applicant is on friend’s sites. They look at your pictures and opinions and decide do they feel they want you representing their school to the world. They can get your text history depending on how closely they choose to examine your background.

Let’s consider the most common problems that teenagers encounter with texting. The first one is texting sexually explicit photographs to their boyfriend/girlfriend. At the time they think it is no big deal. However, high school romances typically do not last. If one of the individuals feels hurt, they can post that sexually explicit picture all over the Internet. It can be sent to their families and friends. In fact, their entire school could see it. This would be extremely embarrassing. Even if the person who posted the picture is punished, the picture is still out there and the damage is done.

Additionally, teenagers fail to think about the fact that they are under 18 years old. Therefore, they are violating child pornography laws by texting the picture or by receiving it and having a copy on their cellphone. In fact, Congress is trying to pass stricter laws regarding teenagers texting sexually explicit picture. Therefore, besides being very embarrassed, the teenagers involved might find themselves facing legal charges for violating child pornography laws.

The second major issue is harassment. Friends get mad at each other or often one teenager is singled out and they become the object of numerous texts telling them they are ugly, no one likes them etc. These texts can be sent so often and by some many other teenagers that the teen who is the target commits suicide. There are numerous examples of this and a common one is accusing a teenager of being gay. This is not harmless teenage game playing. This harassment can be vicious. They are also cases where the teenagers sending these texts have been charged with stalking or more serious charges if the teenager committed suicide.

When this occurs, the teenagers are shocked. They think they were just teasing another kid and it was harmless. They have no idea what this teenager is already dealing with in their life or what it can be like to have numerous classmates texting you every day all day long. It is not harmless teasing, but because technology has increased so quickly it is not the same teasing that use to occur at school. We have not had enough time to think about this point.

Another major issue is that texting is an excellent way for schools or police to arrest teenagers for dealing drugs, buying or using drugs. I have worked with many teenagers from numerous schools where the school catches someone using or selling marijuana on school grounds. The school then checks the student’s cellphone and looks at the text history. The school then starts calling in the student’s on the text history and asking about drug use or selling. One teenager getting caught at school can result in ten teenagers being expelled. The teenagers are usually in shock. First, they never thought they were doing anything wrong and they never thought a text could get them in trouble. However, it can and it does. I have seen many teenagers for psychotherapy because of a text found by the school.

Finally, new research is showing that texting is increasing the rate of depression in teenagers. Texting creates more access in some ways, however, it is isolating too. When you text you lose the personal interaction which is very important. People do need personal interaction for their mental health. When teenagers text they miss out on the personal interaction. This can and does at times lead to a lonely feeling. If a teenager is already having a hard time and then they experience of feeling isolated too, this can lead to depression. Research is showing an increase in teenage depression and I am seeing an increase in the number of teenagers I am seeing for depression. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at teenagers and texting.

So we are facing a difficult situation. Teenagers today tend to use texting as their primary way of communication. Given the pandemic we are dealing with at this time it makes sense for them to text each other. However, our ethics have not kept up with technology and there are a number of ways teenagers can get into trouble texting. Additionally, research indicates that texting can increase the feelings of isolation and depression in teenagers. Feeling many teenagers and trying to avoid during the Coronavirus pandemic. One way they feel that helps them is texting friends. However, this maybe incorrect according to the research. Therefore, parents are facing a difficult situation when it comes to their teenagers texting each other.

At this point, my professional opinion is that parents sit down with their teenagers and discuss the pros and cons about texting and that parents limit texting to an hour everyday. Additionally, you may want to set up an agreement where your teenager allows you to monitor their texting in away that is comfortable for you and your teenager. Remember to be patient during this conversation because everyone is dealing with stress due to the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers. He also treats Internet addiction. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Dealing with Pandemic Fatigue

Dealing with Pandemic Fatigue

I am hearing more and more children are teenagers complain about they are tired of the pandemic and they want their lives to return to normal. They don’t want to wear a mask anymore and they want to play with their friends. I am also hearing parents also comment about being tired of the Coronavirus pandemic and wondering when our lives will return to normal. We have been dealing with quarantine issues since March so it is understandable that people are getting tired of the pandemic. However, when you look at our current numbers and we are entering the flu season in addition, this is not a time to get tired and give up.

Currently over 215,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus. Additionally a majority of the states are reporting an increase in the number of Coronavirus cases. The United States is currently reporting 50,000 new cases daily (CDC). This is an increase since August when the number was 40,000 new cases daily still to high. Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington both predict if we continue on our current course another 20,000 Americans will die over the next two weeks and by the end of the year over 400,000 Americans will have died from the Coronavirus pandemic. If you look at these numbers that is a lot of people who are expected to die by December 31, 2020. The Coronavirus will become the second leading cause of death in the United States for the year 2020 (CDC)

If we take a moment and think about that 400,000 number, we can think about who it really represents. If we look at it just as a number it does not mean a lot to most people. However, when we examine the number and who it represents, people start to change their attitudes. This 400,000 represents your parents, your grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, best friends, spouses, coworkers and maybe even your grandchildren, your children and maybe even you. Looking at the number this way, are you prepared to lose multiple members of your family over the next 3 months? You would be losing them during the Holiday Season and since the virus is highly contagious you would not be with them as they die in the hospital. In other words, your loved one will die alone in ICU and you will not be able to have traditional funeral services due to the limitations on how many people can be together at one time. You may even lose multiple family members in one day or the same week. Many people have lost both parents and a spouse within one week (CDC). This is not uncommon and how does a person cope with all that grief at one time?

Part of what is contributing to the Coronavirus fatigue are the conflicting messages we are getting from the White House. The President’s statement that we are rounding the corner is false. When we are reporting 50,000 new cases daily we are in the middle of a pandemic. The vaccine will not be ready until at least April, 2021 and then we don’t know how effective the vaccine will be (CDC, John Hopkins University). The other confusing statement the President continues to promote is that masks and social distancing are not necessary. However at his campaign event is Tulsa without masks and distancing a number of the President’s staff developed the virus and his friend, who started Godfather pizza, developed the virus and died. When the President announced his nomination to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden, 10 people contracted the virus in addition to the President and the First Lady. Dr. Fauci and other public health experts called the Rose Garden ceremony a super spreader event. The former governor of New Jersey issued a statement saying he was wrong not wearing a mask at the Rose Garden ceremony and he was wrong not to wear a mask while he prepared the President for the debate. The former governor finally stated masks are necessary.

As a way to avoid the Pandemic fatigue we need to ignore what the White House and the President are stating about the Coronavirus. His statements have no basis in fact or reality. As a result, they are confusing and add to our fatigue. We need to listen to Dr. Fauci and the other public health experts. They are not running for political office and have no reason to lie to the public. After all, they are public health experts and have studied their entire lives to help people in situations like a pandemic. Their recommendations are if we continue to wear masks and continue to social distance, we can reduce the amount of people who will die and we can get the virus under control. The more we get the virus under control the sooner we can start to resume some normal activities. However, it is going to take time and we must keep this in mind as we go through each day.

Parents I understand it’s hard when your teenagers are demanding more freedom and you must keep saying no. The best and only option is to be honest with your children and teenagers. Acknowledge their frustration and desire to return to normal. However, you must explain like it or not that masks and social distancing will help all of you get closer to normal again. Since we are still having people come down with the Coronavirus at a significant rate, it’s essential that we abide by the guidelines specified by the public health experts. If we give up now, we will make the quarantine situations last longer. We need to try and look at the situation that the more we comply with the guidelines the closer we get back to normal. In the meantime, every once in a while plan something special for your child keeping in mind the guidelines so you can keep them safe. For example, allow teenagers to hang out with a friend as long as they wear their masks and keep appropriate social distance. This can help your children and teenagers deal with the fatigue. Since we do not know how long this will last, we need to be honest about that fact. This again will help you and your family survive the Coronavirus fatigue. We must remember to take it a day at a time and find ways to destress when possible. If we all work together and respect each other, we can survive the Coronavirus pandemic.

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

Teenage Cutting Increases due to the Pandemic

Teenage Cutting Increases due to the Pandemic

Last year when I was guest co-hosting the Street Soldier radio show on 106.1 KMEL, the topic was how teenagers are impacted by social media. The topic of depression and cutting came up during the conversation. The adults were shocked to hear about cutting and the teens tended to feel the cutting was more of an issue for the girls. However, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys too. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls. I mentioned when I was co-hosting last year before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus pandemic and quarantine the number of teenagers cutting has significantly increased (CDC).

The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting (CDC). If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I am seeing cutting become more popular with teenagers especially with boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Therefore, cutting not only occurs in girls but it is occurring in boys too. We need to be aware of the fact that cutting is becoming more popular with teenagers. It is important because cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Teens who are severally depressed state that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way for teenagers to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing. It is also a way that they can feel in control of life when their life feels or the world feels out of control or overwhelming.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic many teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and powerless. They also see very little hope for things to improve. As a result, many more teenagers have started cutting since the beginning of the pandemic. It is a way teenagers can try to cope with feeling overwhelmed and powerless due to the pandemic. I have had more teenagers reporting incidents of cutting and more friends who are cutting since the beginning of the pandemic and as the pandemic continues.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do. The number of boys cutting has increased due to the pandemic because they feel overwhelmed and out of control. There is nothing they can do about the Coronavirus and how their lives have changed due to the Coronavirus.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. When I mention cutting to a teenager now, they don’t look shocked. Instead they talk about it like we are talking about the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too. Most teens who cut have friends that cut. Most teenage boys who have girlfriends tend to have girlfriends who cut too. As I stated above, the number of teenagers cutting has increased significantly since the Coronavirus pandemic because many teenagers are feeling helpless and overwhelmed by life. No one alive has ever dealt with a pandemic so teenagers feel helpless and hopeless about life. This has been my experience.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting, talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. If you have to go to someone who is doing teletherapy due to the pandemic that is fine. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist because the teenager now assumes everyone is judging them. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills

Depression

Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He has treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites www.rcs-ca.com , www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Teenagers want Parents to Listen

Teenagers want Parents to Listen

Many teenagers report being frustrated with their parents because they feel that their parents do not listen to them. Honestly, they are probably right at times. Most people have poor listening skills. These are not skills we are taught in school or at home. Most people tend to be focusing on how they are going to respond to the person talking rather than completely listening to the other person.

Since this is a common issue, what happens when children and teenagers feel that their parents are not really listening to them? What teenagers have told me is that they feel angry and that their parent does not care about their feelings. When teenagers have these feelings they tend to stop talking to their parents and to act out. When they feel that their parents don’t care, they feel like they have permission to do whatever they want and at times they act out using drugs or not going to school as a way to get their parents attention.

Teenagers may act like they know everything and that they are not afraid of anything or confused about what to do, but this is only an act. They do not know how to handle everything and often feel overwhelmed by life choices. As a result they turn to their parents. However, if their parents are not fully listening they feel hurt and rejected. As teenagers their communication skills and reasoning skills are not fully developed. Therefore, they don’t know how to let their parents know they feel hurt and rejected. They also do not know how to let you know that they feel you are not listening and they need your help. Most teenagers feel saying they need their parents as a sign of weakness. This is because they are not fully mature and they are still children and they need their parents.

For many parents this may come as a shock. It comes as a shock because of how teenagers tend to react to their parents. Again, because teenagers are not fully mature they tend to act like they know everything and don’t need their parents. However, as I stated above teenagers do need and want their parents support. However, due to their immaturity, teenagers act like they don’t need their parents. However, parents need to understand that teenagers are not fully mature yet and their actions do not always match how they are feeling.

With this being said, it is very important that parents listen to their teenagers. However, since communication skills are a problem for most people especially listening skills, I have provided a list of listening skills that parents may want to try. Remember these skills don’t come naturally to most people so it will take a while for you to improve your skills. Also since teenagers can be confusing at times it makes listening even harder at times. In addition to these skills, if you are listening to your teenager, but you are still confused try asking a clarification question. Repeat back what you thought you heard and ask your teenager if you heard them correctly. This shows you are listening, you care and you want to focus on their concerns. This is exactly what teenagers are wanting from you. Here are the skills you may want to try:

1)  Purposefully strive to focus on listening with an open mind, refrain from jumping to conclusions or forming an opinion while your child is talking.

2)  Do not hurry them, listening requires patience.  Wait for your child’s thoughts to take shape  and give time for the words to form and find expression.

3)  Always show respect and courtesy in listening to what your child has to say, no matter how much you may disagree with them.

4)  Your own body language is important, make eye contact and always provide your attentive and undivided attention.

5)  Don’t be thinking about how you will respond as this will take your concentration away from what they are really saying.

6)  Exercise awareness of your child’s nonverbal cues, facial expression, tone of voice, body stance, general mood and attitude.

7)  Don’t interrupt, hear them out and wait for the appropriate opportunity to ask questions.

8)  Always remain calm when listening and never show your personal feelings of anger or disappointment.

9)  Think of listening as personal growth as your children will always have something to say which will help you to grow.

10) Practice active listening with your heart to genuinely empathize with your child. Put yourself in their shoes to genuinely understand their feelings and emotions.

Remember this will take time and effort. However, by trying you are improving your relationship with your teenager and this is a tremendous benefit to you and your teenager if you can improve your relationship. Teenagers are facing a great deal of confusing and dangerous situations in today’s world and they need their parents now more than ever.

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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

Celebrating Halloween during the Pandemic

In about a month it will be Halloween. This is a holiday that many children look forward to every year. However, this year most children will be missing Halloween due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are reporting an increase in Coronavirus cases and the flu season is beginning too. Therefore, it is not medically safe for children to be trick or treating this year. The major problem is most of these children have missed their birthdays, playing with their friends, summer vacation and now they are having to go to school remotely. As a result, main children are feeling depressed and do not want to participate in school.

With everything these children have been through, hopefully we can find some safe, fun ways for them to celebrate Halloween. One possible option is, as a family, you can let your children pick out their costumes and since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, let them wear these costumes all day. Additionally as a family you can pick out scary movies to watch all day and night and treats they can have for the day. You can also carve pumpkins and prepare a special Halloween dinner. If you google Halloween recipes, you will find a number of dishes that have a Halloween theme. This may not be the same as trick or treating but it can be a fun time for the entire family.

Another possibility is to arrange trick or treating with your family and family friends. You can arrange that with family members and friends that are taking appropriate precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing so they are not likely to have the Coronavirus that you can stop by their homes and trick or treat. This way your children do get to trick or treat but at least you are trying to do it in the safest manner possible. Obviously, your children would need to wear masks and being feeling well. If they had a runny nose or a slight fever, you would need to keep them home. However, this occurs every year, if at the last minute a child is looking or acting ill, you need to keep them home. Obviously, your family and friends would be wearing masks when you went to their houses and if they were feeling sick they would let you know before you left your house so you would know to skip their house.

Another option would be if your city or church has a community center. You can have people who volunteer to pass out candy on Halloween at the hall. All the volunteers would wear masks and their temperatures would have been taken to keep it as safe as possible. You could schedule 10 children at a time to go through the hall and trick or treat. Again, the children will need to be wearing masks and have had their temperatures taken. This way you are making it safe for the children and volunteers. You would need a schedule so you would not have too many children in the same space at the same time. Yes this will take a fair amount of work. However, it will allow children to celebrate a holiday specifically for children and they have a chance to act like children and forget the pandemic for a night. This would be a tremendous gift to children who have missed a lot of their childhood due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some people may be tempted to say just forget the pandemic and let the children celebrate Halloween like they usually do. However, the research does document that children can and do contract the Coronavirus. The research also shows that children do need to be hospitalized due to the Coronavirus. The research shows that 1out of 3 children who are hospitalized will end up in the ICU. Finally the research numbers show children will and have died due to the Coronavirus. However, an additional complication during this time of the year is it is flu season too. It is possible for a child to have the flu and Coronavirus at the same time. Therefore, we cannot treat this like any other year and we need to brainstorm how children can celebrate Halloween safety.

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

Children’s Right to Psychotherapy is at Serious Risk

Children’s Right to Psychotherapy is at Serious Risk

Parents our elections are coming up and it is very important that you vote and call your Senators regarding health care. Currently President Trump has several suits in the Courts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and pre-existing conditions. Yes he signed an Executive Order, but insurance companies do not have to comply with the Order. The Executive Order are only recommendations so insurance companies can and will ignore it. I have been a psychotherapist for over 20 years and I have seen how the Affordable Care Act has benefited thousands of people. Before we had it, many people were denied or could not afford psychotherapy.

Before the ACA, if you had ever taken antidepressants, your insurance could deny to cover psychotherapy for you or require you to pay a very high copayment. I saw this happen many times to patients I was treating prior to the ACA. Depression and anxiety are considered pre-existing conditions. Also in your insurance contact there is a standard clause that if the insurance company wants to see all your medical records you cannot stop them. I had insurance companies make these requests and I checked with numerous attorneys and the answer always was the same. The way the insurance writes their contract, you cannot stop them from getting all your records from the day you were born. If you refuse, they can terminate your insurance coverage. Insurance companies typically will ask for all your records because if you had psychotherapy as a teenager that is a pre-existing condition. Therefore, they can deny to cover your psychotherapy. They could even terminate your health insurance all together.

What if you have children? If you have a child with Autism, ADHD or if they were ever suicidal, your child will not be able to get insurance coverage or the psychotherapy they desperately need. Before the ACA I had many families in this exact situation. Many would automatically terminate therapy. Research now shows if children with these issues receive therapy when they are very young we can improve the outcome for them as adults. However, without the ACA, insurance companies specify these issues as pre-existing conditions and therefore the child is not entitled to psychotherapy. I often provided psychotherapy to these families at a fee they could afford. However, not every therapist can afford to lower their fees and I can only do it for a certain number of families because it cost money to run a business.

This election and these cases before the Courts could have disastrous effects on you and your children if the pre-existing clause is eliminated. The President has stated he will protect the clause, but his actions indicate he will eliminate it if he can. If this clause is eliminated anyone who has dealt with depression or ADHD will not be able to get insurance or if they can the rate will be very high. Remember if the clause is eliminated it will not just stop you or your child from receiving therapy it will also stop you from receiving medical care. So if you develop long haul syndrome after having the Coronavirus, you will not be able to get insurance coverage. The Coronavirus is a pre-existing condition. Another fact is that 1 out of 5 children meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health issue (CDC). This means 1 out of 5 children have a pre-existing condition. So parents please vote and call Senators and save the pre-existing condition clause. Please do not trust President Trump to do it.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers for more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com