College Does Not Make A Teen Successful

College Does Not Make A Teen Successful

Every child is not going to get straight As and that is okay. We live in a very competitive society and parents and students often brag about their grades or where they are going to college. Some teenagers are academically inclined and others are physically inclined. Therefore, instead of being a surgeon may be they will be a plumber. The question is what’s the difference? The amount of money they are making. Is how much money you make the most important thing about your teenager and their life? What about being happy and what type of person they are? Does that matter?

I often do Career Days and the first question I usually receive is how much money do I make? Followed by what type of car do I drive? My answer is, what does it matter? Most people today are working 60 hours a week. If you are working that hard, it’s more important that you enjoy your career instead of being there just for the money. If you are there for the money, you most likely will find yourself unhappy after a while. At Career Days I tell high school students that I would be a psychotherapist if I was making $300,000 or $30,000 a year because I really enjoy what I do and I am happy to go to the office every day. Money makes paying the bills easier, but it doesn’t make you happy.

In addition to money not guaranteeing happiness, I hear many teenagers feel like their parents are disappointed in them because they are not getting As. Some of the teenagers are getting poor grades because they choose not to study and not to do their homework. They are letting themselves and their parents down. However, some teenagers have learning disabilities or other interest such as music or art and they have difficulty learning in a standard classroom. Therefore, they may be trying their best but they can only get a C. It is nothing to be ashamed about. If a student is trying their best and can only get a C, they are successful as the student who tries their best an gets an A. They are both trying their best and they both should be acknowledged for doing their best.

As I said I see many teenagers who feel like failures because they are not getting As. Typically they hide their issues from their parents and this can cause arguments about grades. While researching this article, I found a blog from a parent who listed how she approaches her teenager who gets Cs. Using her approach helps a teen who is getting Cs to feel good about themselves and to know that their parents are proud of them too. It is very important that teenagers know and feel that their parents are proud of them. Otherwise, they look for attention in other ways such as getting into trouble. Here is the way the parent approached her teenager so he felt celebrated and that his parents were proud of him:

1. Your child’s achievements are not a reflection of you or your parenting.

Even though we often judge other parents based on how their child behaves or performs we need to remind ourselves that our teens are their own person. My son is not an extension of me. As an overachiever who works with children and families this was difficult for me to come to terms with.

2. Do not make comparisons.

It seems like this should go without saying, but we can’t compare our C student to their siblings, neighbors, or friends. I struggled to not compare my high school years to my son’s. I made good grades and got involved in school activities. School was my favourite place to be, and I spent much of my time with my nose in a book. Seeing the years go by with my son never touching the books on his bookshelf were hard.

3. Your child likely does care about their grades.

They might pretend they don’t care about school in order to protect themselves from feelings of failure and embarrassment but, chances are, they care very much. Our son cared about doing well in school and he wanted to achieve and make us happy, but regular classes moved too quickly for him and even accommodations could only take him so far.

4. Find out what your child is good at and get them involved in it.

Our son was extremely interested in skateboarding, so we encouraged him to do it outside of school. He excelled at it and we saw his self-esteem skyrocket. We then worked with the school to find classes that were more hands-on. Help steer your child to a future career that fits with their abilities and aptitudes. Throughout the pandemic, my son has been able to finish his high school diploma through co-operative education. He has also been working with a union to earn his apprenticeship hours in the construction trade. Best of all, he already has a good paying job lined up for when school finishes this year.

5. Celebrate your C student the same way you’d celebrate an A student.

My son has always struggled to achieve in school, but he has so many other amazing qualities that have nothing to do with a letter grade. He is proud of his achievements and so are we. After years of trying to figure out how to help him do better academically, we have learned to celebrate every C that he gets because we know how hard he has worked for it. No matter what grades he earns, my son—and every C student like him—deserves to feel accepted, understood and loved for who he is.

The above last line is very important. We live in a society that tends to see success in terms of money and job titles. Some teenagers are not academically inclined and others are more interested in fixing cars instead of being a lawyer. Every teenager deserves to be celebrated and to feel respected. They may choose construction, but it’s an honest living and they are being mature enough to take care of themselves and their families. You raised them to be an independent adult and that is exactly what they are doing. How much money someone makes should not be how we value people. Instead we should look at how they treat others and are they happy with their lives. Being a caring, compassionate person is more important than making a lot of money in my opinion. Parents hopefully you will find this helpful.

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

IPhones as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

IPhones as Holiday Gifts for Teenagers

The Holiday Season is here and one of the most popular gifts with teenagers is a Smartphone. Many teens may have a cellphone but that is not good enough. They want an iPhone or its equivalent. If they have an IPhone already, they want to upgrade to the newest version. 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 cellphone away. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work for them. However, in my opinion, cellphones, especially Smartphones, 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 14. 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.

Students in middle school or high school will be asking to upgrade their phones. 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 14 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. They also do not need a powerful smartphone, they are not running a business. Additionally, Smartphones provide numerous ways for teenagers to get into trouble. Look at how many adults get into trouble with Smartphones and how they use them.

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 any more. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get the phones 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. Additionally, if their parents are divorced, they often will play their parents against each other as away to get the cellphone they want. Furthermore, many teenagers do not consider how much these phones cost. Additionally, the amount of money you spend on gifts for 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 IPhone 14? 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 children, middle school and high school students for over 25 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.

Loneliness Increases during the Holidays not Suicides

Loneliness Increases during the Holidays not Suicides

The Holiday Season is here and many people assume the Holidays and depression go together. In addition to assuming the Holidays and depression go together, people assume that suicide rates increase during this time of year. Well according to the statistics from the CDC, suicide rates actually drop during the Holiday Season. The study by the CDC is not sure why they drop but they do. May be they drop because during this time of year we pay more attention to depression and suicide. There are a number of ads and social media posts where people can call if they feel suicidal. We finally have a national suicide crisis line, 988, that people can call if they feel suicidal. In addition, now social media sites are offering assistance to teenagers and people who are feeling suicidal. Therefore, there definitely is more focus on people feeling suicidal than other times of the year. For example, we tend to forget about suicide during the summer and focus on the sun and swimming.

What the CDC did find is that loneliness increases during this time of year. During the Holidays there are songs and plenty of television shows regarding getting together with family and friends. You also have people talking about all the Holiday parties that they have to go to. Furthermore, you hear people talking about how well their lives are going. However, this is not the case for everyone. Especially with inflation, many people are struggling to afford food and a home for their families. Buying Holiday gifts is the least of their worries.

If you are a military family, a loved one may be stationed overseas and won’t be home for the Holidays. Also during the year some close friends or loved ones may have died and you are grieving their death. We are still dealing with the pandemic and we still have many people dying daily due to the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic started in 2019, over 1,000,000 Americans have died. Therefore, there are a lot of people in our Country grieving and feeling lonely due to a loved one dying from the Coronavirus. Additionally during the Holidays is a time when many people are talking about family and friends that have died and they remember the people they have lost over the years. The first Holiday Season without a close loved one or friend can be very difficult. You may not feeling like celebrating or you may have to change Holiday traditions which can make some one feel sad and lonely. However, it may be necessary so you can tolerate the Holidays.

Another common difficulty during this time of year is money. Especially this year with inflation and the costs for most things increasing significantly. Many people feel like they need to spend a great deal of money to show love. They may just be able to pay their monthly bills and cannot afford Holiday gifts. Why do we need to spend money to show that we care? What if you write a letter to someone telling them how important they are to you and how much you appreciate them. Isn’t that the real purpose of the Holiday Season? Isn’t this the time of year we take to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them. Also it’s an opportunity to tell people we tend to ignore, people sleeping on the street or who are dealing with mental illness that they are important too? Everyone is important and should be included. Also instead of spending a lot of money, you can donate your time so someone who is struggling financially or emotionally has an easier time.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen that people dealing with mental illness feel lonely and out of place during this time of year. They don’t often feel the joy of the season. Sometimes they struggle just to make it through the day. Also mental illness is something we don’t discuss as a society. We tend to act like it doesn’t exist so we ignore the issue. Also since it is an uncomfortable issue for many people because they often feeling ashamed and embarrassment about family members who are mentally ill. As a result, they tend to ignore their family members and friends who struggle with mental illness because it makes them feel awkward. This makes it less likely for people dealing with family members or friends who have a mental illness to talk about it with others or seek help professional about how to cope with the holidays. This can make people feel lonely and isolated especially during this time of year.

We seldom acknowledge the daily struggle that people and families dealing with mental illness go through on a daily basis. It is important to acknowledge that mental illness is not a weakness it is a medical condition. There is no reason to look down on someone with mental illness. We offer encouragement and support to people with cancer, diabetes and chronic health conditions, why can’t we do the same for people with mental illness?

Additionally with so many teenagers experiencing depression and anxiety disorders due to the pandemic, many individuals are having a very difficult time finding therapist who are accepting new patients. Besides finding a therapist who is accepting new patients, people are having difficulties finding therapists who are accepting their insurance. Many insurance companies are denying claims for psychotherapy. Therefore, even if someone wants to go to therapy they may not be able to find a therapist or be able to afford it.

I have included a link to a video where a teenager discusses dealing with depression https://youtu.be/dAzqGcOLXBs. Listen to what he has to say and answer the question, does he deserve to be looked down upon because he is depressed?

Also remember the Holidays can be a lonely time for people. So if you see someone who looks like they are having a hard time or know someone who is struggling during this season, try to help. Do something kind for them. Another thing to remember, being kind to people should be a year round activity for all of us. We should not just be kind during the Holidays. If we try to be kind all year, we may be able to decrease how many people feel lonely and depressed. Also if we are kind and offering support year round may be we can eliminate the negative stereotype associated with mental health.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience. He specializes in treating depression and suicide especially depressed and suicidal children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his websites at www.RubinoCounseling.com, www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3

Middle School in the Year 2022

Middle School in the Year 2022

The school year is beginning and many parents are focused on their children’s transition into High School, College or Kindergarten. However, there is another important transition for children, Middle School. This is a major transition for pre-adolescents. As a psychotherapist who works with adolescents, I am very familiar with what is happening on High School and Middle School campuses and how big the transition is into Middle School these days. When kids transition to middle school they have to adjust to changing classes, having more than one teacher, increased homework and they are starting puberty and unsure of themselves. They are also not sure about all the academic changes. In addition to academic changes, physical changes with their own bodies, there are all the new social issues. Friends become more important and some students are talking about girlfriends, boyfriends and sex. This is a lot to adjust to at age 11. This is why we are seeing a significant increase in the number of middle school students being diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders (CDC) In addition to all of these changes, there are all the stories they have heard about middle school. This only increases the stress and anxiety that middle school students in 2022 are feeling.

Many parents assume middle school in 2022 is similar to when they attended middle school, however the middle school in 2022 is very different than the middle school most parents attended. One example, when I ask parents, who have a child going into middle school or a child in middle school, if they have spoken to their child about drugs, alcohol and sex, I am told no and parents are surprised I asked this question about middle school students. I hear parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs, alcohol or sex with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is that Middle School Students in 2022 are drinking, using drugs and having sex. Many parents are unaware of what is happening in Middle Schools these days. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved numerous dangerous activities such as selling drugs.

To begin with, most middle school campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on their school campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to feel successful as a teenager and so they fit in with friends. They also feel overwhelmed by the school shootings and the pandemic and they are looking for an escape. They see other kids at school using and they want to be part of the popular group so they think about and often try drinking or vaping.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse that they are not sexual active. Most 6th graders tell me oral sex doesn’t count as being sexually active. The kids say they are just “messing around” with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves from contracting STDs or getting pregnant. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are disrupting condoms to middle school kids. Yes, Middle Schools are giving condoms to children in the sixth grade. These kids are only 11 years old.

Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school anymore. Today there is for a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting by cellphone to tease and harass other kids. As many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing occurring at school. I wrote an article about a middle school girl who committed suicide and in her obituary she left a note to the other students just asking them to be nice to each other.

Another issue with teasing and dating is that students are not aware of the laws. As a result, many middle school students find themselves in trouble with the school district and often the police too. Harassment in middle school and dating often involves students texting or emailing pictures. Students are not aware that if they text a nude photo of another student or themselves that they have violated child pornography laws. Something many parents and students are not aware of is that a child can be charged with violating child pornography laws. When a child texts a nude photo of a middle school student, who is under 18 years old, it violates child pornography laws and the child who texts it and received it can both be arrested. The law is violated because the child in the photo is under 18 years old.

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or after school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. Boys are bragging about their fights on YouTube and comparing how many people have watched their fight with their friend’s fight. Therefore, boys feel they must fight, otherwise if they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp.” Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad that kids have to live in fear for their lives and for safety reasons many middle schools have metal detectors. The number of mass shootings at schools and the mass shooting drills they do at school exacerbate this fear. It’s sad that a place they should feel safe in that students now are afraid for their lives. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus, they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to mass shootings, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older and as a result the issues in their lives are becoming more difficult. Therefore, when you talk to your pre-teen mention drinking, sex or being teased and ask if they need to talk about it and they can talk about it anytime they need to. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Life Talk | PSA: This could be your child (Teen drinking, alcohol,partying,peer pressure)

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 25 years experience treating children, adolescents, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

Without Gun Control We will have a Generation of Anxious and Depressed Children

Without Gun Control We will have a Generation of Anxious and Depressed Children

During the past several months there has been a significant increase in mass shootings and people being killed by guns. In fact there has been such a significant increase that mass shootings barely make the news anymore. This weekend there were at least 11 mass shootings across the country. There were shootings at Coney Island back east and another in Bend, Oregon and another in Stockton, California just to name a few (NBC, ABC, CNN). A 10 year old boy in Chicago was shot and a 4 year old in Philadelphia, who was waiting for a haircut was shot too. Both boys were innocent bystanders just trying to live their lives as children.

How are children or anyone suppose to live their lives normally when so far in 2022 we have had an increase of 50% in the number of mass shootings compared to 2020 (Gun Violence Archive). Currently 2022 has the most mass shootings on record for a year and the year is not over yet (CDC, Brady Gunn Violence Campaign). Many children are afraid of attending school due to the mass shooting in Uvlade, Texas where 18 elementary school children and 2 teachers were killed. Can we blame children when every weekend there are numerous mass shootings across the country with numerous people being killed. Also the shootings are usually done with an automatic gun. The most common is the AR15.

As a psychotherapist who treats children and teenagers, I hear many children and teens talking about their safety at school and around town while they are playing or hanging out. I have had many children state they are afraid to go to school because they are afraid of being killed. Yes anxiety disorders and depression have increased significantly since the pandemic, however, anxiety and depression in children and teenagers were increasing prior to the pandemic. Anxiety and depression disorders started increasing as school mass shootings increased (CDC). I have seen this in public too. I was attending the play Oklahoma and when they shot the stage gun, the 12 year old behind me started having a panic attack and had to leave because they were afraid of being killed. It did not matter what the parents said or did. They automatically had a link between the sound of a gun and people dying. No child should have to be that afraid.

Teenagers are taking somewhat of a different response to the mass shootings. Many teenagers are also suffering from anxiety and depression disorders such as elementary children (CDC). However, many teenagers also seem to believe if they have a gun that will keep them safe. While researching this issue of gun violence, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since there has been a significant increase in mass shootings, more teenagers have been trying to find ways to have access to guns. As I stated for some teenagers they say they feel safer if they can access a gun. However, the major issue is that suicide has been significantly increasing for teenagers over the years (CDC). Suicide is now an epidemic in teenagers and guns are one of the most popular methods of suicide for teenagers. Many children who are bullied are choosing guns for suicide too. Therefore, as we examine how mass shootings are impacting our society, it’s important to look at how easy access to guns is resulting in an increasing number of teenagers committing suicide.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette or Orinda that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year by guns. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries. For teenagers who commit suicide, guns are the second-leading cause of death. The CDC has recently moved suicide from the third-leading cause of death for teenagers to the second-leading cause of death. This is a scary fact that the rate of teenage suicides are increasing not decreasing.

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

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before that suicide is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. It is now the second leading cause of death for boys 10 to 18 years old. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living? At the age of 10, he has given up hope for a decent life. This is a sad fact. Can you imagine being the parent or sibling of a 10 year old suicide victim and finding your child’s brains all over the room? How did a 10 year old get a gun for suicide? How does a teenager get a gun to shot and kill people at their high school?

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

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

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

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

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

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

Finally, we are only in the month of August and the number of Americans killed to date is more than in 2019 (CDC). We are seeing mass shootings increase, violence against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans, Transgender teenagers and police killings. What is happening in the United States? We are the only Country in the world dealing with mass shootings? However, we claim to be the most advanced nation in the world. Maybe Congress needs to look at these numbers and think about their actions. For example, Republicans stating the attack on the US Capital was not violent is crazy. It was violent. Several police officers were killed and they wanted to hang the Vice President. I think that qualifies as violent. We have videos of people assaulting the Capital Police and demanding to hang the Vice President. The Republicans in the House of Representatives remove Represetative Cheney from her leadership post because she won’t lie and say that Biden did not win the Presidential Election. Finally, you have a Republican representative comparing the requirement to wear masks in the House Chambers because everyone in the House of Representatives are not vaccinated. Someone who speaks the truth is removed and someone who makes racist, homophobic and anti Semitic statements is praised. This may be one part of the issue. We need to support people who are treating other people appropriately and we need to speak out and refuse to allow people who are treating people like garbage to continue to be allowed to treat people like garbage. Bottom line, we can no longer ignore the public health emergency created by guns and we must act an enact sane gun laws. People have to wear seatbelts in cars but you can still drive. You need to be 21 years old to drink or buy alcohol, but this law has not prevented adults from using alcohol. Therefore, sane gun laws will not take away guns from everyone! We are a nation of intelligent people please start using your common sense regarding guns.

If we don’t start to address this public health issue, we are going to continue to have children and teenagers who have severe anxiety and depression disorders and suicide rates for children and teenagers will continue to increase. By not controlling guns, mass shootings and the other violence, such as hate crimes, we are expecting children to grow up in a very scary, unpredictable world. Anxiety and depression are the sane responses. Are we going to allow mass shootings to continue or are we going to enact sane gun laws and provide children with a safe place where they can grow up? We owe it to the children.

Dr. Rubino has 25 years experience as a psychotherapist working with children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Facts about Attending High School in 2022

Facts about Attending High School in 2022

All over the Country teenagers will be starting their first year in high school or returning to high school. Typically I would recommend that parents think back to their first day of high school and how they felt and what they were expecting high school to be like and how they were expecting there other kids to act. I did this to help parents relate to some of the feelings their teenager maybe having as a way for parents to help their teenagers starting high school. This may help parents with some of the issues facing their teenagers, but teenagers starting high school or resuming high school in 2022 do so with mass school shootings occurring on a regular basis and we are still dealing with a deadly pandemic. Therefore, high school students are facing additional issues besides the typical first day of school issues. They are facing life and death issues, we never had to face in high school. Additionally, they see that the government is doing very little to protect from gun violence. Therefore, today’s teenagers are facing overwhelming issues we never had to face when we went to high school. This can make it difficult for parents to be able to completely understand the feelings teenagers and having starting high school.

High school students, in fact all students, are starting school when there is a significant increase in the Coronavirus due another new variant. As a result, many people including teenagers are contracting the virus (CDC). The number of people contracting the virus is similar to the numbers we were seeing a year ago (CDC).

Therefore, high school students are starting high school not knowing if they will or will not contact the virus. Yes there are vaccinations they can get and they can wear masks, all of which decreases their chances of getting the virus, but some governors, school boards and parents are refusing these options. People are objecting because they say the precautions are not necessary and do not work. However, teens are hearing that the virus is spreading rapidly in most counties in the country. In fact, some counties such as Los Angeles County and considering returning to indoor mask mandates (LA County Public Health). Having to keep up with homework and after school activities, such as sports, is a lot for most teenagers without having to worry about the pandemic. Teenagers are worried about it because I hear them tell me about their concerns and some students would prefer to go back to remote learning due to the threat posed by the virus.

In addition to worrying about contracting the virus, students return to school having to deal with mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archives, there has been more than one mass shooting a day so far this year. The Gun Violence Archives also report there has been a 50% increase in mass shootings since 2020. Unfortunately, the recent shooting at the school in Texas showed we have not improved how we handle these shootings. The police waited outside for 77 minutes while children and teachers bled to death. Since most teenagers have smartphones, they have access to all of this information. They know the number of shootings are increasing, police are not handling the situations and the government refuses to pass laws that can have a real impact on gun violence. They also see the news that the mass shootings are a problem for the United States and they seldom occur in other countries. Given this environment, it is no surprise that we are seeing a significant increase in depression and anxiety disorders in teenagers (CDC). Teenagers today are not crazy and do not live in a fantasy world. They have access to the news very easily and they are very aware about what is occurring in our Country. Based on what the see and the lack of help by the government feeling anxious and depressed is a normal response.

One other issue, besides worrying about contracting the virus and mass shootings, students have missed an entire year of high school. Therefore, students who are sophomores never had a freshman year and have no idea what to expect. Teenagers who were enjoying their high school experience have missed out on an entire year. Therefore, students starting high school and returning to high school in 2022 are doing so facing many issues that students usually never face. For example, the main issue is adjusting from remote learning to being back in the class. Their school days are longer, they have more homework and they are around more people. This is not a simple adjustment. As a result of all the issues we have seen a significant increase in depression and anxiety in high school students (CDC).

Parents hopefully you can remember everything teenagers and you are facing as your teenagers start high school. You may need to contact your teenager’s school and ask for assistance from the school. You may need to seek out a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and have your teenager participate in psychotherapy. There is no shame in doing this because teenagers are facing tremendous mental health issues and many need help. Since the pandemic and school resuming, there has been a significant increase in the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy (CDC). In fact we are running out of psychotherapist who are able to treat these teenagers. No one planned on how to adequately handle the number of teenagers needing psychotherapy due to the pandemic.

Parents all you can do is to be patient and listen to your teenagers and seek the help you feel is appropriate. Also do not forget yourselves. Parents are under a great deal of stress too and you may need psychotherapy too. If you try to work together and are patient with each other, you should be able to handle the stress teenagers are facing due to the pandemic.

In addition to the pandemic, students starting high school still deal with common anxieties most teenagers have faced over the years. One common stressor for many teenagers are the stories they have heard about how seniors picking on and teasing the freshman students. Another common fear for freshman is that they are going to get lost on the campus and not be able to find their classrooms. Your teenagers are at a point in their life where they want to make a good impression on the other students. At their age image is very important. Therefore the idea of being teased by the seniors or getting lost on the campus can be very stressful and also create a great deal of anxiety for a student starting high school.

As parents, you can talk to your teenagers about your first days days at high school and reassure them that the stories they hear about Freshmen being targets for the seniors are greatly exaggerated. Also you can try to go with them over to the school before it starts and walk around the campus so they can get use to where everything is at their new school. Another thing you can do is remind them that everyone makes mistakes so if they do get lost the first day it is not a big deal. Remind them there will be a lot of other kids starting their first day of school too and there will be other kids getting lost. This is also another opportunity to continue to establish an open relationship with your teenager. The more you talk with each other, you increase the likelihood that they will feel comfortable coming and talking to you about issues they will have while in high school.

Another issue facing some students is starting all over. In middle school may be everyone knew them and they were in the “popular group.” Now no one knows them and they need to start all over. This may be frightening to them, but remind them there will be many times in life when they will need to start as the new person. Also remind them, if they were able to do it in middle school, they can do it in high school too. Be sure to encourage them to have faith in themselves because it won’t happen over night. Now for many students middle school was a nightmare. They may be looking forward to starting over. Again remind them if they have the desire to try they can do it. All the Freshmen are starting all over just like them, but also to be patient because it may not happen as quickly as they like.

Also before school actually starts is a very good time to establish what your expectations are regarding grades and after school activities and hanging out with friends. At this time is a good time to establish what your expectations are homework, after school jobs and weekend curfews. If you establish an understanding between yourself and your teenager before these situations arise you can save yourself a lot of time arguing with your teenager. However as you establish these guidelines you want to have a conversation with your teenager about these issues. Remember your teenager is starting to enter the adult world, if you simply just tell them these are the rules, they will feel that you are being unfair and they will try to find a way around your rules. If you have a discussion with them about the rules they will feel that their opinions were respected, they are more likely to feel that the rules are fair and are more likely to follow the rules. It is also a good idea to write a contract with all the things you agreed to. If you write the agreements down and there is a misunderstanding you simply need to refer back to the contract. Also this is another opportunity for you to establish a relationship with your teenager where they feel comfortable enough to come to you and discuss any problems they may be having. You are also role modeling to them how to have an adult discussion and how to negotiate fairly and respectfully with other their people.

Of course you also want to take this opportunity to discuss with your teenager the fact that they are going to be faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex. This is a good time to provide them with the education they will need in order to cope with these situations. It is even more important today because technology has changed a number of rules. For example, if a girl texts a nude photo to a boy, he is guilty of having child pornography. Yes it was mutually agreed to but they are still under 18 years old so it is a crime. Texting is another area where they can get into trouble. If someone takes a text as a threat they can get into trouble for bullying or assault. As I said, technology has changed the rules and many of us have not been able to keep it. Therefore, remind them that information they may receive from their friends may not always be accurate. Furthermore, encourage them that at any time if they have any questions or concerns regarding these matters or any other matters you are always there to listen and to talk with them.

One thing to remember is acronym HALT. I teach this often with anger management, but it helps with communication too.

H – hunger

A – anger

L – lonely

T – tired

If either one of you are having these feelings, it is generally not a good time to have a discussion. Also if either one of you is feeling like this and you may not be listening to each other. Therefore, if either one of you are having these feelings or don’t feel like talking, then it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are both ready to talk.

Lastly, remind them that they are starting a brand-new phase in their life and it is normal to feel anxious and stress. Also remind them that these feelings are normal in the beginning but they usually quickly disappear after they have started school.

Besides having to face the pandemic, high school students today also have to face the issue of school shootings, as I mentioned above. Sadly, this is another stressful subject you may want to discuss with your teenager. Develop a plan with your teenager about what they would do if there was a shooting at their school. Also discuss with them what to do if they hear rumors or have concerns about how another student is acting. Finally, discuss how you can help if they are feeling worried or not safe at school. It is sad, but this is the world we live in today. Talking to you teen can help decrease anxiety and help you to maintain open communication with your teenager.

A few things you can do on the first day of classes to help with any anxiety are you can get up in the morning with them and have breakfast with them before they go to school. You can also put a note of encouragement in their backpack that they will find when they are at school and this can help reassure them and remind them how much support they have at home. Finally, you can arrange to be at home when when they get home from their first day of high school so you can talk about it with them. Also plan to have a family dinner to discuss everyone’s first day of school and offer encouragement where needed. These are just a few ideas to help with the transition process.

One final issue to remember, since there has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression in high school students, many students are having difficulties in class and completing their homework. If they are having difficulties, they may be entitled to a 504 plan or an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Most school districts will offer you a 504 plan because it is easy for the school and costs the school no money. However, if your teen is having significant problems with school demand in writing that they be evaluated for an IEP. There is nothing to be ashamed about and an IEP will not prevent your child from going to college or getting a job. If you need further information regarding IEPs refer to my articles regarding IEPs or contact my office regarding an IEP consultation.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 25 years experience working with teenagers. To learn more about his private practice in Pleasant or the work he has done over 25 years visit his web site at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

When Teenagers Break Your Trust

When Teenagers Break Your Trust

Teenagers will break your trust with their actions. This is a good teaching moment. Impose consequences where they need to earn your trust back. They would need to earn trust back with other people. If they broke the trust of a friend, their school or their employer, they would need to earn their trust back.

Teenagers want to be treated as young adults so treat them as young adults. Part of the consequences for breaking the rules is earning your trust back along with any other consequences you impose. It’s a good opportunity to teach them about life and relationships. Furthermore it’s a good lesson to teach them now as teenagers. I have included a link to an article which will explain how and why to use the opportunity to teach your teenagers about trust in relationships https://yourteenmag.com/family-life/discipline/regaining-trust

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

How Dads Help Children & Teenagers

How Dads Help Children & Teenagers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here in this poem, for all to hear

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

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

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

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

from your first breath I knew,

God sent me a blessing- and that was you.

For this I thank him every day,

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

Your kindness and caring with love for all,

you give my life meaning, for us to share.

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

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

Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.

Always remember that I know how much you care,

I can tell by the bond that we share.

For a son like you there could be no other,

And whether we are together or apart,

Please do not ever forget-

You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 25 years experience working with children & teens and trauma victims including first responders. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Don’t Forget Your IEP When You Leave for College

Don’t Forget Your IEP When You Leave for College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Working over 25 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Now that schools and colleges are reopening many college students are planning on returning to campus and high school seniors who are graduating are preparing to leave for college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptops etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college. Besides their IEP entitling them to additional assistance so does the American Disability Act of 1991. The reason they qualified for the IEP is also covered by the ADA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Cellphones as Graduation Gifts for 8th and 5th grade Students

Cellphones as Graduation Gifts for 8th and 5th grade Students

School is ending and many students will be graduating. We typically focus on high school and college graduations because they are major achievements. This article will focus on children graduating from 8th grade going on to high school and 5th graders moving on to middle school. Many middle school students and 5th grade students will be asking for their first Smartphone or they will be asking for the newest smartphones available such as the IPhone 13. 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 cellphone. Most teenagers also say they need Smatphones, a regular cellphone will not work. However, in my opinion, 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 13. 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.

Students moving on to middle school or high school 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 13 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. They also do not need a powerful smartphone, they are not running a business. Additionally, Smartphones provide numerous ways for teenagers to get into trouble. Look at how many adults get into trouble with Smartphones and how they use them.

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 any more. This is a common argument I encounter between children and parents. Also it is common for children and teenagers to use guilt with their parents in order to get the phones 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. Additionally, if their parents are divorced, they often will play their parents against each other as away to get the cellphone they want. Furthermore, many teenagers do not consider how much these phones cost. Additionally, the amount of money you spend on gifts for 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 IPhone 13? 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 children, middle school and high school students for over 25 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.