IEPs and 504 plans Exist with Remote Schooling Too

IEPs and 504 plans Exist with Remote Schooling Too

While most of the schools in California are using remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) and 504 plans are obsolete. In fact, due to remote learning and the pandemic many students are experiencing increased problems with learning and need IEPS and 504 plans as a result. Unfortunately I have been contacted by many families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Additionally, some children who didn’t have difficulties when they were in class are having difficulties with remote learning and increased anxiety due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed. Legally the school districts must complete a student’s IEP. The pandemic does not allow them to legally abandon IEPs and 504 plans. Also until they finalize the new IEP, the district legally must comply with the existing IEP on file. Furthermore, for parents who have children who need an IEP due to the remote learning or anxiety due to the pandemic, you can still legally request an IEP for your child. Additionally, school districts must comply with the existing IEP guidelines and laws. The pandemic does not allow a school district not to comply with the IEP and 504 laws.

It should be a straight forward process if your child needs an IEP, but many school districts play games with the process because it cost them money. However, they have enough money for IEPs. It comes down to a school districts priorities and how they choose to spend their money. Therefore, don’t be afraid to demand what your child is entitled to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many People Need to Die?

How Many People Need to Die?

Schools and colleges are back in session and in college towns we are seeing an increase in the number of college students and people with the Coronavirus. As of today we also have over 500,000 children diagnosed with the Coronavirus. A 16% increase since schools have resumed (CDC). The White House said children could return to school and colleges could open safely. Obviously this is not the truth. The White House also say we are turning a corner with the Coronavirus and we are getting it under control. However, over 6 million Americans have the Coronavirus and over 190,000 have died and we have a thousand people dying daily (CDC). According to the University of Washington if we continue on our current course over 400,000 Americans by the end of the year will die. Also the White House states we will have a vaccine by the end of the year or even maybe by November 3, 2020. Neither one is realistic. Even if by magic we have a vaccine by the end of the year, we need to find a way of storing a vaccine that requires sub zero temperatures and who gets the vaccine? In addition to these facts, what about the long haul syndrome many people are developing after they had the Coronavirus? We are just learning about it so we still don’t totally understand the Coronavirus.

Let’s turn back to the College students. When an 18 year old goes away to College they are finally on their own and can make their own decisions. They want to have fun with their friends. Let’s examine what College students experience. They are away from home and friends. Therefore, their lives consist of going to class and doing their homework. Besides that they have nothing els to do. They are feeling lonely and craving interaction with other people. Therefore, they develop friends and they want to and need to spend time with their friends and roommates. They need the social activity. Without the social interaction, they feel lonely, isolated and depressed. Therefore, sending 18 year old students to college and expecting them not to socialize is crazy. Also remember their brains are not fully developed and able to make mature, rational decisions until they are 25 years old. These students are already feeling lonely and bored and many college towns are allowing bars to stay open. We are encouraging these students to party and spread the Coronavirus. With all the temptations in college towns, why are we surprised that they are not following guidelines and not socializing?

Another option for College students would be for them to stay at home and go to school remotely. Many colleges are having students live in the dorms and going to class remotely. Therefore, why can’t they stay at home and attend remotely? They would have the support system of their families and close friends. Their parents could help encourage them to not go to parties and wear masks when they leave the house. Yes the college losing the money they earn on the dorms and the White House feels it looks bad for them. However, are we more concerned about saving lives or making money for colleges and making the White House look good?

Another factor we need to consider is that we are entering the flu season. We already have 500,000 elementary students with the Coronavirus and we have an increase in the rates in the Coronavirus in College towns. How are physicians supposed to determine the difference between the flu and the Coronavirus? We don’t have a rapid Coronavirus test. People who take the current Coronavirus tests often don’t get their results for 10 days which is too late. This generation of children and teenagers are aware of the news and what is occurring in the world. Due to their smartphones and instant access to the internet, they know they virus is not under control. They are afraid of dying from the virus. I have very few children and teenagers that I provide psychotherapy for who like remote learning. However, they prefer remote learning than being exposed to the virus. They see how many people are dying and they are afraid that they will catch the virus. They ask me over and over, why won’t people wear masks? School children are looking at adults and the White House pretend that the virus is under control and refuse to address it. So they ask, why? It is a valid question, why won’t the White House admit how serious the Coronavirus is and why do some adults ignore the fact that we are living in the middle of a pandemic?

Therefore, I am asking the question for all the children, teenagers and college students that I treat? How many people have to die before the President starts to seriously address the Coronavirus? Why do we have to wear a mask and miss parties, when the President doesn’t? Remember the party he had on the lawn of the White House when he accepted the Republican Nomination. The President didn’t miss his party, but children have had to miss their birthday parties this year and many have seen grandparents die. So how do we answer the children? How many people have to die before our President provides a national prevention program for the Coronavirus?

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

Am I a Second Class Citizen because I’m Black?

Am I a Second Class Citizen because I’m Black?

As a psychotherapist who works with black adolescents and other minority adolescents, I am seeing these adolescents feel hopeless and angry. Many of these teenagers have dreams of going into the military so they can serve our Country. They are very proud of the United States, but they want to know why the President doesn’t care about them and makes them feel like second class citizens. Many may think these teenagers are overreacting, but if you just look at today’s events it appears they are not overreacting.

Today the President traveled to Wisconsin, even though the governor, the mayor and community felt it was inappropriate for him to visit. He disregarded their requests and made the visit. Now since he went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, you would think that he would mention Jacob Blake or visit Mr. Blake. However, he did not mention Mr. Blake nor did he visit him either. In fact, he has not even called the family yet. His excuse is the family has an attorney. However, he did mention, Kyle, the 17 year old white adolescent from Illinois who decided he had the right to go to Wisconsin because of the protestors in Wisconsin. While he was there he shot and killed two people and seriously injured a third person. The President has sympathy for Kyle and mentioned that case and Kyle has attorneys. However, Kyle is also white and is an outspoken supporter of the President. Additionally, while he was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, two reporters asked the President about systemic racism. He ignored the first reporter and told the second reporter he was asking the wrong question. The President denied systemic racism and did not want to discuss it. He would discuss the violence in Portland, Oregon. He also mentioned a plane full of “thugs” who were going to cause problems in the Country. However, he could not provide concrete details at the moment about the plane. Another scare tactic that he uses so often.

Not mentioning the real victim is not uncommon for the President especially when the victim is a minority. He is on Twitter all the time but never mentioned Jacob Blake. He stated he spoke to the family’s pastor. However, the pastor he spoke to was from Illinois and was not Mr. Blake’s pastor. When George Floyd was murdered by police several weeks ago, again he did not mention Mr. Floyd or Tweet about it. Here is another incident when a black man was killed but the President did little to nothing to get involved or to rectify the problem. However, how can you rectify a problem when you are denying the fact that systemic racism exist. How does this make black teenagers feel? The President address issues when White people are involved but if the victim is black or a minority, he ignores the situation. This makes black teenagers feel like they are not important.

Another fact black teenagers see is that the President wants to protect Confederate statues and military bases and schools named after Confederate soldiers. This is the same President who verbally attacked football and basketball players who did not stand or took a knee for the flag during the National Anthem. These players were protesting the systemic racism in our society. The President attacked these sport stars, but wants to honor Confederate soldiers. The Confederate soldiers destroyed the flag of the United States and they were trying to destroy the United States and they supported slavery. What does this tell a black teenager if the President supports people who advocated for slavery? In my opinion it would tell me, I’m not important to the President.

Why is this important? Currently depression and anxiety are at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). Also suicide has moved from the third leading cause of death for teenagers to the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). The terrifying fact is that the suicide rate for black teenagers is five times the rate for white teenagers (CDC). If that is the case, how many black teenagers are we losing to suicide? The teenagers I am working with are telling me based on everything I outlined above, they do not see a future for themselves. They feel hopeless and don’t see any point in trying due to systemic racism. They are even more confused because many of them are wanting to serve the United States. They don’t understand how a Country they want to serve and protect is willing to allow systemic racism to exist. They do know their are many Americans who support them, but when you hear this support for systemic racism coming from the President daily, it gives black teenagers little hope that anything will change.

Because there is a belief that nothing will change, this is why groups such as Black Lives Matter are important to teenagers. Black Lives Matter is focused on changing the systemic racism in our Country despite what other people may think about the group. The group is not racist, it is designed to eliminate systemic racism. This gives black teenagers some hope for their future. Another group, Alive and Free in San Francisco which was founded by Dr. Joseph Marshall also provides black teenagers with hope for their futures and the teenagers need this hope. For this reason I am proud to be one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board which connects professionals across our Country to provide teenagers with hope and to work on eliminating systemic racism. Dr. Marshall has helped over 200 black teenagers get into and graduate college. This is what can happen when we remove racism.

Mr. President is urge you to take a deep look into your attitudes and educate yourself about racism. It is necessary if we are going to eliminate systemic racism and also so black teenagers don’t feel like second class citizens in the United States.

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

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

Helping Teenagers Understand Responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Outside Family Activities during the Pandemic

Since the Coronavirus has hit, we have had to change our work lives and family lives. Change the family life has been a challenge for many parents. It has become more of a challenge since summer has started and the kids want to go outside. They are tired of being inside. I found some good recommendations on Lori Lite’s blog regarding reducing stress for children. All of these activities can be done wearing a mask and keeping the social distancing requirements. These are perfect activities during the pandemic and with the State being closed down. Also getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine is great for the whole family since we have been locked down for several months. It’s a great family bonding experience and a great way to reduce everyone’s stress. Here are some fun outdoor activities to do as a family:

Go For a Walk:
Not only is this a completely free activity, but it is also an excellent opportunity to talk more with your family. However, remember you need to wear your masks, keep appropriate social distance from others and use your sunscreen. Take the time to ask them about they are feeling about the situation with school, friends, or anything else that interests them. You can take a walk around the block or head to a trail nearby. This is also a great way to get in more exercise as a family and can encourage a healthier lifestyle. You can easily take a walk after dinner or make a day out of it as well. It’s amazing the topics of conversation that come up with kids when there aren’t the distractions of being inside, screens, phones, or chores.

Go For a Ride:
Riding with family, like walking, is great bonding activity. Again, remember your helmets, masks, sunscreen and to social distance from others. At first, it’s good to do it on footpaths and then get to cycle-paths to build up each of your skills and also to bit by bit learn how you ride together and communicate with each other. Like walking, it’s amazing the conversations that will arise with your family. The beauty of cycling with your family is the different places you can see. You can do an off-road trail and explore the bush. You can ride around a harbor, lake, river or parkland – chatting about the wildlife, views, houses and architecture. As long as you remember to social distance from others and to wear your masks. Of course, you don’t have to ride all the time, there will be plenty of playgrounds to stop at and explore and many times there are great trees which are just beckoning your kids to stop, get off their bikes and climb. Consider making cycling a regular family adventure and build lifetime memories with your kids!

Have a Picnic
Enjoy the next sunny day with your family by having a picnic. You and your kids can prepare the food together in the morning. Choose foods you all love and have them help pack everything you need for the picnic. Then you all can spend the day in the park or even your backyard enjoying each other’s company. If you are at a park, remember your masks and to keep appropriate social distance from others. Picnics can also be an opportunity to play games, try out new recipes, and find new parks around your neighborhood. 

Water Balloon Fight:
You and your kids can do this in the backyard or even at the nearby park. Grab a large bucket and a bunch of balloons to fill with water. You can make your own rules with this kind of activity or even make it into a hide-and-seek game. This will also get your family moving and exercising without even realizing it. Again, remember you still need your masks and to social distance from others at a park. You can change it up by using raw eggs at times. This may be a good idea if it’s a little too cold for water balloons.

These are a few ideas. Now that we have started the ball rolling, you can also ask your kids about activities or games they may want to play. You may be amazed at their creativity and again it’s a great way to keep the communication flowing between you and your kids.

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

Is my Teenager Depressed due to the Coronavirus?

Is my Teenager Depressed due to the Coronavirus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

Teenagers Need to Earn Their Parents’ Respect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

Dealing with Anxiety When the Coronavirus is Out of Control

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

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

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

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

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

Teenagers are Trying to be Their Friend’s Therapist during the Pandemic

Teenagers are Trying to be Their Friend’s Therapist during the Pandemic

There is an issue I have encountered many times working with teenagers in psychotherapy that is seldom talked about. The issue is teenager’s trying to act as a therapist to the friends or girl/boy friend. This issue is increasing due to the pandemic and quarantine. Many teenagers are experiencing more anxiety (CDC) and boredom due to being at home more and no school. There have been many times that a teen will tell me their girlfriend is suicidal and ask me what they should do to help her? Often a teen will ask could they just bring their girlfriend into one of their sessions. They argue since I am helping them, I can help their girlfriend. At this point we need to have a conversation about how therapy works and the situation that they are in at that point.

In terms of me just seeing the girlfriend, I explain I need parental consent because she is under 18 years old. I also explain if she is suicidal the parents should be involved. Sometimes the teen explains their girlfriend is living in an abusive household and the parents would never agree to psychotherapy. In these situations, I provide the suicide crises number and tell the teen to have the girlfriend call the crises line and they will get her help. Some teens will exaggerate a situation just so I will see the girlfriend. Therefore, it may be a normal argument between a teenager and parent that I may be entering. Therefore, I provide the crises line and 911 so the situation can be assessed. If the girl does need help, I don’t want to ruin the chances of her getting psychotherapy by acting too fast. I also need to be careful how I handle the situation with my patient. If he is wanting me to see his girlfriend, I have established a therapeutic relationship and trust with him and I do not want to spoil that bond.

The other part of this situation and the more important part is the teen trying to act like their friend’s psychotherapist. Many teens feel since they have been coming to therapy and making progress, if I give them some advice they can help their friend. I explain that they do not having the training needed to be a therapist. I also point out they are not emotionally ready to be a psychotherapist. Many teens feel a very close bond to their friends and girlfriends because they have shared a lot of very personal information and have been open emotionally. While this may be true, it is not the same as psychotherapy.

Why is it important to discuss this issue? What if a teen tries to be their friend’s therapist and the friend commits suicide. They teen will be emotionally devastated and blame themselves. The parent of the teen who committed suicide may blame the teen too. Maybe they were not handling the situation correctly and the teen might have been saved if they had been hospitalized. However, the teen was never hospitalized because their friend was acting as the therapist. The teen could be in a lot of trouble. I have seen this happen. I have had parents come in for grief therapy because their child committed suicide and their child’s friend was acting as therapist and keeping everything a secret. This is a very sad and tragic situation for all involved.

Any time I have a teen asking me about a friend I explore the situation to determine if they are acting as therapist. If they are I explain to the teen why this is inappropriate. I acknowledge how close they are to their friend and how much they care about their friend. I then point out because they care so much they want to do what is best for their friend. I ask them how they would feel if their friend committed suicide? I point out that they are in a very difficult situation that they are not emotionally prepared for or professionally trained for. We discuss that this doesn’t mean anything negative about them. We discuss how they are expecting too much of themselves. I explain if they really want to help their friend, they will encourage their friend to seek help or they may need to tell someone such as the school counselor or their friend’s parents. Sometimes they say, “but I promised to keep it a secret.” I explain sometimes you may need to break a promise to help someone. I also point out their friend may initially be mad but if they truly care they need to do what is best for their friend.

Teenage suicide is an epidemic. The CDC just moved suicide from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Also the CDC has noted there has been an increase in anxiety, depression and suicides since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, teenagers are turning to cutting more often to deal with their feelings about life and the pandemic. Therefore, at this time in our history, this issue has become a bigger issue and needs to be addressed. The situation where friends try to act like the therapist happens more often than people realize. I had a situation occur this week. After explaining the situation to the teen, they spoke to their friend and their friend is now in therapy. This was a good ending. I would estimate 1 out of 3 teens ask me about their friends and are trying to be the therapist to their friend. Besides teens feeling they can handle this situation because they feel so close to their friend, I believe this occurs due to our views on mental health.

Because of the mental health stigma many teens are reluctant to go to therapy. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy” or “weird.” Furthermore, it is not easy for teens to get therapy. Many psychotherapist prefer not to work with this age group for various reasons. Also many families cannot afford psychotherapy and many insurance companies do not cover psychotherapy. As a result, teenagers tend to turn to each other when they are encountering emotional issues. Research indicates that teens turn to their friend first when they encounter emotional issues. If we want to stop teenagers from acting like psychotherapist and if we want teenagers to get appropriate mental health care, we need to talk to teenagers about why they can’t act as a friend’s therapist and we need to increase access for teenagers to mental health care and remove the mental health stigma.

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